Canton Obwalden, Switzerland Genealogy

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Guide to Canton Obwalden ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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Canton Obwalden

Getting Started[edit | edit source]

If you are new to Swiss research, you should watch this introductory course. Then study the articles on church records and civil registration, as almost all of your research will be in those two record groups.

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History[edit | edit source]

From 1803 until 1999 it was the half-canton of Obwalden. In 1999, the new Federal Constitution eliminated the half-canton designation and made Obwalden a full canton, though they still shared representation in the Council of States and only had half a vote. Due to the complex history of Obwalden there is be some overlaping between the histories of Obwalden, Nidwalden and Unterwalden.
The Landsgemeinde of Obwalden stood firmly against the Protestant Reformation and Obwalden adopted an aggressively pro-Catholic stance.
During the 1798 French invasion, Obwalden still had a strongly pro-French government and on 1 April 1798, Obwalden became the first of the original Swiss cantons to accept the Helvetic Republic. However, it was then forced by its neighbors to reject the new Republic and resist the French. When the French armies crushed the rebellion, the old Forest Cantons were merged into the single Canton of Waldstätten. Obwalden became the district of Sarnen in this new Canton.
In 1840, a coalition of liberals and radicals gained the majority in the Federal Diet. They purprosed a new constitution that included many reforms that were radical. In response to this radical government, the Catholic and conservative cantons, including Obwalden, formed the Sonderbund or separate alliance in 1843. When the radicals attempted to dissolve this separate alliance in 1847, they started the Sonderbund War. Though Obwalden participated in the War, the Sonderbund council surrendered before the Federal army reached the Canton.
The last complete revision of the cantonal constitution was in 1968. This revision addressed a number of small issues and clarified a number of laws, but there were no major changes. In 1972, women were first allowed to vote in cantonal elections and in 1983 the voting age dropped to eighteen. The Landsgemeinde was finally abolished in 1998.
Obwalden is a German speaking canton.

Obwalden (Wikipedia)

Parishes in Canton Obwalden[edit | edit source]

  • Alpnach
  • Engelberg
  • Giswil
  • Kerns
  • Lungern
  • Sachseln
  • Sarnen

Karte Gemeinden des Kantons Obwalden farbig 2011.png

Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Civil registration began in Canton Obwalden in 1876. To understand the records available, read the Wiki article, Switzerland Civil Registration.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Obwalden parish records are not available online. Parish records for Sarnen and Kerns, as well as family books for Giswil and Engelberg, are available in the Obwalden archive. All other parish records for Sachseln, Alpnach, Giswil, Lungern, and Engelberg are located at the individual parish offices.

You will be able to write your request in German with the help of the German Letter Writing Guide.

For information on the coverage and content of church records, read Switzerland Church Records.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

Search Strategy[edit | edit source]

This search strategy will help you determine what to write for. Limit tour requests to just one of these steps at a time. Once you have established that the parish is cooperative and perhaps more willing to do more extensive research (for a fee), you might be able to ask them for more at a time.

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected.
  • When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will have information that will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
  • You can estimate the ages of the parents and determine a birth year to search for their birth records.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.
  • Repeat this process for both the father and the mother, starting with their birth records, then their siblings' births, then their parents' marriages, and so on.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.