Switzerland Compiled Genealogies
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Swiss Compiled Genealogies
Swiss compiled genealogies (Genealogische Sammlungen, Stadtregister / Collections généalogiques / Collezione genealogia) are handwritten or published genealogies of Swiss families. They are organized first by surname, then by place of citizenship. Thus, these genealogies are compilations of all citizens of the same surname of a specific community, regardless of where they lived. This means that a place listed in a compiled genealogy is almost always the place of citizenship (which is often listed as the place of birth or marriage). The actual place where the event occurred is rarely given, if ever. The best website to access indexes of compiled genealogies is the Genealogical and Heraldic Society of Basel (GHGRB), while the best place to access the records themselves is FamilySearch.
The primary compiler of Swiss genealogies is Julius Billeter, who produced records covering at least one thousand family names of various places of citizenship, with each surname on average covering a thousand individuals. The GHGRB holds Billeter's original handwritten notes; they have compiled an index of surnames and places of citizenship, called the Billeter Sammlung. FamilySearch has microfilmed approximately 90-95% of their collection, and is in process of digitizing these microfilms. The catalog entry for this collection lists available surnames, but does not list places of citizenship.
Reading Billeter's Notes
Julius Billeter's notes are hand written and can be difficult to read and navigate. They are organized into family groups, and are organized chronologically by the father's first marriage date (subsequent spouses are listed under the same family group). Other quirks of Billeter's notes include:
- Abbreviations of given names. Almost all given names are abbreviated. To help with interpreting, the GHGRB has a list of abbreviations.
- Other abbreviations are found in a record. The GHGRB has a list of special abbreviations.
- Fathers' names are written in parentheses, and when given, they follow the names of the husband and wife.
- Multiple marriages are indicated by Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.)
- Dates are written in European style; e.g. 6.5.1832 is 6 May 1832.
- Sometimes the century date is omitted; e.g. 6.5.32 is 6 May 1832. Because the family entries are listed chronologically by marriage date, use context clues to identify the century.
- A check mark to the left of a name indicates the person appears elsewhere in the family book, either as a parent or spouse in a different family.
- All locations are places of citizenship, not places where an event occurred. A location is followed by the letter v. If no location is given, it is assumed the place of citizenship is the same as the main family.
- Daughters' marriages are indicated by a m, followed by the date or year of marriage, then the name of the spouse.
- Sometimes a family is listed on a slip of paper, which has been inserted into the notes. These slips should roughly be inserted in chronological order.
Many of the names he researched were later typed into registers for the families that requested the research. Many of these typed registers are available in the Family History Library on microfilm, and many are also digitally available. To identify a Billeter collection, do a search of the FamilySearch Catalog, and click on Keywords. Use the keywords Billeter and your family surname.
Alfred Reichen (1897-1985) was another prolific Swiss genealogist whose notes were donated to the family history center in Pratteln, Switzerland after his death. Reichen's research was not as full as Billeter's; in some instances, he researched families for only a few decades rather than for the entire span of records available. A full list of his collections, including the time period and source of his research, can be found from the GHGRB website here. Some of the Alfred Reichen collection has been microfilmed by FamilySearch. Parts of his collections can be found in two places:
- Do a search of the FamilySearch Catalog, and click on Keywords. Use the keywords Reichen and your family surname.
- Switzerland, Church Book Extracts, 1550-1875. FamilySearch Historical Records. Images, no index. Incomplete.
As with all compiled research, these genealogies are prone to errors. Research by both Julius Billeter and Alfred Reichen, in particular, is suspect; in some cases, more than 25% of their generational connections are incorrect. For a more thorough analysis of Billeter's research, read the article. Many others created compiled genealogies of varying degrees of accuracy. Most of genealogies do not have further source information, nor explanations to generational connections. You should check the information within these genealogies against primary sources (church books, family registers, etc.) to ensure that the research is correct. In particular, pay attention to the connections between generations. In most cases, numerous persons with the same name lived in the same parish at the same time, and it is easy to connect the wrong person to a family tree.
Accessing the records
A good source for Swiss compiled genealogy references is Mario von Moos's book Bibliography of Swiss genealogies. It is a bibliography of approximately 9,000 compiled genealogies of Swiss families giving the locality where the family lived. The repository is given as to where the published genealogy is located.
To see if FamilySearch has a compiled genealogy for your family, do a search of the FamilySearch Catalog, and click on Keywords. Use your family surname as a keyword, and combine with other keywords, including Billeter, Reichen, or the place of citizenship for your Swiss family. Do not use than two keywords in your search.
Note: Many compiled genealogies are only available in the Family History Library due to copyright protections.