Do I have Swiss roots, German roots, or both?

+8 votes
My grandfather [[Bleher-2|Willy Bleher]] was born in Zürich but both his parents, [[Bleher-3|Johann Bleher]] and [[Diez-53|Elisabetha (Diez) Bleher]], were born in Baden-Württemberg.

Should I consider my mother and myself as having German roots, Swiss roots, or both?
WikiTree profile: Willy Bleher
in Genealogy Help by Chris Garrigues G2G6 (7.3k points)

8 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer
If you look at it from the perspective of a second generation US person whose ancestors came from Germany would you question whether to use German roots or US roots? In my opinion the situation is the same whether somebody immigrates to Switzerland or to the USA. Roots to me means if you dig deeper where do you end up with your oldest known ancestors?
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (577k points)
selected by Randy Almond
Thanks Helmut, I like your interpretation. One of my grandmothers was second and third generation born in Australia, however all of her ancestors spoke German. It's very clear to me that she had German Roots, and not Australian Roots.
+9 votes
I would suggest to write German roots, but with a remark that you are also a little bit Swiss.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (3.0m points)
+6 votes
I would determine this on the question if your Grandfather married someone from Switzerland. Just because he was born in Switzerland there doesn't sadly mean that your roots are from there, just that the family moved from Germany to Switzerland (which still is a thing to remember).

Since Baden-Württemberg and Switzerland share a border it might even be that your ancestors lived in both countries when you look further back.
by Frank Jatzek G2G2 (2.9k points)
Looking further back, they appear to have been German, not Swiss.

His parents moved to Switzerland where they had their children. They eventually got Swiss citizenship for the entire family (during the First World War, interestingly). My grandfather moved to California in the 1920s where he married a Swede.

I grew up thinking I had a Swiss grandfather since acknowledging German heritage was not a good thing do do in the mid-20th century. It was only as an adult that I learned that although he was a Swiss citizen born in Zurich, both his parents were German. My mother still doesn't want to acknowledge that she's half German.
But you do realize, don't you,? that ethnically and linguistically the German speaking Swiss and the German speaking Württembergers and Badeners are all the same. The borders are all fairly recent political boundaries that have little to do with ethnicity or language.

This is clearly true. Interestingly in the latest Ancestry Ethnicity Estimate, my mother is only 4% "Germanic Europe".

For someone who is half Swedish and half German, this is an interesting estimate:


Her Swiss/German side largely seems to come from this portion of the "England and Northwestern Europe map:


Although I'd assumed from my own ethnicity estimate that the Norwegian came from my Swedish side, my mother's would certainly imply that these "Swiss Germans" had significant Viking blood!  Who knew the Vikings made it into the Alps.

Okay, that's annoying. I wish it hadn't looked like the images were going to show up.

The estimate looks like this:

Sweden 54%
England & Northwestern Europe 27%
Norway 15%
Germanic Europe 4%

and the map portion that I'd pasted shows an isolated island of "England & Northwestern Europe" ancestry around Switzerland and expanding into Germany.

This begs the question of how far back does one's roots need to go to be considered "Swiss" or "German" (in this case)? In other words if you are born in Switzerland and your parents weren't, does that nullify you being Swiss? How many generations would it take to become Swiss? It is a worthwhile question as I think not everyone would agree!
If you were born in Switzerland, then you are Swiss (born).  If  your parents, and their parents, and their parents, were born in Germany, then you have German roots - or you are Swiss of German extraction.

I'm an Australian born, but I have Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English, Australian, and Swedish roots.

(Had to throw the Aussie roots in, too, as that started in 1804, and successive generations -  with one exception - were born in Australia.)
+4 votes

I would recommend both. It is an interesting question though and makes me think how we identify our heritage is a big part of our personal identity. It is making me ponder lol. smiley

by Kylie Haese G2G6 Mach 8 (84.8k points)
+4 votes

I not great at Swiss stuff could Swiss team review this to make sure sources correct. I found him while adding sources to his parents.ächbühl-5

by Billie Keaffaber G2G6 Mach 3 (39.0k points)
+4 votes
This isn't a direct answer to your question, but it might be an interesting insight.  I have a Swiss friend from Bern, he speaks Swiss German with his family, has a "German" name, etc, and I asked him would you consider yourself "Swiss-German"?  His answer was "absolutely not!".  "Swiss German" is a term he'd ONLY use to describe his language, and not a term he'd ever use to describe himself or his "ethnicity".  As far as he's concerned, he is Swiss, and Germans are German, despite the common language (kind of, I can't understand a word he says when he speaks to his children lol).  I think the way you did the stickers on his profile is perfect, immigrated from Switzerland, but German Roots.
by Jesse Thorstad G2G2 (2.6k points)

I support the comment fiom  Helmut Jungschaffer  if you dig deeper where do you end up with your oldest known ancestors?

I think there is another question about national heritage.
What language did you speak at home? 

Wel, with my grandfather being Swiss-German and my grandmother being Swedish, they both spoke broken English and my mother never learned either language.

Pretty sure that does't make her national heritage English.

Her mother pushed the Swedish cultural heritage and always called Sweden home (she only stayed in the US due to an accidental pregnancy). My mother resisted that ("But mom, this is your home!"). Her father did not push his Swiss or German heritage (being German was not cool in those days so he identified as Swiss even if his heritage was German).

For myself, I'm an American with roots on my father's side that go back to before the revolution and the above mentioned early 20th century immigrants on my mother's side.

I live and grew up near Bern, and I support this. "Swiss German" is only the language.
But I think the original queestion here refered to the grandfather who was born in Switzerland and his parents being born in Germany, so the question was, if the grandfather would either have "Swiss" OR "German" roots.

And in this case, I support what Helmut Jungschaffer worte above: where would you end up, when you are digging deeper? And then it would clearly be "German roots" (depending on where in todays Germany exactly).
+4 votes
Your ancestors were Germanic. Personally I would not worry about putting your ancestors in box, whether German, Swiss, or a particular Germanic State. The important thing here is the genealogical research. Did you know that the current state of Baden-Württemberg did not exist until 1952?  Just a guess, but more likely it was across the border in Baden, perhaps the Black Forest region? If you know the town, perhaps you can use Meyer's Gazetteer to determine the Germanic State they lived in.  Also, perhaps some North Americans might not know, but the area of the Rhineland (Baden, Alsace, Pfalz, and Hessen) was devastated and largely depopulated by the 30 years war, after which there was a large influx of people from other areas, including many Swiss. So it's even possible that your ancestors in Baden may have originated from Switzerland. The important thing is the research. Don't lose sleep over what "box" to put them in or classify them.  That's my opinion, for what it's worth.
by Kelly Dazet G2G4 (4.5k points)
No, this is absolutely not correct. "Germanic" refers to the ancient people and tribes and not to what we call "Germany" today.
We also had this discussion somewhere else on WikiTree: I'm Swiss, born in Switzerland and I really don't consider myself as "Germanic", nor do the people who live in todays Germany.

smiley Ok.  I still believe its better to just do the genealogy rather than worry about labels!  It is very difficult to do that considering how often boarders and controlling powers have changed over the centuries. 

I agree with the part about rather doing genealogy than worry about labels. smiley
For me it's just important to mention that "Germanic" is the wrong term for "German", unless we speak about the ancient groups of people. This gets confused quite often.

Ok, sorry for using the incorrect terminology. Trying to apply labels to ancestors that lived centuries ago is a very complicated subject for reasons that seem obvious to me. I'm personally trying to find the origins of my German ancestors but I find no records or documents to prove where they came from.  So  that is my research "brick wall".  DNA hints that northern Alsace is a possibility.  So, would that mean they were French?  wink  Of course not, because the area where they lived likely would have belonged to one of a number of "Herzogtum"  They were definitely German -- at least German Speaking, but of course the French did occupied the area at various times in history and it is France today.  My ancestors emigrated about 1786 to what was Hungary. If I am to believe family trees on Geneanet they might even have originally from Canton Bern, Switzerland, though of course there is no proof of that. But it is possible.  We have friends in the Heidelberg and Mannheim area who are of Swiss descent, and my wife's family possibly came from Switzerland. but they are German, though they actually consider themselves "Kurpfälzisch", a name (label) that goes back to when Heidelberg and later Mannheim where the seat of the Electors of the Palatinate.  

So many points to look at.

1/4 of my ancestors left Prussian province of Silesia around 1840. In official documents they were identified as Prussian. They spoke German and I still support the "Best Answer" given by Helmut Jungschaffer. My branch of  ancestors had German Roots however did not emigrate from Germany.

In the Wikitree migration categories the location of Alsace is not clear to me. There is a procedure for migration One section of the document is named "Redistribution (Redistricting)" The procedure describes [[Category:Migrants from Alsace to New York]] as having great grandparent categories from France and Germany. I have not found a link to [[Category:Germany, Emigrants]].

@I.Caruso. I agree with your comment that Germanic is very wrong. I was born near a Slavic (Sorbian) community in Australia.
From my perspective "Germanic" is a word used to try and group together the German speakers that immigrated to Australia before the formation of the present-day country Germany.  

Of course you ancestors did not emigrate from Germany, because Germany did not exist as a nation until 1871!  They were Prussian.  As I mentioned, the borders  and controlling powers  of all of these places changed often over time so it is a complicated subject. Use the name of the place your ancestors lived, at the time they lived there, not the current name. You can mention in the biography that that place is now, for example, Poland, Germany or Chec Republic. 

For example, my ancestors lived in a village in the Batschka, Hungary, which became Yugoslavia and is now Serbia. Their children were born in the 1790s in Hungary, not Yugoslavia or Serbia. 

As for Alsace, you can read a bit about the history of Alsace here: Alsace  The area of northern Alsace where my German ancestors might have lived would have belonged to a number of Duchies depending on the town or village where they lived. An example, the Duchy of Zweibrücken. Many of those that were part of the so-called Palatine Migration were actually Alsatians from villages like Wolfskirchen, Hirschland, and Durstel, just to name a few. Many emigrated to Pennsylvania. And from about 1872, many emigrated to Hungary.  They were the so-called Donauschwaben. 

+4 votes
I would vote for German if it is the oldest ancestor. My Scottish McRaes stopped off in Canada for a generation but I don't consider myself Scot-Canadian. (ggps)

This is amusing for me as my grandmother always said she was born in Switzerland. Turns out she wasn't. Her father - Swiss - married a German woman in Germany and all the kids were born there. When he took them back to Switzerland, they were duly registered and were given Swiss citizenship. But I now consider my grandmother Swiss-German as her ancestors come from both countries.
by Melinda McRae G2G6 (7.6k points)
Hi Melinda
Please note that "Swiss-German" is only the language, spoken in some parts of Switzerland. Your grandmother was both "Swiss" and "German".

Interesting story, similar to what happened to my great grandmother. My great great grandfather migrated from Switzerland to Germany, married a German woman and all their children were born in different places in Germany. They anded up in Berlin and I was told that my great grandmother was born in Berlin. But she was actually born in another place in Germany. My great grandmother and some of her siblings migrated back to Switzerland.

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