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The History of the Citizen Families of Engi (GL) and their Development

Public lectures by Martin Baumgartner : The Gigers

The History of the Citizen Families of Engi and their Development
[Zur Geschichte der bürgerlichen Geschlechter von Engi und ihre Entwicklung]

Public lectures by Martin Baumgartner, teacher in Engi.
Self-published by the author, Glarner Newsprint Shop, Rud. Tschudy, 1923.

Translated by Steven Schoenig, SJ, and Sue Wolf

IX. The Gigers. [pp. 60-62]

Upon the origin as well as upon the arbitrary changes of the family name "Giger," Dr. G. Heer has thoroughly enlightened us in his brochure "Families of the Sernf Valley," pages 54 and 55.

The origin of the Giger family, however, is still uninvestigated. In Engi the Gigers are already found as citizens in the beginning of the 16th century, for according to the tax list of the church in Matt of 1525, already mentioned several times, one pound, respectively a quarter, of grain had to be paid by an Albrecht Giger in der Auw (Au) and a Heini Giger im Wald. It seems as if the forest households were already inhabited since time immemorial by members of the Giger family.

In the council records of the 16th century, Gigers are found en masse. They are however named with their home place in the fewest cases, and were found outside of Engi, especially in Kerenzen. Elm, too, already had Gigers, now Geigers, of its own at that time. Thus on July 9, 1551 a Hans Giger is named as an Elm citizen, and then again in 1553 and 1559 several times. In 1563 also his wife "Anna Steinwieser" is named in the suit against Joss Dischen's wife. On October 20, 1566 a Jakob Giger of Engi appears before the council. In July 1555 a Läry Giger of Engi asks for the remission of his patronage. On December 14, 1563 a son Jakob is named by him. On May 17, 1559 a Mathäus Giger. On December 2, 1568 Jakob and Fridli Giger, etc. (J.J. Kubli-Müller)

We can therefore establish that the Gigers of Engi may be traced back to 1500 and so belong to the oldest of our citizen families, even if the development of this family line always fell very much behind in proportion to the Martis, Blumers, and Baumgartners.


In the beginning of the Matt church books we first meet a Hans Giger (#1), who died on April 1, 1602. From the marriage with Magdalena Heiz two sons were baptized to him, Hans Melchior, on August 21, 1597, and Elias, on October 25, 1599. Of both nothing further is reported to us afterwards. Perhaps they were presumed dead in foreign military service.

On August 2, 1613 the Book of the Dead reports to us that "Anna Giger, daughter of Long Hans, a widow, died." Whether this Anna was the daughter of the aforementioned Hans Giger, #1, or even perhaps came from Elm, may not be determined. On August 30, 1613 a Dorothea Giger died, whom, unfortunately, we could likewise not place on the tree. We had to provide both these females in the Giger family tree each with her own number (#2 and 3).

Only Levin Giger, #4, born ?, who died in December of the plague year of 1629, can be considered as ancestor of all later Gigers of Engi. He married Anna Willig, who was born in 1598, and died on January 26, 1668 "of dropsy," by whom ancestor Levin Giger begat four sons. The first, Jakob, died on January 27, 1621, two days after his baptism. The second, Jakob, who was born on February 24, 1622 and died on September 10, 1671, became a family heir. The further fate of the third, Bartli, born on February 4, 1625, is unknown, and the fourth, Mathäus, who was born on September 23, 1627, died on October 10, 1699, single, as "a big seventy-year-old boy" (Book of the Dead).

The family heir Jakob Giger, #5, (he was a Tagwen** official), in 1651 married Elsbeth Elmer, 1626-1688, daughter of the standard-bearer Balthasar and of Ursula Zentner of Elm. From this marriage came nine children, five sons and four daughters, but only one son (Jakob, #6) became a family heir. Of the oldest, Balthasar, 1652-1686, it says in the Book of the Dead : "He was a mute, but an industrious and cunning person as a boy." – A son, Levin, 1658-1721, died single; one died as a child; and of Fridolin, born in 1661, one knows nothing further.

**[Translator's Note: Tagwen – an ancient term, from at least the 6th century A.D., which is still used today in Canton Glarus to denote the commune of the citizens, i.e. those who have inherited or purchased the Tagwen rights (this may only partially coincide with the political commune). It is derived from Tage Wann, meaning the work someone could perform in one day in the commonly-held fields, pastures and forests. Over the years the number of Tagwen in the canton has varied considerably, with the present-day number being 29. Also its duties have changed – from jointly working on and enjoying the benefits of its common property, to administering all the commune’s public interests, to (today) administering and enjoying the benefits of its common property.]**

The family heir Jakob, #6, 1654-1718, left behind on the other hand three family heirs. 1. Fridolin, #8, 1700-1742, original ancestor of the present-day Giger family im Wald. 2. Jakob, #7, 1706-1763, from whom comes a large number of descendants in America. 3. Wernet, #9, 1709-1766, who left behind no male descendants.

The Giger family tree increased very slowly. There were by 1750 7 families (10 Bräm, 16 Wyss, 6 Norder);
by 1800 13 (15, 20, 9);
by 1850 25 (24, 31, 12);
by 1880 32 (36, 40, 15);
by 1900 34 (38, 44, 19);
by 1920 40 (48, 46, 20).


Only in the period 1800-1850 is the growth a considerable one, with twelve families. Although at least 54 persons, equaling 25% of the Gigers, emigrated (the Blumers had 41%), they have brought it up to only 41 families from 1595 to today. Eight whole families migrated to North America and Brazil after 1850.

Fourteen persons (26.3%) migrated to North America, 21 (40%) to Brazil, 1 (2%) to European nations, 4 (7.5%) into other cantons, 11 (21%) into other Glarner communes, and 3 (5.5%) to unknown whereabouts.

A further reason why the Gigers developed so little is that 53% of their children were daughters and only 47% sons (among the Baumgartners 46% were daughters and 54% sons!). Then of all 180 Giger children, 20 (11%) died single, in proportion more than in the remaining citizen families.


The marriages of the Gigers into the families of Engi is important to speak of. Of 44 wives, 22 (50%) come from Engi. They are spread out among the particular families as follows: Baumgartners 7 (17.08%), Blumers and Hämmerlis each 4 (9.76%), Martis, Gigers, and Wintelers each 2 (4.88%), and Altmanns 1 (2.44%).


The transmission of Giger family heirs' names shows the following picture: 1. Jakob 12 (29.28%), 2. Leonhard 7 (17.08%) (like the Hämmerlis), 3. Meinrad 6 (14.64%) (like the Blumers), 4. Fridolin 4 (9.76%) (like the Martis), 5. Kaspar 3 (7.32%) (like from the Wintelers).


The Gigers, though since time immemorial citizens of Engi, produced few Tagwen officials and no church officials at all. The only Tagwen official of olden day importance who came from the Giger family was Jakob Giger, 1622-1671, #5 on the family tree, the only family heir of the ancestor Levin Giger.


In the military of times past they produced a sergeant, Jakob Giger, 1749-1804, #15, a grandson of the above. He left behind no descendants.

Overseer Peter Giger, #29, born in 1838, held the position of Tagwen secretary. He migrated to America as a widower with two sons and a daughter.


In the Matt Books of the Dead no members of the Gigers who perished in foreign military service are reported to us.


Under the heading "Accidents and Events" there is also not much to report of the Gigers.

On July 26, 1887 roofer Meinrad Giger im Boden, born on September 14, 1862, #38 on the family tree, fell to his death from a roof in Glarus.

Translator's Notes

1. I have left all descriptive phrases untranslated, such as "im Speicher". They are used to distinguish between people of the same first and last names, which occurred frequently in this area because of inbreeding.

2. All comments in brackets [] are mine. I have also added headings for ease of reading.

Return to Baumgartner Index Page / see also Heer's notes on the Gigers

This page is maintained by Sue Wolf. / Last updated 22 June 2006 (wws)
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