Did your German-speaking ancestors inhabit the mountains and valleys of Switzerland and Austria? Here’s how to navigate the highs and lows of genealogical research in these two nations.
Germany has been pronounced the No. 1 US heritage group in census after census—which means many Americans’ ancestors are immigrants from lands that are today or formerly were in Germany. But some “German” ancestors hail from two other primarily German-speaking nations.
The tiny Alpine confederation of Switzerland and the nation of Austria are these two states. Some two-thirds of the Swiss speak German as their first language, as does nearly every Austrian. These nations, however, have different histories from the many areas making up today’s Germany. Switzerland, on the one hand, was founded by people who just wanted to be left alone in their mountains and valleys—William Tell is their national hero—while the royal house of Austria was a European power in terms of the territory it ruled as well as its dynastic connections throughout the continent. Common to both nations are the unique resources that’ll help genealogists find German-speaking ancestors who lived there—our guide will help you navigate those sources.