Aargau Canton, Switzerland Genealogy

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

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Getting Started

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.

History and Geography

The area of Aargau and the surrounding areas were controlled by the Helvetians, a member of the Celts, as far back as 200 BC, eventually being occupied by the Romans and then by the 6th century, the Franks. The Romans built a major settlement called Vindonissa, near the present location of Brugg.
Bern as the Unteraargau, expanded north in 1514 into the Jura and so came into possession of several strategically important mountain passes into the Austrian Fricktal.This land was added to the Unteraargau and was directly ruled from Bern.
At the time of Reformation, the majority of the Ämter converted to a new faith. In 1529, a wave of iconoclasm swept through the area and wiped away much of the old religion. After the defeat of Zürich in the second Battle of Kappel in 1531, the victorious five Catholic cantons marched their troops into the Freie Ämter and reconverted them to Catholicism.
During the Helvetic Republic 1798–1803, the county of Baden, the Freie Ämter and the area known as the Kelleramt were combined into the canton of Baden. After the French invasion, on 19 March 1798, the governments of Zürich and Bern agreed to the creation of the short lived canton of Baden in the Helvetic Republic.
With the Act of Mediation in 1803, the canton of Baden was dissolved and the contemporary canton of Aargau was formed in 1803.
French forces occupied the Aargau from 10 March to 18 April 1798; thereafter the Bernese portion became the canton of Aargau and the remainder formed the canton of Baden.
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Regions

The Aargau consists of four former regions (sub-districts in brackets):

  • Freiamt (Muri, Bremgarten)
  • Fricktal (Laufenburg, Rheinfelden), once part of Vorderösterreich
  • Grafschaft Baden (Baden, Zurzach)
  • Unteraargau (Aarau, Brugg, Kulm, Lenzburg, Zofingen), formerly part of Bern

The first three regions were predominantly Roman Catholic while the Unteraargau region was mostly Protestant. --Swiss Genealogy on the Internet

Compiled Genealogies

Census Records Online

These records have a restriction for use only at a Family History Center near you.

Emigration Records

  • 1803-1840 - Bevölkerungs und Auswanderungsakten, 1803-1840: Correspondence pertaining to the emigration of citizens of Kt. Aargau, Switzerland. Each set of documents is preceded by an alphabetical index, arranged by surname or subject, supplying a summary of each document. Includes some passenger lists. Includes population census statistics.

These records have a restriction for use only at a Family History Center near you.

Civil Registration

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

Civil Records (1746-1876)

  • 1746-1846 - Zivilurkunden, 1746-1846: These records include notations on naturalization, emigration, citizenship, public assistance, disaster relief, court appeals, estate and orphan assistance. They are available in 40 microfilms, many of which are digitized and available online, Again, they have a restriction for use only at a Family History Center near you.

Online Church Records

For information on the coverage, content, and locating of church records, read Switzerland Church Records
Parish registers for only a few towns are microfilmed and/or digitized and available online. Eventually, all records will be digitized, so check back occasionally:

FamilySearch and Partner Site Collections

Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast collections can be view free of charge at a Family History Center near you.

Writing for Church Records

  • Most research in Aargau Canton will have to be conducted by correspondence.
  • Find the address for your ancestors' parish in one of these lists. Look for the term "Kontakt" for mailing and e-mail addresses.:
  • You will be able to write your request in German with the help of the German Letter Writing Guide.
  • For major towns or cities: Swiss Genealogy on the Internet makes this claim (accessed April, 2018): "You need to know that the parish records have been transferred to the Zivilstandsamt of each major town or city. Writing to these civil clerk's offices will be of no use, however. They may claim (falsely) that they are by law not authorized to release the information and that they are unable to read the old script in which the church records are written. Whatever the case, the reality is that one's only options are either to hire a researcher or to visit the Zivilstandsamt oneself. If you want to attempt the latter, be aware that you first need to acquire a permit from the Interior Department of the government of the canton of Aargau. To apply, state your case by writing (in German) to
Departement des Innern des Kantons Aargau
CH-5001 Aarau
SWITZERLAND
If your request is approved, the department will communicate the amount of the fee needed to acquire the permit, usually approximately 50 Swiss Francs."

Reading the Records

Search Strategy

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.