Black And White Old Fashioned Family Around Christmas Tree Genealogy in Switzerland – A Longenecker Family Search

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Genealogy in Switzerland – 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 after a long flight from San Francisco. As we exited the train station, we were immediately struck by the uniqueness of this area.

Outside the train station are the remains of a cobbled street, now patched with asphalt. Everywhere we looked were beautiful Swiss houses and buildings – many of them hundreds of years old – and all colorfully decorated with pink and red begonias placed in flower boxes under every window. As we later found, Emmental is also a wonderland of covered bridges, friendly people, church spires with Swiss clocks and carillons, tinkling cowbells – everything you expect Switzerland to be.

As we walked towards our hotel in Bareau, we noticed how friendly and polite the locals are – stopping to allow us to cross the street and smiling as we passed with a friendly “Hallo” or “Guten Morgen”. The town is dotted with long stone tanks of well water that squirt in at one end and drain out 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 we settled into our room at the Landgasthof Hotel Adler, the owner kindly invited us on a short trip out into the countryside where we saw several beautiful houses and pastures. After we got back we asked a couple of locals in the hotel restaurant about the Langenegger farm and they had a good laugh. It turns out that there are many Langeneggers there, and we did not know the name of the people who lived in the original house that we came to see.

The hills are about 1200 feet above the valley floor and incredibly green with grass and wooded areas visible throughout the city. Langnau is small – maybe three or four long blocks across, and the hills seem very close. Black and white cows break up the green and make a wonderful tinkling noise as they graze around and ring the bells around their necks. Higher-pitched bells worn by sheep and goats mingle with the clunk-clunk-bong-bong of the cowbells and form a delicious backdrop to the landscape. This is the last sound we heard as we fell asleep covered by a feather duvet on our first night in Langnau.

The birds woke us up to a wonderful green world that is Langnau in summer. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of homemade bread and jelly provided by our host, Stephen. We were hoping to get to church but found out our information was wrong and arrived too early. Instead, we started our hike in Langnau early. Langnau is a small town and we all walked the main streets around noon when we stopped for lunch to share a small cheese pie and an apple pie from a small shop near the center of town. At that time the local museum was open. It is housed in one of the oldest houses in Langnau and is a great opportunity to look around inside one of these magnificent buildings and see all the clever joinery done by the builders. It is also a fantastic museum with a number of permanent and rotating exhibitions depicting the history of Langnaus and its inhabitants.

The museum’s docent has lived in Langnau for 70 years and knows the Langenegger name very well. She quickly found a book containing the Langenegger family arms – one for those in the valley (Langenegg Ey) and one for those higher up in the hills (Langenegg Unter). She also loosely parsed the name into Lange (Long in English – also pronounced ‘Long’ in German) 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 contained a statement, “Ulrich, von Langnau, wanderte 1748 nach Pennsylvanien [USA] Aus (Faust 61)”, which roughly translates that Ulrich Langenegger immigrated to Pennsylvania in the USA in 1748. This is our ancestor Ulrich Langenegger Sr. The book does not provide an additional source for this information. On the map, Langenegg Unter is only about 30 minutes hike up the hill from the museum and Langenegg Ey is about a mile downriver from Langnau.Since Unter had been owned by someone other than a Langenegger for many years, we decided to take a closer look at the Ey estate in the valley to see if we at least could 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 took a break from ordinary life to cool off. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of covered bridges in and around Langnau – all still in use. We even drove over one just outside Langnau.

Just as we approached the long driveway to the Langenegger house, two women came up from the river and one of them spoke English. She told us that we were in the right place and that the Langenegger family lived here. She offered to escort us to the right house among a group of several houses and buildings located on the property. With a cheerful German “Woo hoo” she called out to the people inside and introduced us to my 9th cousin who lives in the house where Ulrich Langenegger Senior was born in 1664 (the same one mentioned in the book who immigrated to Pennsylvania).

Our new found cousins ​​were gracious and greeted us warmly 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 saw some of the information they had there. Coincidentally, the couple’s sister-in-law was next door in Pennsylvania to attend a Longenecker reunion while we were in Langnau. We exchanged contact information so that we can follow up with them with information that we find may be useful to them. They kindly offered us a cool drink from their well before we took a short walk around the farm to get some photos. The cows were in the barn as it was terribly hot that day. Milk from their cows is sold to a house of local farmers who make it into cheese. If you’re looking for an authentic Langenegger cheese, look for the Emmentaler type, as that’s what they make there. It is sold in the US as simply 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 by itself. It is a typical Swiss farmhouse furnished with living and barn under one roof. On one side is a dirt ramp that goes directly into the loft above the barn, used to move hay into the area for storage and winter use.

The roof is steep by American standards, but not as steep as I expected in an area that gets a lot of snow. Most roofs in the area are tiled and include a series of brackets about six inches high that hold the snow in the winter so it doesn’t all fall down at once. Some buildings had a simpler system with only one set of brackets near the base of the roof holding a four inch pipe that ran the length of the house – apparently for the same purpose as the brackets on other buildings. In addition, this system probably uses the snow to insulate the roof against the cold. Another interesting thing about some roofs and houses – the builders sometimes put their initials and the construction date on the roof using different colored tiles. Others painted this information under the eaves or on the front of the building under the eaves.

The Langenegger house is not as fancy as some others in the city, but it is large and includes some fancy joinery 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 put together at right angles so that they get stronger when more weight is put on them – and held together with wooden pegs. On a bridge near town we saw metal bands that appear to have been added later.

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

We returned to our hotel via a path that runs along the river and stopped for a rest in the shade of an old covered bridge. We were again exhausted and happy to meet our distant relatives and see the old house.

Research: If you are researching this area, no genealogy is readily available in Langnau. The Register Office has records from 1886 but does not release them without the permission of the people named in the records and the fees to do so are very high. You’ll have much better luck in Bern, where most of the Swiss records are held. There is almost always someone around who speaks English, and the records offices are no exception. The records are neither computerized nor indexed – but they are very neatly categorized by place and time frame. You will need to tell them exactly who, where and when you want to look to get the right microfilm. Then it’s an old-fashioned search that sifts through records written long ago using unfamiliar styles and letters. Lockers are located outside the office in the hallway and you must leave your backpack, purse, etc. there. It’s free and safe.

Archives de I’Etat de Berne is located at Falkenplatz 4, CH-3012 Berne near the main train station. It was easy to find the third time I tried. The railway station is large and busy and has several levels. Find the elevators at one end of the station and take them all the way to the top. If you have trouble, follow the students and signs to the university to find the elevators. Once at the top, head towards the campus – the only way you can really walk – and pass between two large university-like buildings. Falkenplatz 4 is the first building on the right after you pass through the campus area. There is a small street stand just on the other side of the small park, where students gather for a cheap and good sandwich – come early, as they run out of sandwiches soon after 6pm. The office is open from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM every weekday except Friday, when it closes at 4:30 PM. 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 side – so bring plenty of cash so you can get everything you want. You can easily spend 50 francs in an afternoon depending on the items you want. I didn’t have time, but you might also want to check out these sources from the museum in Langnau. . .

Zivilstands-und Burgerrechtsdienst

Des 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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