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Place Study: Buchs, St. Gallen, Schweiz

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 27 Nov 2020
Location: Buchs, Sankt Gallen, Schweizmap
Surnames/tags: SWITZERLAND Werdenberg St_Gallen
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Purpose of the Study

Buchs is part of a string of villages along the valley floor of the Rheintal in the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland. The towering mountains either side of the valley made it easier for the early population to choose their spouses from a few of the neighbouring villages. Naturally there are exceptions to this but it holds true for the majority of people well into the 19th century. As a result, local families are heavily intertwined and even one ancestor from the old families is invariably linked to many other families in Sevelen. Early migrants to lands now within Germany and beyond as well as later migrations to the USA and Brasil have spread descendants far and wide.

The goal of the study is to reconstruct a family tree for the village based on the available church records. This will greatly aid family researchers with roots in Buchs, regardless of where they reside.

Location & History

Located in the South-East of the Swiss canton of St. Gallen the municipality of Buchs, together with the municipalities of Wartau, Sevelen, Grabs, Gams and Sennwald, forms the registration district of Werdenberg.

Buchs was mentioned for the first time in 1213. Some 200 years later, the village became part of confederate canton Luzern and, as a consequence, part of the Old Swiss Confederacy. In 1517, the area of Werdenberg was acquired by the canton of Glarus and remained as such until 1798. The ownership by Glarus is something every family researcher in the area should be aware of for a few reasons. First, during the Reformation Glarus and its lands were early adopters of the 'new' religion. Aside from Gams, the available church registers for Werdenberg were started by followers of the Evangelisch-Reformierten Kirche. Second, many of the officials were chosen by the masters in Glarus from their ranks. Therefore, some family names in the church registers originate in Glarus. However, they did often marry locally.

Most people in Werdenberg were involved in subsistence agriculture. This did not change with the introduction of mechanical embroidery machines [1] in the 1870s but it provided the farmers another stream of income. It was mainly a family affair although some were able to employ some neighbours as well. Researchers will encounter the term 'Sticker' on many pages of the later church records.

Useful Terms

Kirchgemeinde: similar to the English Parish

Wahlkreis: Registration District

Bürger: Citizen

Bürger Ort or Heimatort: In Switzerland, citizenship is determined by being a Bürger of a particular municipality. Inherited through the father, sons will pass on the Heimatort to their children whereas daughters will exchange their father's Heimatort with the one from their husband. Residents of the area in Sevelen called 'Oberräfis' may hold two Heimatort, Buchs and neighbouring Sevelen. The Heimatort and place of residence can be the same but does not need to be. A person may be a Bürger of a place they never have resided in. The importance to genealogists is that Bürger registers are kept at the Heimatort whereas Family registers are kept at the place of residence. This means that if one is lost, there might be a 'backup' record in a different municipality.


In 2018, the canton of St. Gallen made the church registers available for free online through the Staatsarchiv St. Gallen. The earliest register from 1672 are missing some entries. Some pastors were more inclined to keep detailed records than others. One of them in particular had to be 'removed' from office due to a less-than-ideal lifestyle. [2]


Andrea Staub - Growing up in Sevelen, I am a direct descendant of a few of the 'old families' of Sevelen.


  1. 'Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schifflistickmaschine : accessed 25 November 2020). "Schifflistickmaschine."
  2. Senn, Nikolaus, Werdenberger Chronik, Band II, pp 203-204. Buchs, St. Gallen, Schweiz: BuchsDruck und Verlag, 1862.

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