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Place Study: Sevelen, St. Gallen, Schweiz

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Sevelen, Sankt Gallen, Schweizmap
Surnames/tags: SWITZERLAND Werdenberg St_Gallen
Profile manager: Andrea Staub private message [send private message]
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Welcome to the Sevelen One Place Study!

Contents

Purpose of the Study

Sevelen 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 Sevelen, regardless of where they reside.

Location & History

Located in the South-East of the Swiss canton of St. Gallen the municipality of Sevelen, together with the municipalities of Wartau, Buchs, Grabs, Gams and Sennwald, forms the registration district of Werdenberg. The municipality of Sevelen encompasses the village of Sevelen, the hamlets of Rans, St. Ulrich, Oberräfis and Sevelerberg. The Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche in Sevelen (Reformed Church) was the only church in the municipality until the Katholische Kirche (Catholic Church) was erected in 1950.

Sevelen or Sevellins was mentioned for the first time in 1160. Some 300 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.

In 1637, Johannes Grenz from 'German' lands began recording christenings and marriages as he commenced his posting in Sevelen. Burials were not considered as important by the Reformed Church and burials were not recorded until 1707.

Most people in Werdenberg were involved in subsistence agriculture. This did not change with the introduction of mechanical embroidery machines 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, Sevelen and neighbouring Buchs. 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.

Resources

Since 2018, the canton of St. Gallen has made the church registers available for free online through the Staatsarchiv St. Gallen. The earliest register from 1637 are missing some entries. However, as a whole, the registers are largely without gaps. The following are available through the archive.

Named Register Weblink
Tauf-, Ehe und Totenbuch, 1637-1738


Participants

Currently working on entering 344 families listed in the oldest Family register for Sevelen:

  1. Familienbuch der Evangelisch-Reformierten Gemeinde Sevelen, 1792-1855
  2. Tauf-, Ehe- und Totenbuch der Evangelisch-Reformierten Gemeinde Sevelen, 1637-1738. 21 children are missing from 1637 to 1650. The gaps identified are between 1 Jan 1637 and 17 Apr 1637 as well as 18 Nov 1644 and 15 May 1645.

If you are interested in this study or have any questions feel free to contact me.

Andrea Staub





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