Finding Swiss forebears
More cantons (political equivalents to American states) joined them over the centuries until Switzerland’s current boundaries were reached in 1815, when the Congress of Vienna reshaped Europe after the defeat of Napoleon I. Switzerland was declared politically non-aligned, a neutrality that was respected in both World Wars. Some 6 million Americans have Swiss ancestry, with a large majority stemming from the German-speaking cantons of Bern and Zurich. French predominates in six of the 26 cantons. There’s one Italian-speaking canton, and about 6 percent of the population speaks Romansch, a Latin-based Romance language and the fourth of Switzerland’s national tongues.
Tracing Austrian ancestors
- Grundbuchblätter (personnel sheets) cover enlisted soldiers, starting with those born as early as 1780. Information about the soldiers includes name, birth year, birthplace, religion, occupation, regiments and dates of service. These records are arranged alphabetically by surname within each Austrian state and cover more than 600 rolls of microfilm.
- Musterlisten und Standestabellen (muster rolls and formation tables) cover soldiers from 1740 to 1820 on more than 5,000 rolls of microfilm. They’re arranged by regiment (except for rolls of officers, which are alphabetical) and give the same information as the personnel sheets, plus names of children and marital status.
- Grundbücher und Stellungslisten (personnel books and formation lists) cover soldiers and officers from 1820 to 1869. They have information similar to muster rolls and like those rolls, are arranged by regiment. The FHL has almost 3,000 rolls of film for these records.
- Dienstbeschreibungen (service records) apply only to the 10 percent of military men who were officers, but give much more detail on each man’s service. They’re organized alphabetically on nearly 3,500 rolls of film.
- Militärkirchenbücher (military church records) were kept for military units and garrisons. They include baptisms, marriages and burials on nearly 600 rolls of film, and are arranged by regiment.
- Seigniorial records: FamilySearch’s digitization initiative is making available these registers of court records kept by feudal lords in Austria. The records include marriage contracts, inventories of estates and transfers of feudal land leases from one generation to another—therefore giving many family relationships. To find them on FamilySearch.org, click Continental Europe next to the map on the home page, then choose Austria from the country list on the left.
Surmounting language barriers