Tours Travel

Swiss Genealogy – A Longenecker Family Search

I recently visited Langnau, Bern, Switzerland and spent two days immersed in all things Langenegger. My wife and I arrived at the Langnau train station on June 25, 2004, exhausted from a long flight from San Francisco. As we left the train station, we were struck by the unique character of this area.

Outside the train station remain the remains of a cobbled street, now patched with asphalt. Everywhere we looked there were beautiful Swiss houses and buildings, many hundreds of years old, and all colorfully decorated with pink and red begonias placed in window boxes below each window. As we found out later, the Emmental is also a wonderland of covered bridges, friendly people, church spiers with clocks and Swiss bells, the tinkle of cow bells – everything you expect Switzerland to be. .

As we walked to our hotel in Bareau, we noticed how friendly and courteous the locals are, stopping to let us cross the road and smiling as we passed with a friendly “Hello” or “Guten Morgen”. The city is dotted with long stone tanks with well water splashing at one end and draining at the other. They look something like a stone horse tank. These are available to anyone who wants a cool drink of well water.

After settling into our room at the Landgasthof Hotel Adler, the owner kindly invited us for a short walk through the countryside, where we saw more beautiful houses and pastures. After we got back, we asked some locals at the hotel restaurant about the Langenegger farm and they got a good laugh. Turns out there are a lot of Langeneggers there and we didn’t know the name of the people who lived in the original house we came to see.

The hills are about 1,200 feet above the valley floor and are incredibly green with grass and wooded areas visible from anywhere in the city. Langnau is small, maybe three or four blocks long, and the hills seem very close. Black and white cows break through the vegetation and produce a wonderful jingle as they graze by ringing the bells around their necks. Higher pitched cowbells worn by sheep and goats blend with the clunk-clunk bong-bong of cow bells, creating a delightful backdrop to the landscape. This is the last sound we hear when we fall asleep covered in a feather duvet on our first night in Langnau.

The birds woke us up to the wonderful green world that is Langnau in the summer. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of homemade bread and jam provided by our host, Stephen. We had hoped to attend the church, but found out that our information was incorrect and we arrived too early. Instead, we start our Langnau walking tour early. Langnau is a small town and we walked all the main streets around noon when we broke for lunch to share a small cheesecake and apple pie from a small shop near the center of town. At that time, the local museum had opened. It is located in one of the oldest houses in Langnau and is a great opportunity to look inside one of these magnificent buildings and see all the fancy woodwork done by the builders. It’s also a great museum with a number of permanent and rotating exhibits describing the history of Langnau and its residents.

The museum docent has lived in Langnau for 70 years and knows the Langenegger name very well. He quickly found a book containing the Langenegger family crests, one for those in the valley (Langenegg Ey) and one for those in the hills (Langenegg Unter). He also loosely parsed the name into Lange (Long in English, pronounced ‘Long’ in German as well) and negg (Hill in English, pronounced ‘Neck’ in German). I haven’t been able to confirm the word ‘negg’ anywhere, but that’s what she said. The book also included a statement, “Ulrich, von Langnau, wanderte 1748 nach Pennsylvanian [USA] Aus (Faust 61)”, which roughly translates to Ulrich Langenegger emigrating to Pennsylvania in the United States in 1748. This is our ancestor Ulrich Langenegger Sr. The book does not provide further sources for this information. On the map, Langenegg Unter is about a 30 minute uphill walk from the museum and Langenegg Ey is about a mile downriver from Langnau Since the Unter had been owned by someone other than Langenegger for many years we decided to take a closer look at the Ey property in the valley to see if we could at least get a picture of the house and maybe, if we were really lucky, meet a distant relative.

Margaret and I walked along the river where many of the locals were taking a break from normal life to refresh themselves. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of covered bridges in and around Langnau, all still in use. We even ran over one on the outskirts of Langnau.

Just as we approached the long driveway of Langenegger’s house, two women came up from the river, one of whom spoke English. She told us that we were in the right place and that the Langenegger family lived here. She offered to walk us to the correct house among a group of various houses and buildings located on the property. With a cheerful German “Woo hoo,” she called to the people inside and introduced us to my ninth cousin who lives in the house where Ulrich Langenegger Sr. was born in 1664 (the same one mentioned in the book who immigrated to Pennsylvania).

Our newly found cousins ​​were friendly and warmly welcoming us even though we just turned up on their doorstep after over 250 years without a Christmas card! We had a brief conversation about the family and looked at some of the information they had there. Coincidentally, the sister-in-law of the couple next door was in Pennsylvania for a Longenecker meeting while we were in Langnau. We exchange contact information so that we can follow up with them with information that we find might be useful to them. They kindly offered us a cool drink from their well before taking a little walk around the farm to take some photos. The cows were in the barn because it was unusually hot that day. The milk from their cows is sold to a local farmers’ cooperative that turns it into cheese. If you’re looking for authentic Langenegger cheese, look for the Emmentaler type as that’s what they make there. It is sold in the US simply as Swiss cheese, the kind with holes in it. I have to admit that it tasted much better in Langnau than in California.

The house is an easy walk along the river from Langnau and consists of the original house plus some additional houses and outbuildings. I found the house a challenge to photograph on its own. It is a typical Swiss country house arranged with living quarters and barn under one roof. On one side is a dirt ramp that goes directly into the attic above the barn which is used to move hay into that area for storage and winter use.

The roof is steep by US standards, but not as steep as I’d expect in an area that gets a lot of snow. Most of the roofs in the area are tiled and include a series of corbels about six inches high that hold snow in winter so it doesn’t fall all at once. Some buildings had a simpler system with just a set of brackets near the bottom of the roof that supported a four-inch tube that ran the entire length of the house, apparently for the same purpose as the brackets on other buildings. Also, this system probably uses snow to insulate the roof from the cold. Another interesting thing about some roofs and houses: builders sometimes put their initials and the date of construction on the roof using different colored shingles. Others painted this information under the eaves or on the face of the building under the eaves.

Langenegger’s house isn’t as fancy as some in the city, but it’s big and includes some fancy woodwork that we saw repeated inside the museum, on the covered bridges, and elsewhere in the area. The main structure appears to be large beams carefully attached at just the right angles so that they become stronger as more weight is placed on them, and are held together with wooden dowels. On a bridge near the city we saw metal strapping that seems to have been added later.

The farm business is focused on dairy cows. There was a large field of corn planted near the house along with a well-kept garden that seems to grace every house we saw in Switzerland. Along the driveway to the farm are some cherry trees with mostly green fruit starting to turn pink in places. The rest of the farm seemed to be covered in grass. My friend John Garland in Oklahoma would call fencing “psychological fencing” – not much of a barrier to an animal wanting to get out. We noticed that many fences appeared to be temporary and electrified so that cows could be easily moved to fresh pasture as needed. We even saw an electric fence connected to a solar panel high up in the mountains, a long train ride from Langnau. Out of respect for the time and space of the current occupants, we only stayed briefly.

We return to our hotel along a path that borders the river and we stop to rest in the shade of an old covered bridge. We were exhausted again and happy to meet our distant relatives and see the old house.

Research: If you are researching this area, there is no genealogical information available on Langnau. The records office has records going back to 1886, but it does not publish them without the permission of the people named in the records, and the charges for doing so are very high. He will have much better luck in Bern, where most of the Swiss records are held. There is almost always someone around who speaks English, and registry offices are no exception. The records are not computerized or indexed, but are very clearly categorized by location and time frames. You’ll need to tell them exactly who, where, and when you want to look for the right microfilm. So it’s an old-fashioned search, flipping through records written long ago using unknown styles and fonts. The lockers are located outside the office in the hallway and you will need to leave your backpack, purse, etc. there. It’s free and secure.

The Bern State Archives are located at Falkenplatz 4, CH-3012 Bern, near the main train station. It was easy to find the third time I tried. The train station is large and busy and has several levels. Locate the elevators at one end of the station and take them to the top. If you have trouble, follow the students and the signs to the university to find the elevators. Once you’re at the top, head towards the campus, the only way you can really go, and pass between two large college-looking buildings. Falkenplatz 4 is the first building on the right after passing through the campus area. There is a little street stall just across the little park where students gather to buy a good cheap sandwich – get there early as they run out of sandwiches quickly after noon. The office is open from 8:00 to 12:00 and from 1:00 to 5:00 every day of the week except Friday when it closes at 4:30. If you want to confirm before you go, their phone numbers are 031/633 51 01, fax 031/633 51 02. Copies are one Swiss franc per page, so take enough cash with you so you can get everything you want. You can easily spend 50 francs in an afternoon depending on the records you want. I didn’t have time, but you might also want to check out these sources provided by the museum in Langnau. . .

Zivilstands-und Burgerrechtsdienst

Cantons Bern

Eigerstrasse 73

3011 Bern

031/633 47 85

Fax: 031/633 47 39

Nieisen Paul-Anthon

Biochstrasse 7

3753 Oberhofen am Thunersee

033/243 24 52

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