Switzerland Church Records

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Switzerland
Church Records

For information about records for non-Christian religions in Switzerland, go to the Religious Records page.

Definition

Church records are often called church books or churches books or parish registers. They contain records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. In addition, church records can contain financial account books, (the record charges for toll bells, fees for masses for the dead, and so on), lists of confirmation, lists protected persons, lists of foreigners, and the family register.

Coverage

Time

Protestants first required the recording of baptisms and marriages in 1525; Catholics in 1563 at the Council of Trent. However, many of the early church records have been lost. The records can be written in German, Latin, French, Italian, or Romantsch.

Denominations

Generally church records exist for the following denominations:

  • Reformed (Reformierte Kirche/Eglise réformée) 1525-
  • Roman Catholic (Katholische Kirche/Eglise catholique) 1565 (1481)-
  • Swiss Baptist/Mennonite (Wiedertäufer, Mennoniten/Eglise baptiste, Eglise mennonite) 1622-
  • Brethren (Brüder/Herrnhuter) 1661-
  • Jews (Jüdische Gemeinde/Congrégation Juive) 1759-
  • Free Churches (Freie Kirchen) 1817-
  • Russian Orthodox Church (Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche) 1817-
  • Methodists (Methodisten) 1856-
  • Christian Catholic (Christkatholische Kirche) 1872-

Other churches in Switzerland prior to 1900: Seventh-day Adventists (Adventisten vom 7. Tag), Swedenborgian (Schwedenborgianer), Anglicans (Anglikaner), Society for Propagation of the Gospel (Gesellschaft zur Ausbreitung des Evangeliums), Scottish Presbyterian Church (Schottische Presbyterianer Kirche)[1]

Information in the Records

Types of church records:

  • Baptisms, marriages, burials, confirmations
  • Lists of communicants
  • Family registers (soul registers)
  • Lists of ministers in the parish
  • Church council minutes
  • Notations about those who have fallen away, i.e. Anabaptists
  • Church censuses, membership lists
  • Church consistory minutes
  • Annual masses for the dead

Notes

Whenever possible, events concerning citizens of the home parish that took place in other parishes are listed in the home parish as well. Hence, there may be separate sections in the parish register, which in the FamilySearch Catalog entries may be described as “Auswärtige”.

The women‘s maiden names are usually given in the church records throughout their lives. However, they may be buried under their married or maiden name. Also, the record keeping conventions vary somewhat by region.

Surnames may be abbreviated. Also, there are many unusual forms of given names.

Content of Baptism Records

  • Name of child
  • Baptism date
  • Parents names, possibly residence and occupation of father
  • Witnesses names, possibly relationship, residence, and occupation

Content of Confirmation Records

  • Date of confirmation
  • Name of pastor
  • Name of confirmed person
  • Residence
  • Birth date

Content of Marriage Records

  • Date of marriage
  • Names of bride and groom, occupation and locality
  • Residence and notations
  • Emigration notation

Content of Death Records

  • Dates of death and burial
  • Name of deceased
  • Home place
  • Age in years, months, and days
  • Name of person performing funeral service
  • Cause of death

Content of Family Register

  • Parents' names, birth dates, and birth places
  • Parents' marriage date
  • Children's names and birth dates
  • Children's marriage dates and spouse names

Locating the Records

Online Databases

Church Books by Canton

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. Instructions:

  1. Click on this link for the Switzerland FamilySearch Catalog.
  2. A list "Places within Switzerland" will open. Click on the appropriate canton.
  3. Open the list of places within the canton. Select your town.
  4. A list of record categories will open up. Click on "Church records".
  5. A list of available records will appear. Click on the record title you are interested in searching.
  6. 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 Records

These letter writing guides will help you write to local parishes in the appropriate language:

Language Map of Switzerland

SW Locator Map Switzerland Languages.png

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.

References

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Switzerland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1984-1998.