Visiting the Archives in Bern, Switzerland

Posted by Lois Ann Mast on

Dr. Barbara Studer Immenhauser, Bern Archivist

Dr. Barbara Studer Immenhauser, Bern Archivist


The September 2019 “Hostettler Heritage Tour”    svisited the Staatsarchiv in Bern, Switzerland, to view original records pertaining to the Hostettler family.

Dr. Barbara Studer Immenhauser, archivist at the  Staatsarchiv Bern, shared informative facts before introducing Hans Hostettler who has retired from serving at the Archives for years. He shared the following.

 mennonite archives bern switzerland archival books

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My name is Hans Hostettler and my place of origin is Wahlern/Schwarzenburg. I am happy to tell you a little bit about the Hostettler families and their ancestors, who are very difficult to research.

The Hostettler families in this area lived very near each other and most were already closely related to each other in the 17th century. First names were used again and again within the families making it difficult to document who belonged with whom. Plus, no farm, hamlet, or village details were entered in the churchbooks to help identify the families. And then not all the documents needed for research are even stored at  the State Archives. Various sources such as court manuals and other regional documents can only be referenced in the individual church communities. Unfortunately, thunderstorms and fires also destroyed valuable documents.

If you are interested in genealogy of Swiss Hostettlers, especially in the regions of the former Schwarzenburg district, you need a lot of patience, great luck, and strong nerves!

For example, I could only find my ancestors back to my great-grandfather living in the years 1790/1814. Unfortunately, I could not go back any further. Same first names were traditionally given to children causing difficulty in knowing who belongs to whom. Within 1666 and 1720, researchers can find many Jacob, Ulrich, and Heinrich Hostettlers! Families would also frequently move around—especially poor families—so it is also difficult to place families when they are displaced so often. When your ancestor, Jacob Hostettler, lived at Winterkraut, five different Hostettler families also lived there.

In the court records we did find record that your Jacob Hostettler (b. ca1666) was expelled from Switzerland forced to promise never to return to his homeland again. However, he changed his mind and returned at the beginning of 1720, coming all the way from Markirch (Alsace). The Schwarzenburg court records state that he had returned because he wanted to encourage women of the Anabaptist community who still lived in the region, to move with him to Alsace.

The Bernese authorities imprisoned in Bern in February 1720, and accused him of perjury. He was taken to the Alsatian border on the condition that he would never return again to the Bernese territory. His further fate is unknown to me. I assume, however, that he evidently emigrated to America or else you would not be here today.


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The tour persons were so appreciative to meet Hans—certainly a distant cousin since his Hostettler ancestor came from the same region as ours!

We do know that the above-mentioned Preacher Jacob Hostettler Sr. (b. ca1666) died probably at Echery near Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, France. He and his unnamed wife had five children: Peter/Pierre Hochstetler who is thought to have moved to Breisach (Baden), Germany; Elisabeth (Hostetler) Blank married to Michael/Michel Blank; Immigrant Jacob Hochstetler (1712-1776) who came to America on the ship Charming Nancy in 1738 (known for the Hochstetler Massacre); Johannes Hochstettler (ca1710-bef. 1769) married to Anna Wagler of Asswiller, France; and Verena Hostetler (ca1716-Nov. 20, 1741) who died single at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, France.

 Historical Archives Bern Switzerland

We also know that there was another Immigrant Jacob Hochstetler (July 25, 1704-ca1750) who was born in Switzerland, the son of Jacob and Margaret (Nabel) Hochstedler. This Jacob (often confused with the above-mentioned Immigrant Jacob Hochstetler) came to America on the ship Harle landing at Philadelphia, Pa., on September 1, 1736. Among the ship passengers were Jacob Hofstetler and Johannes Lorentz. This Jacob Hofstetler warranted 200 acres at “Middle Muddy Creek” in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on June 15, 1738. He was a member of the Muddy Creek Church, a Lutheran and Reformed congregation in Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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