How to research my Ancestors
First of all, ask your living sources. Interview your parents about your grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and other older relatives. Once you’ve decided to research your ancestry, act quickly - the sooner the better as living sources will not be there forever.
Make meticulous, accurate notes
- Family Name, First name, any middle name
- Birthdate and / or date of christening (day, month, year and godfather / godmother)
- Place of birth
- Place of origin
- Places they were living
- Profession, duties
- Marriage (date, place)
- Children (names, birthdates, place of birth)
The civil register office
The Canton of Berne is sectioned into seven regions civil register offices. The office in the region of your place of origin (or the one of the family you’d like to research) can provide you the information for your ancestors backward to about 1780 from the Burgerrodel in which the families are cross-linked. If you are tied to the family you research, the marital status office will provide you the information you asked for. Therefore you need an authorization from the Zivilstands- und Bürgerrechtsdienstes des Kantons Bern (Eigerstrasse 43, CH-3011 Bern)
If you have collected your data from the Burgerrodel you will find the continuation for your research in the church records (christening, marriage and death) of the residential parish of your ancestors. In most of the cantons these valuable books are kept in the respective state archives. From the church records of the Canton of Berne you may purchase a DVD for your convenient research at home. It is also possible to inquire the church records on microfilms at the state archive for free, although the access is limited to certain opening times.
A very important precondition is that you must be able to read the old handwritings, which you will have to learn by study with the appropriate text books.
In contradiction to the Burgerrodel, the church records have no cross reference. Christenings, marriages and death are recorded in different books in chronological order. So the information you are looking for is found in separate books. Usually you research backwards starting first with the death records, where often the age of the deceased is stated, but is not always accurate. Then research the marriage records where, besides the names of the wedded couple, you often find the place of origin of the couple and the names of their parents. If you were able to calculate the approximate date of birth you may search the entry in the christening record. There you will find the date of the christening, sometimes the date of birth, the name of the child, the parents, godfather(s), godmother(s) and may give the village or town where they lived. Often you will find an index at the end of each book which is very helpful.
That’s how you put together tesserae by tesserae until you get a picture of your ancestors bit by bit.