Your Swiss Roots Stories

The Waldburger Story by Frederick Waldburger


   My  Great Grandfather Johann "Hans" Waldburger son of Hans Waldburger and Ursula Ziegher Waldburger of Buchen-Luzein, along with 3 brothers and 4 sisters left for America in the 1880's. The names are Fred, Johann, Peter, Jann Christina [married Kasper], Margaret, [Married Fehr] Ursula,  [Married Lutzke] and Eva [Married Gerbig]. It doesn't look like all arrived at one time. Mother Ursula came to America later after her husband Hans died, 1876 in Switzerland. Mother Ursula died at her daughter  Ursula Lutzke's home October 15, 1905.

  My  Great Grandfather Hans was born January 21, 1862. He became an American citizen in 1897. He married Elizabeth Caduff March 1, 1890 in Ramsey County Minnesota.  He was granted a homestead April 1899 in Town of Birch, Lincoln County Wisconsin. The homestead was cut over forestland, hilly and rocky. There were other Swiss families close by including his brother Peter. They had five children, John 1891, Eva  1893, Sara 1896, Fred 1898, and Elsie 1898. Fred born January 13, 1898  is my Grandfather. Great Grandfather Johann Hans died at January 28, 1902 at the age of 40. One of my prize possessions is a  single photo of him in his Swiss Army uniform.  

Family Search by Contell Guerraz


    My fathers side of the family originates from Chateau d'Oex and Lausanne...Guerraz, Oguey, Vial, Perakis, Freymond.
I am still looking for more relatives.
  So  far we know of three Guerraz members that came through Ellis  Island...Adeline, Flora (grandfather's aunts) and Flora's son George...  My grandmother and grandfather came through Hoboken in 1948.
  The  Guerraz family has proven to be a mystery, most of the very old records  for Chateau d'Oex were destroyed in a fire...(not for everyone, just a  handful..we happen to be that handful).
   I  have been lucky enough to go back to the early 1600's on the Freymond  side..( My grandmother's mothers side). So I continue on my journey to find new relatives, new information, and some very interesting stories about them.

My Swiss Connection by Martin Suter


 My  father, Lorenz Suter, was one of four brothers from Muotathal to immigrate to America. Three settled in St. Louis, Missouri and my father went on to Oregon. Later, during the Great Depression, Uncle Theo returned to live in Switzerland.

My father arrived by ship in New York, Elllis Island, in 1923. He was attracted to dairy farming and since his uncle, Joseph Betschart, had settled in Tillamook, Oregon a few years before, here was a  connection for him.

At  that time, Tillamook had many Swiss immigrants. There in 1937, he married my mother, Mary Hurliman (Hürlimann). The Hürlimann family had immigrated from Walchwil in 1910. The picture above is of my parents in 1937.

  I remember growing up in this Swiss community, the old-timers speaking Schwyzer-Dütsch and playing Jass.

Miraculous Return to Roots by James Roth


 My  Dad was born in Switzerland in 1924. He lived in Speicher of Appenzel, but was born in Trogen. His mother, Emma, walked to Trogen during labor  because that is where the nearest hospital was located. Emma had returned to Speicher to care for her elderly mom Anna. Emma did not know that she was with child. Her husband, Alfred, remained in NYC and worked while Emma and her two boys went back to Speicher to care for Anna. The boys and Alfred were also born in Switzerland. Emma ended up staying in Switzerland after giving birth for 6 years until 1930 when my  Dad was 6.
  Alfred would send money from the US to support Emma and the now three sons. She came back to the US in 1930 and that is when my Dad, Henry, met his Dad for the first time. My dad passed away in 1998-he never went back to Switzerland.

. We had always been told that my dad's house was gone. I had a picture of it with my great  grandparents in front. I sent that picture to the owner of the guesthouse in Speicher to explain why I was visiting. Relatives had told us that the house was gone. But apparently not. 

 When we got to Speicher, the guesthouse owner also thought that the house was no longer there, but had taken the picture I sent to her to Town Hall in Speicher. When we arrived she handed me a map and walked my family and me to the church in town and pointed down a hill. We walked down the hill and my son noticed that the hills in the photo were right ahead of us. I noticed that the two houses in the background were still there as well.  When we walked a little further, sure enough, the house was still there. It was quite emotional and sentimental to see it and touch it. 

 We  spoke to neighbors there who told us the house was 240 years old and that the former owners were embroiderers. That fits my history because  my aunts and uncles in this country owned an embroidery factory where my  grandmother Emma worked in her golden years.

I took some flowers from Speicher  and buried them on my fathers grave in the US. So now he has some of his homeland with him at his resting place here on Earth. Although I know he is smiling in heaven. It was truly a miracle for our family.

My Father''s Homeland by Doris Wuthrich Waldmann


My  Father, Rudy Wuthrich came to America when his sister, who was already  here, went back for a visit and returned to America with him.

He lived on a farm in the Emmental area. That farm is still in the Wuthrich family and a young man by the name of Rudy Wuthrich is living there.

He is a grandson of my father's brother, Simon.

We  visited the farm on my last trip to Switzerland. There is a beautiful house and barn attached which sits on a high hill or mountain. The granary had a flower box on front of it and there was a beautiful garden with lots of vegetables. My  Father was one of 10 children and only 2 came to America.

 He only went back once during his life time. He died at 92 years of age  and was an excellent mechanic. I am one of 5 children and the oldest in our family.


Jean Charles Naegeli by Charles Naegeli


 My  ancestor Jean Charles Naegeli was born on 21 July 1877 in Berne, Switzerland. He was the son of Jean and Marie (Miller) Naegeli. Prior to coming to America at the age of 25 he resided in Chaux de Fonds. He arrived in this country on January 12,1903 (departure from Havre on January 3) aboard La Bretagne. His destination was Canton Ohio.

In America he married Alice Pillot daughter of Desire Pillot and Flavia Octavia Tournoux. There is a close family relationship with the Saunier's also. Their heritage was French. Jean Charles spoke French and maybe a little German. His father's main language was German; his  mother's French.

He was a watch engraver at Dueber-Hampden in Canton, Ohio and also at Joseph Fahys Watch Works in Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY. He must have  learned his trade in Switzerland. He was a Catholic.

I have a photograph on a cabinet card dated at about 1890. I believe it his image, He is about 13 in the photo. Jean Charles had four sons John N,  Charles Lewis (died at 1 year), Walter P, and Robert Charles.

  My father was Robert Charles. My name is Charles Robert. I was born on September 9, 1948. La Bretagne the French passenger ship that brought  Jean Charles to the New World was launched on September 9, 1885. I am  determined to find more about him and his life before America

Hans Georg Gerster (Castor) by Robert Castor

Our Emigrant arrived at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia on September 15, 1736 after a harrowing 12 weeks at sea. His name was eventually changed  to "Castor", since the German pronunciation of Gerster with the umlaut sounds a lot like Castor. It was also spelled, Caster, Kester, Carster,  Coster, but eventually the Pennsylvania family settled on Castor. Through 11 generations plus, we estimate that there are over 78,000  persons carrying Hans' DNA in the United States. 

How we Arrived in America by Roy Chenaur

My  great grandfather was Swiss born in Paris about 1856. His father was also Swiss. They were part of the Club Helvetica commune. In 1870 my great grandfather was sent to the USA as most of the family had  been wiped out and it was believed to be an opportunity to rebuild the family. 


He  first settled in the Iowa/Nebraska border area. He later moved to  Washington State. He had 12 children and great many descendants of which  I am one.


My Ancestors and Wife Are from Switzerland! By Marcus LaPratt

I  am an American living in Michigan. I first met my Swiss wife in Spain in 2000. We met again in Venezuela in 2001, and again in Normandy, France in 2004. We were married in July 2006. I  recently discovered that my ancestors are also Swiss!

I  have traced my ancestry to my great-great-great-great grandfather  Henrici Petiprin (born in 1755 in Vendlincourt, Jura, Switzerland)!

I  have a desire to learn if descendants of Henrici are still living in Switzerland. I wonder what it will be like one day to visit Vendlincourt  where at least three generations of my family once lived in the 18th  and 19th centuries.

I Met My Swiss Cousins by William Diessli

My  wife, two daughters and I spent three weeks in Switzerland in 2010. We visited all the old family homes, churches and communities and enjoyed  recreating pictures from my grandfather's photo album.

For me the highlight of the trip was the opportunity to meet my Swiss cousins. I had met my Swiss cousins from my  grandmother's (von Gunten) side of the family on a previous visit and we met up again on this trip. I also met a third cousin from my grandfather's (Diesslin) side.  This helped me fill in a lot of gaps in our family story. I even figured out how my grandparents met in Interlaken.

We  returned to America with enough memories to last a lifetime and the feeling that our Swiss roots are not that far away. Suddenly the world  feels like a much smaller place. 

Stähli DNA project by Bruce Stahly

There  are many clans of the Stähli family in Switzerland and in other places in Europe and in North America. Although the name is of Swiss origin, it seems to have originated independently in many parts of Switzerland, including Canton Bern and Canton Zürich. My own ancestors were living  near Sigriswil, Canton Bern, in the mid 1600s.

There is a DNA project (using the y-chromosome as the basis for testing) that  is attempting to sort out these various clans. So far there are participants from Switzerland, Germany and the USA, all with various  versions of the surname. For more information about the study, and to see the current results, visit: 

The Springs from Racholtern by Amy Brizendine

My  grandfather's mother was Rose Anna Katherine Spring Cook. Her parents were Jacob and Elizabeth Fahrni Spring. The family home they left behind  was in Racholtern, Canton Berne. They were members of a church in Steffisburg. Many years ago, a relative of mine visited there and took pictures of these places.

I  am searching to try and find if there were any relatives of Jacob and  Elizabeth left in Switzerland. They always claimed there weren't, but I've had reason to believe recently that this is not true.

Jacob's  father was Peter Spring. That is all I can tell you about Jacob's  family. Jacob was born about 1830 and Elizabeth in 1848. They arrived in  America in 1881. 

Swiss-Irish-American Adam Hollinger by James Alfred Miller Jr.

Most  American Hollingers, especially of Pennsylvania origins, are of German Hollinger descent. But my Adam Hollinger, who in the 1770's owned large Hollinger's Island off Mobile, Alabama, was a Swiss-Irish Hollinger.

The Mobile, Alabama, Catholic church marriage record to my Mdm. Marie Josephine de Juzan, says Adam was "a native of Ireland". 1770s state of  Georgia sutlers and distillers, Titus and William Hollinger, were also  from Ireland. Allegedly an earlier Irish-Hollinger was Philip Hollinger  who settled Kent County, Maryland, USA, 1724. And a Col. Andreas Hollinger was a brother of William and Titus?

All the Irish Hollingers to America, allegedly descend 1749 Irish militia Capt. Ruprecht Robert Hollinger, born 1590, Waldshist, Switzerland and married 1640 Holland.

Adam Hollinger had other Indian blood wives and an acknowledged "outside"  son, William Hollinger, also of Indian blood. Wife Mdm. Marie Josephine  de Juzan Hollinger, the daughter of "Don Pedro", Pierre Francoise  Gabriel de Juzan, His Spanish Majesty's Indian Commissioner to Alabama  (his father was French, killed in combat against Chickasaws) by wife  Mdm. Marie Henriette Rochon of Kaskaskia Illini blood.

Mdm. Marie Josephine de Juzan Hollinger's tomb is behind the Mobile Public  Library, adjoining her son-in-law, U.S. Senator, Col. George Washington  Owen, Mayor of Mobile. Her tomb says she lived in Mobile under four  flags.

I descend from her daughter Margaret Hollinger who 1815 in a one-week wedding celebration, Hollinger's Island, wed 3rd U.S. Infantry, Col. Gilbert Christian Russell, Sr., for whom Russell County, Alabama, is  named. Mrs. Margaret Hollinger Russell's daughter, Ann Maria Russell, wed Capt. Edward Malone,Sr., CSA, Mobile and Galveston cotton broker. 

Swiss Ancestor by John Moyer

My earliest Swiss ancestor in the USA was Henry Meyer. "Moyer Family History, Rev. A. J. Fretz, Harleysville, Pa.; News Printing House, 1896,  page 520" says:

Rev.  Peter Meyer, together with his three brothers, William, Jacob, Henry, one sister (name not known) and their mother (a widow) came to America about 1741 or later. The family were born and lived in Switzerland, but fled from the fatherland during the fierce persecution of the Mennonites  by the Calvinists, or State (Reformed) church, to the Palatinate in Germany, were [SIC] they remained with friends in the vicinity of  Kerbach for about a year, after which they emigrated to America. The  mother married a second husband by the name of Nickey Schaafroth, but had no issue by this marriage. The sister was the oldest of the  children. She married a man by the name of Schatz, but had no issue. Of the brothers, Peter was the oldest and Henry the youngest. Peter, William and Henry settled in Springfield Township, Bucks County, and Jacob at Centre Valley, Saucon Township, Lehigh County. They were all  farmers and members of the Mennonite church. It is said that Peter was a  minister in Switzerland. He was one of the early ministers of the  Mennonite church in Springfield. Jacob was also a minister, and preached in the Saucon Mennonite Church.

The  Mennonite Encyclopedia says that the Meyers came from Aargau. Someone suggested to me in email that it was Rheinfelden and villages near  Rheinfelden.

Some other ancestors who lived in Switzerland were:

Samuel Burgdorfer, born 1684, Eggiwil, Emmental Kt, Berne
Magdalena Eichelberger, Born 1675 - Eggiwil, Bern
Johannes Eymann, Born 1666 - Oberdießbach, Bern, Schweiz
Hans Lötscher, Born 1601 - Erlenbach, Berne, Died about 1673 - Latterbach, Berne
Marti Kammer, Born on 19 April 1573 - Diemtigen
Steffan Eymann, born about 1535, Steffisburg, Berne 

Joseph O Loretan Family History by Veronica Jean Loretan

The history of the family of Jeanne Loretan began with the departure from Switzerland of her Grandfather, Thomas Loretan in 1906 with his wife Marie Theler and two young sons, Joseph Otto and John Joseph. Thomas Loretan was a Blacksmith and lived in Greenwich Village, NY with his family for many years.

Joseph Otto Loretan became the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum in the New York City School System. He played a key role in changing U.S. textbooks by announcing to publishers that New York City Schools would only buy books that reflected the diversity of American culture. He also  introduced a program in the Bronx allowing each child to learn a musical instrument of their choice beginning in the third grade at a cost of $1 a quarter. Today  a school is named after him in New York, P.S.102, "the Joseph O Loretan  School." Joseph and his wife Veronica raised five children. Joseph Paul  and Robert, the two eldest sons followed in their father's footsteps  and became top-level educational administrators in the Northeast.  Philip, Jeanne, and David's lives took them in different directions.

Philip  A. Loretan, who died in 1998, at the age of 58 was very influenced by his parents who were strong advocates of the arts and believed in diversity of the American culture. In 1968, after receiving an MS and PHD in Nuclear Engineering from Iowa State University, Phil began teaching engineering at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Working with faculty, students and others concerned with the very poor in the area, Phil helped to bring running water into many homes. He was coordinator of the Tuskegee University/NASA  Centre for food and Environmental Systems for Human Exploration of space whose task was to provide NASA with the protocols for producing  hydroponics sweet potatoes and peanuts for long -term human space missions, the sweet potato cultivar used in this work, bred at Tuskegee  University, is being named the "Whatley-Loretan", so there is a variety  of sweet potato bearing the name "Loretan".

David,  the youngest of the five children has spent his life improving the lives of others working with the Mary Knoll fathers and Lay Missioners, fundraising for their overseas missions around the world.

We are very grateful for our Swiss-Roots, and proud to bear the "Loretan" name. Thank you Switzerland.

Waldmyer by Hazel Hayes

My  gr.grandfather Benjamin Waldmyer emigrated from Mumpf, Argau, Switzerland in 1832 to the U.S. and settled in Massachusetts. He started a leather tanning business in Winchester, Massachusetts and was very successful before the business was sold to others. I am interested in any information relating to Waldmeyer/Waldmyer from the Mumpf area who  may be in the U.S.

I visited Mumpf some years ago and was able to see the house on the banks of the Rhine River that the family lived in. It was a thrill  standing there and photographing the old family home. 

Brand of Trachselwald by Edward Brand

 My  grandfather and his brother immigrated to the U.S. from Gondiswil, BE, in the early 1900s. They settled in Pine Creek, Washington, and acquired  land there by taking advantage of the Homestead Act. My grandfather temporarily returned to Gondiswil to marry my grandmother. He brought her to Pine Creek, and a little later, my father was born.

My grandparents divorced when my father was very young. My grandmother ended up in Manteca, CA, because there were many Swiss people there. My  grandfather and father moved to southern Wisconsin, and they eventually settled in New Glarus. My father was told that his mother had passed. It  wasn't until he was in his twenties that he was told his mother was  alive and well and living in California. He discovered that he had a  half-brother and half-sister there also. He and my mother moved to  California to be near them for a couple of years but decided to return to New Glarus. 

My Swiss Heritage by Thomas Rey

I  knew from my grandparents that my family came to America in 1850 from Fahrwangen in Kanton Aargau. They came by ship, landing in New Orleans.  From there they moved to Illinois and then Ohio.

My  great-great grandfather was a farmer and when the Civil War began, his  two sons joined the Union Army for the duration. After the war ended, both gradually moved west, going to Missouri, Idaho, Washington, and finally the San Joaquin Valley of California. Years later I met a Swiss  jeweler in La Jolla, California. We became friends and he wrote to the  Staatsarchivar in Aargau, Herr Dr. Siegrist.

He gratefully wrote back and explained the current Swiss system of finding one's ancestors. Coincidentally, he happened to be a distant cousin  and, even though he didn't have to, hand wrote a very complete family tree of the first mentioned Reys von Fahrwangen that went back to the early 1300s. However, there was a gap between his research and mine that  spanned the years 1531 to 1745. I will always be indebted to Dr. Siegrist.

Coming Home by Sylvia Kout

My  father immigrated to America, from Ticino, when he was a young teenager in 1928. In 1977 we made  a trip back to his home town. I got to see the house where he was born and meet relatives I didn't know I had. We looked into genealogy  information at a place where historical records are kept. It was a very  special time for me. We went on a little trek up a mountain hill to see  the summer place his cousin was renovating. My dad picked me a bouquet  of wildflowers. I took pictures of them and brought some back pressed in  a book. I have them still, framed and under glass.

We flew back on SwissAir on my 28th birthday. Sitting behind us, at the back of the plane, were a group of  Swiss people who drank Grappa and yodeled for quite a while. It was a birthday I will never forget.

When we arrived in San Francisco I had the oddest experience. While we drove home, listening to the radio...the words of the songs seemed to not  register in my brain. It was as if being immersed in another language for 3 weeks had an impact on me. May be if I had spent a summer, or even a year, in Biasca I would have really learned to speak my father's  language.

My dad is gone now, and I miss him a lot. I feel so blessed to have been his daughter and to be part Swiss. I am very proud of my heritage.

Aurigeno, Ticino by Allen Cofiori

My  grandparents came from Aurigeno in Ticino and emigrated to California.  They lived in San Francisco and Redwood City. Their name was Cofiori.  Ellis Island records show Carlo Cofiori coming to the US in 1900 and my  grandmother Domenica Grossini Cofiori coming in 1906 with three  children. The Ellis Island records spelled their name as Cofiore and  showed their place of origin as Aregeno (sp?) Tissin, Swiss. I also have a letter from the Municipal Authority of Aurigeno, Switzerland that was  a response to an inquiry I made in 1973 regarding my grandparents. From  municipal records there were not very many references for my  grandfather, Carlo Cofiori, since he was not born in Aurigeno but in  Modena, Italy.

Carlo  arrived in Switzerland toward the end of 1800 and was involved in house building in the Maggia Valley. There he met my grandmother, Miss  Domenica Grossini. They had three children, Mary, Aldina and Alfredo.  Domenica Grossini had a brother named Giovanni. He married in Aurigno  and had many children however two survived. One of his children was Vittorio Grossini, who in 1973 was the secredtrary of the Aurigeno  municipality, and Maria who married a Dellagana.

From this information and accounts of my family the Cofiori's lived in the Redwood City area of California and with others with Swiss-Italian  ancestry worked in logging camps near La Honda.

rom Winkelried to Jeffersonville, New York by Katharina Litchman

When I am not working in New York City, I live near Jeffersonville, Sullivan  County in upstate New York. This little town has an old Swiss heritage. The original settlers arrived around 1830 and called the village  Winkelried. Arnold von Winkelried known for his action at the battle of  Sempach, July 9, 1386, the Swiss defeat of the Austrians under Duke  Leopold III of Austria.

He  is a Swiss hero and credited with the legend: the Swiss could not break  the close ranks of the Habsburg footsoldiers. Winkelried is reported to  have cried: "I will open a passage into the line; protect, dear  countrymen and confederates, my wife and children" before opening a  breach in their lines by throwing himself into their pikes, taking them  down with his body such that the confederates could attack through the  opening. He fell dead but he had breached the enemy ranks, and his  compatriots rushed to victory.

The  village was renamed Jeffersonville after the village’s first hotel  later on, but still today, there are streets and family names that  remind you of the Swiss settlers and there is a plaque dedicated to them  including the first German newspaper Volksblatt.

My Heritage by Bill Burgi

My  Father was born in the small village of Egnach, Thurgau, Switzerland in 1915. He was very proud of his Swiss Heritage and took his (3) kids back several times to make sure they they knew and remembered this beautiful country. The modern Swiss Burgi  family came from 13 children of my Great Grandfather. Only one died as a  child and 11 of the remaining children stayed in Switzerland. My  Grandmother with her 3 children came to America in 1927. Her husband and baby died in the influenza of 1918. There is an annual Burgi Family Reunion held in Zurich.  We live in the USA but post our Swiss flag every August 1st. We attend "Swiss Days" in Heber, Utah every year. We are very proud of our Swiss  Heritage. 

Maitannli - An Old Swiss Tradition Still Practiced in My Hometown by Angela Walther-O'Rourke

 My sister was the recipient of a Maitannli on Mayday Eve. It is a  beautiful tradition, which involves a lot of work on the male side. The village's bachelors (Stoellbuebe) go out at night and cut down "small"  pine trees, from which they remove the bark and branches. They only  leave a small x-mas tree on the top. Then the tree is decorated with  flowers and ribbons and planted before the homes of girls they admire or they are dating on Mayday Eve.

The  tricky part is to get the girl out of the house for that night or at least the period of set-up. Or be quiet enough so she doesn't hear it.  Option 2 is very hard because usually the pine tree is set before the  sweetheart's bedchamber window, so good luck with that! I never knew  that tractors and forklifts are quiet equipment! My parents came out and watched the progress of the set-up, while providing drinks for the men. My brothers helped out setting up the tree. The reward for the boys is drinks and a dinner that the girl on the receiving end cooks for  everybody who came out and helped. Lucky for them my sister is in  culinary school!