Swiss Genealogy

Five Hundred Years of Protestantism - A Guest Post

Côté chaire  côté rue Affiche

 

Our good friend, the genealogist, Isabelle Haemmerle, sends this from Geneva:

 

The exhibition "Côté chaire côté rue" presented at the Archives of the State of Geneva is to be extended until March 2018. Held in the context of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation (1517), it presents the effects of the religious activity and the spread of Protestant ideas on the daily life of Geneva. The presentation of a digitalisation project and the restoration of the archives of the Protestant Church complete this exhibition and highlight the historical work linked to the archives.

 

Reformation

 

In the XVI century, the Churches and States made concerted efforts throughout Europe to systematically register births, marriages and deaths, thereby providing the embryo of what would later become the civil state. In Geneva the series of civil registers is continuous as of the time in 1550 when cupboards were integrated in the pulpits for the pastors to keep these precious books.

These registers must not be seen as merely an administrative activity. While they effectively provided knowledge of the state of the population – in Geneva they were used very early to establish statistics on plague deaths – and if private citizens had an interest as these documents allowed them to identify their legitimate heirs – their use was primarily religious. It was not individuals who were registered as so many constituents, as the believers called upon to follow a Christian path in the community of Salvation formed by the parish. In Geneva, before the last quarter of the XVI century, it was not the date of birth that the ministers entered in these registers, but that of baptism, which marked the new-borns’ entry into the community of the parish where they would thereafter be required to attend services.

The civil register, as it was seen at the time, therefore made up a sort of collective accounting and consequently it is not surprising to read other things that our contemporaries did not expect to find: the ministers were not satisfied to just enter the names of the faithful whose lives make up the warp of this accounting, but entered many other things such as important events for the parish or instructions for their successors.

To implement the exhibition, historians have studied the sources, here the Council registers, the Church archives, criminal trials, parish registers and the ancient works in the AEG library.

This display presents the Council registers and the archives of the Protestant Church of Geneva.

Digitizing
1- The Council registers: they form the main source for anyone interested in the history of Geneva. They comprise the registers containing the decisions, and their annexes, from the executive and legislative authorities of the Community of Citizens and Bourgeois, then City and Republic, then Republic and Canton of Geneva. Today these would be the minutes of the Council of State. This series has been preserved constantly since 1409 up to the present day, which is quite unique in Europe, with an interruption during the French period (1798-1813).
The registers from the years 1409 to 1541 have been edited, meaning that they have been transcribed, annotated and published.

2- The Church archives: In order to prepare an exhibition on Geneva at the time of the reformation, it is obviously essential to study the archives produced by the Church itself. Since 1937 these documents have been preserved in the State Archives.


On November 20th, 1541, the General Council (the assembly of citizens) adopted the Ecclesiastical Ordinances. These Ordinances organized Church life by instituting four functions or ministries: the Pastors, Doctors, Elders and Deacons. It created two new organs: the Company of Pastors and the Consistory which were to produce documents and hence archives.

The Church archives consist of two principal collections:

1. The Consistory archives (1542-1929)

The Elders formed the Consistory: it was a chamber composed of twelve pastors and twelve members of the government, presided by one of the supreme magistrates. There was a secretary who was responsible for taking the minutes of the meetings. The Elders, according to Article 37 of the Ordinances, must be divided amongst the various neighbourhoods of the city at a rate of one Elder per thousand inhabitants, “to keep an eye on everything”. The Consistory is charged with the surveillance of the behaviour of individuals, to admonish deviant practices and beliefs, to arbitrate conflicts between individuals and to obtain their amendment in cases of indiscipline. This sort of moral and matrimonial court could only pronounce ecclesiastical sentences, meaning the denial of communion. In cases requiring criminal sanctions, the guilty party was deferred to the Small Council. The Consistory met every Thursday.

The Consistory registers provided a very rich source for studying the numerous aspects of Geneva’s history. While Consistories have been introduced in all the Reformed Churches, it is rare to find a collection with registers of this scope and continuity for the entirety of the Old Regime (more than 90 registers). Numerous affairs are to be found in them concerning beliefs and religious practices, sexuality and marriage and all matters related to them: promises of marriage, fornication, adultery and divorce; but other subjects are also to be found such as drunkenness, blasphemy, usury, begging, dance and song, healers and seers, gambling, etc. It is through these minutes that little by little a certain image of popular culture may be perceived: the Genevan social fabric and the morality of the Geneva at this time.

2. The archives of the Company of Pastors (1546-1944)

The Company of Pastors comprised all the ministers in Geneva, not only those in the city but also those in the countryside. The principle competences of the Company of Pastors were the doctrine and instruction. It keeps watch on the orthodoxy of its members, regulates worship, presents future ministers and teachers to the authorities, organizes charity, controls printed materials and maintains relations with other Reformed Churches. The Company of Pastors meets on Fridays; its deliberations and decisions are consigned in writing by a secretary. The minutes of the Company of Pastors’ meetings provide study material of great diversity, that sheds light on religious history and also on the social history of Geneva, more specifically on the elaboration of ecclesiastical discipline in the new Church, the difficulties encountered in its organisation, education and exchanges with other countries. The questions debated by the Company of Pastors were of a more international character than those discussed in the Consistory; it was there that the questions posed by the Churches of France and elsewhere were discussed and where it was decided what response should be returned to them.

The Archives of the State of Geneva maintain, restore and digitalise the documents that historians use in their work.

When digitalising old series, the original documents are of course retained. The State Archives have a digitalisation workshop. The protestant Church of Geneva deposited a first part of its historical archives with AEG in 1937. These documents, the oldest dating from 1542 and much consulted, were no longer in a condition that met with the rules governing preservation and consultation.
To address the problem, ARRCC, the Association for the restoration and digitalisation of the Consistory and the Company was created in 2012 with the goal of raising the funds necessary for the preservation of the Church’s archives. In this way, through this project led by AEG, the 182 registers of the Consistory and the Company of Pastors’ minutes are in the process of being restored and have been digitalised (XVI-XIX centuries). They can be accessed on-line at Adhemar, the AEG database.

Exhibition at The Archives of the State of Geneva(AEG)

Côté chaire, côté rue. La Réforme à Genève 1517-1617 - The Reformation in Geneva 1517-1617

Extension of the exhibition to March 1 2018
AEG - rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville 1

archives@etat.ge.ch

Tel: + 41 022 327 93 20

 

Thank you, Isabelle!

Those who wish to contact Isabelle to know more about genealogy in Geneva may do so by writing to her at: genhaemm (AT) gmail (DOT) com 

 

 

 


Archives d'Etat de Genève - A Guest Post

AEG 1

Our good friend, the genealogist, Isabelle Haemmerle, has been doing more work in Geneva and sends this on the Archives d'Etat de Genève, the State Archives of Geneva:

Remember, we met a few weeks ago in the old town of Geneva while visiting the International Museum of the Reformation on rue du Cloître. From this point, our steps take us today around the historical Cathedral Saint Pierre, a regional landmark, then past the Jet d'eau, and we follow rue de la Taconnerie and turn right entering rue de l'Hôtel de Ville. At the corner with rue du Puit Saint Pierre, we arrive at the ancient Arsenal where its five canons proudly stand in memory of Geneva's fortifications - and we enthusiastically climb the stairs to the Archives d'Etat de Geneve (AEG) where are to be found the Archives of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

AEG 2

The access to the consultation room is easy : while we are supposed to leave our belongings outside in the corridor, there is no control and we are pleasantly welcomed by the archivist in a cosy room full of history and not only that in the archive documents. We fill a form with a few details about our search subject and title and here we are, ready to order the registers we need and guided by a helpful archivist.

Before starting a search, it is wise to check the file of all the family names - available online - studied in :

  • The seven volumes of Notices généalogiques sur les familles genevoises by J.A. GALIFFE
  • The three volumes dedicated to Geneva in Recueil généalogique suisse, les Généalogies genevoises by A. CHOISY
  • Les Filiations protestantes by E. BUNGENER.

Manuscript genealogies – not always reliable! - are to be traced in the Fichier des Manuscrits historiques.

Very helpful also is to check the website of Swiss family names, which lists the families who held in 1962 citizenship of a Swiss commune (village, town or city). It gives for each family name the following information:

  • The commune of origin and if a member of the bourgeoisie
  • The date of bourgoisie acquisition
  • The previous place of origin ( France or other location, ex. NE for Neuchatel)


Place of origin is important in Switzerland. Even today, it is not unusual for every administrative form to ask for the person's origin, even for Swiss people. This focus on origin in documentation can help the genealogist.

A Swiss person is a bourgeois of a commune and canton (state) before being a Swiss citizen. (Read an explanation of the bourgeois status as it was applied in Paris here.) This right is transmitted by heritage and a Geneva inhabitant whose ancestors have been in Geneva for generations can still hold his origin from another commune (in Argovie or Apenzell, for example) even though his family has not been living there for a century. The Registre des Familles of this commune will indicate the birth of his children without the parent or children ever having touched its soil. Some families have more than one communes d'origine.

For Geneva genealogy, an interesting tool, the Registre unique de tous les citoyens, constitutes the basis of the citizenship rights for all families installed in Geneva (in both the city and the surrounding area) (Bourgeoisie A 15, available on line). The Genevian revolution of 1792 abolished all differences between citizens, bourgeois, natives, inhabitants of the city and subjects of the country and all categories were given full  citizenship in Geneva, provided that they were born of a Protestant father. Following the constitution of 1794, old and new citizens were to be registered in the Registre Unique which replaces the older livres de bourgeoisie and livres d'habitation.

Our discovery of AEG has only just started and you shall know more very soon about the resources available:

Birth or baptism, marriage, and death or burial records:

  • Registres des paroisses ( mid-sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) 
  • Registres d'état civil ( nineteenth and twentieth centuries) 

These registers have been digitized and are available up to the year 1885 on the AEG Adhemar database

  • Registre des familles 
  • Répertoires 
  • Communes Réunies

Further resources :

  • Notaires (contracts and other family legal documents)
  • Juridictions Civiles (civil judgements)
  • Consistoire, Compagnie de pasteurs (Protestant church records)
  • Titres et droits (Titles and the rights to use them)
  • Cadastre, registre foncier (Land records)
  • Recensements (Census records)
  • Passeports (Passport applications)
  • Etrangers (Records concerning the monitoring and registration of foreigners)
  • Bourgeoisie, Naturalisations (Citizenship rights records)
  • Militaire (Military conscription records)
  • Archives privées (Private archives)


Archives d'Etat de Genève

Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville 1

Case postale 3964

CH-1211 Genève 3

Tel. +41 22 327 93 20 - fax +41 22 3279321

www.ge.ch/archives

 

Thank you again, Isabelle!

Those who wish to contact Isabelle to know more about genealogy in Geneva may do so by writing to her at: genhaemm (AT) gmail (DOT) com

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva - A Guest Post

 


MIR

Our good friend, the genealogist, Isabelle Haemmerle, sends this from Geneva:

The first Sunday of October, the last warm day enjoyable for strolling along Lake Leman. Taking the direction the old town – la Vieille Ville – while climbing the hill, we gradually walk back to the past though a maze of narrow, cobble-stoned streets in the heart of international Geneva, a city right in the center of old Europe.

Our steps take us to the Musée international de la Réforme (MIR) created in 2005 in the famous Villa Mallet built in the 18th century on the remains of the cloister where the city-republic of Geneva adopted the Reformation in 1536. The MIR is part of the Espace St Pierre which also includes the cathedral and the archaeological site. It presents the history of the Reformation up to nowadays and describes the role of Martin Luther, Jean Calvin and other Reformers through classic or high tech resources.

In the magnificent room number 4, the Salon, we comfortably watched a 15-minute multimedia show about the main aspects of the Reformation and then attended the "virtual banquet" -- where the question  of predestination was discussed -- in room number 8, the Dining Room, before enjoying some samples of Huguenot psalms in the Music Room.

During the period 1541-1590, a first wave of Protestant refugees who were persecuted in Catholic France found in Geneva a shelter and within ten years the population doubled to 5000 refugees. Among them came many talented craftsmen – printers, clock-makers goldsmiths and textile industrialists who introduced their skills, allowing the town to flourish and become a famed cultural and economic center. Some prominent French refugees were awarded the townsman's rights. By the end of the 16th century, the French Protestants were called the Huguenots in relation to the German word Eidgenosse, meaning Confederates as in "a citizen of one of the states of the Swiss Confederacy".

The second wave of mass exodus took place upon the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 when the flow of refugees running away from France through Switzerland came to the incredible figure of about 140,000 between 1680 and 1770. Up to 350 people per day entered Geneva in the year 1687. Most of them were from the Dauphiné, Cévennes and Languedoc regions of southern France. But the City of Calvin, surrounded by the possessions of the King of France and the Duke de Savoie would not offer a safe haven for long. Louis XIV obliged Geneva to limit the number of refugees and few were given citizenship as the number of emigrants was huge.

So the Huguenots would move to host countries known as the countries of « Refuge » : other Swiss cantons, United Provinces (Holland), Denmark and Germany. Some (and this is where you, my dear readers, will see light after my tedious history class)  will go further away to the United States or South Africa. An organisation supported the refugees in Geneva and the Vaud region by gathering funds for assistance or aid. You will be pleased to learn that it is possible to consult the Registres d'assistance (Aid Register) for Geneva on the website of the Refuge Huguenot Database :

  • assistance in Geneva in 1684
  • assistance in Geneva in 1685
  • assistance in Geneva in 1686
  • assistance in Geneva in 1687-1688

Should you be able to visit Geneva and the MIR, you can add to your agenda with a walk in your Protestant refugee ancestors' footsteps : on October 11, the association  In the steps of the Huguenots  will inaugurate the 78 km second stage of the Sentier des Huguenots along the Jura, from Romainmôtier to Yverdon. The final route will take you from Geneva to Schaffhouse.

For further reading, we suggest:

  • La Suisse et le Refuge, accueil et passage. La Table Ronde, Marseille, 1985
  • Fatio, Olivier, editor. Genève au temps de la révocation de l’édit de Nantes (1680-1705). Champion, Paris, 1985
  • Ducommun,  Marie-Jeanne and Dominique Quadroni. Le refuge protestant dans le Pays de Vaud (Fin XVIIe - début XVIIIe). Aspects d'une migration.

 

Musée International de la Réforme (MIR)

4, rue du Cloître (cour Saint-Pierre), 
Geneva

Open Tuesday to Sunday
   from 10am to 5pm


Tél. 022 310 24 31

 

Thank you, Isabelle!

Those who wish to contact Isabelle to know more about genealogy in Geneva may do so by writing to her at: genhaemm (AT) gmail (DOT) com