Bern Canton, Switzerland Genealogy

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Guide to Bern 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

In 1353, Bern joined the Swiss Confederacy, becoming one of the eight cantons of the formative period of 1353 to 1481.
Bern invaded and conquered Aargau in 1415 and Vaud in 1536, as well as other smaller territories and become the largest city-state north of the Alps by the 18th century.
Bern was occupied by French troops in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars, when it was stripped of parts of its territories. It regained control of the Bernese Oberland in 1802, and following the Congress of Vienna of 1814, it newly acquired the Bernese Jura. At this time, it once again became the largest canton of the Confederacy as it stood during the Restoration and until the secession of the canton of Jura in 1979. Bern was made the Federal City within the new Swiss federal state in 1848.
Bern is a German speaking canton.
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Compiled Genealogies

Main article: Julius Billeter 1869 - 1957


Civil Registration Online

Church Records Online

Bern parish church records have been digitized online, so you can access the records from home. The Bern, Switzerland Parishes lists all of Bern parishes. Some of the parish wiki pages have direct links to the church volumes, otherwise you must go to the Online Parish List to locate volumes.

See also: Using the Online Bern Church Records

FamilySearch and Partner Site Collections

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

FamilySearch Microfilmed/Digitized Records

Several parish records have been microfilmed and are currently being digitized. Eventually, all of them will be digitized, so check back frequently.These records may have a restriction for use only at a Family History Center near you.

Instructions:

  1. Click on Switzerland, Bern FamilySearch Catalog.
  2. Open the list "Places within Switzerland, Bern". Select your town.
  3. A list of record categories will open up. Click on "Church records".
  4. A list of available records will appear. Click on the record title you are interested in searching.
  5. Scroll down to the list of microfilm numbers. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

Writing for Church Records

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.

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