Tag Archives: Johannes Amstutz

What’s in a name – Amstutz

The VERY LAST, FINAL entry in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge!!

Okay, I know it is not the 52nd week of the year, but I’m working ahead so I can take two weeks off. For this final entry in the 52 weeks challenge, I chose to go back to the very first of Ken’s Amstutz ancestors to be mentioned in the John Amstutz Family History book by James O. Lehman. Since we don’t know much about that first in the line of ancestors named Johannes Amstutz, I’ll also take a look at the meaning of the name and the origin of the family.

Johannes Amstutz, 1673; Johannes Amstutz, 1705; and Johannes Amstutz, 1735

In the 17th century, the Amstutz family had its roots in beautiful Sigrisiwl, above Lake Thun in Bern Switzerland. The church records of Sigriswil only go back to 1671, and two years after they started recording births, we can read about Hans and Barbara Am-Stutz, who had one son, Johannes,born November 23, 1673. Hans would be Kenneth Ross Badertscher’s 9th great-grandfather (Our grandchildren’s 11th great-grandfather!)

Johannes (1673), Ken’s 8th great grandfather, married Verena Schroter in 1693. She was from an area north of Sigriswil, and that family probably lived in Sigriswil. Their children were Anna, Magdalena and Johannes (1705).

Johannes (1705), Ken’s 7th great-grandfather, married Susanna Duperret and they lived in the Alsace region, like Johannes (1823). Their children were Peter, Maria, Susanna, Johannes (1735), David and Ester.

Johannes (1735), Ken’s 6th great-grandfather, lived in Langnau, Switzerland in the Emmenthal Valley. (Ever hear of Emmenthal Swiss Cheese?)  He married Elizabeth Neuenschwander and the couple had three sons, Johannes (1771) (Ken’s 5th great-grandfather), Christian and Michael.  James Lehman notes that “The family probably lived for a while at La Sagne, Switzerland, several miles from the French border (between the border and Lake Neuchatel).”  He gives no documentation for that statement, however, as we have seen in the stories of  Johannes (1797) (4th great-grandfather), Johannes (1823) (3rd great-grandfather) and John L. (1848) (2nd great-grandfather), the family clustered in northwestern Bern, near the French border, with some even living in France for a time.

Sigriswil was the home of ten or more families named Amstutz, or Am-Stutz when Johannes (1673), that early entry in the chruch records, was born.  Lehman says that the name “Am Stutz or Amstutz means “on the steep” and first appears in the chronicles of the 14th century.”  Ancestry.com says: ” topographic name for someone living near or at the foot of a steep mountainside, German am Stutz ‘at the escarpment’.”

Members of the family moved north to the Jura Mountains and into Alsace, France in the 18th century. Lehman states that they probably were not Mennonites until they moved to the Jura and Alsace.

This information agrees with the online encyclopedia of all things Mennonite, in an article from 1953, so that may have been his source. Certainly the movement patterns of Ken’s Amtstutz ancestors follows the pattern described below–moving from Sigriswil into the Münster District although Ken’s family seemed to lag behind the general movement. See Johannes 1797 and Johannes 1823. However, when it comes to migrating to the United States, their travel in 1871 came near a peak of Amstutz families immigrating in 1881, when 16 Amstutz families went to the United States. According to Ancestry, 8 Amstutz families immigrated in 1871. An earlier wave, almost as high happened in 1854.

Note that the John Amstutz mentioned moving from Chatelet to Sonnenberg in 1819 is not Ken’s family, but an earlier Amstutz family who moved to Sonnenberg. Thus when Ken’s Johannes Amstutz and his son John L. Amstutz emigrated, they were following a well-trod path of Amstutz migration.

From Global Mennonite Encylopedia On Line
Article by Delbert L. Grz 1953

…It appears that no members of the Amstutz family were Anabaptists while living at Sigriswil. Members of the family figured in the migration from German-speaking Switzerland to French-speaking Switzerland. They settled in the district of Münster in the Bernese Jura in the first half of the 18th century. Here most of the family became Anabaptist. One Amstutz family has lived in the commune of Chatelat for more than 150 years. In 1743 members of the Amstutz family settled at Massevaux, Alsace. During the following three decades other members of this family located to the south in the commune of Florimont and across the French border in the district of Pruntrut, Switzerland. Another Amstutz family settled in the principality of Montbéliard. It is quite certain that none were Mennonites before arriving in these settlements but most of them joined after their arrival.

Most of the members of the Mennonite branch of the Amstutz family immigrated to America early in the 19th century. Some of the first of this family to immigrate were John B. Amstutz and his sister Anna in 1818, who settled in the Allen-Putnam counties, Ohio, continuity. Another John Amstutz left the commune of Chatelat near Münster in 1819 and became one of the early settlers of the Sonnenberg Mennonite settlement in Wayne County, Ohio.

The name Amstutz is one of the most frequent family names among the Swiss Mennonite settlements of Sonnenberg, Crown Hill in Wayne County, Ohio, and Bluffton-Pandora, Ohio.


Notes on Research
“Amstutz (am Stutz, Am Stutz, Stutz, Amstuz, Amstoutz) family. by Gratz, Delbert L. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 17 Dec 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Amstutz_(am_Stutz,_Am_Stutz,_Stutz,_Amstuz,_Amstoutz)_family&oldid=119451

John Amstutz Family History by James O. Lehman, 1971. All of the information in this story comes from the research and compilation of family stories and excerpts from family letters in this mimeographed, twelve page work. While this is a carefully researched and compiled family history, I have not been able to confirm facts with primary documents.

Johannes Amstutz: A family divided

At this time of year, we treasure gathering family together.  How sad, then, to contemplate a family  where the children were scattered among relatives due to the early deaths of their parents.

Johannes Amstutz (1771) and Anna Gerber

Last week, I wrote about my husband Ken’s 2nd Great Grandfather, Johannes Amstutz who was born in 1823.  In the long line of Johannes Amstutzes, Ken’s 2nd Great Grandfather was the one who first emigrated to America.  That immigrant’s grandfather, also a Johannes, was born to Johannes Am-Stutz (1735) and Elizabeth Neuenschwander of Lagnau, in the Emmenthaler valley of Switzerland.  The family probably lived  in La Sagne, between the French border and Lake Neuchatel,  when he married Anna Gerber.

We don’t know a lot about the couple, but according to the John Amstutz Family History by James O. Lehman, Anna Gerber came from Langnau, located in the Emmenthal, which is where Johannes (1771)’s mother came from. The couple lived in Moutier, north of Bern. They probably married about 1796.

Switzerland map

Amstutz 1771-1823 Switzerland locations

Their oldest son was born May 3, 1797, and named ( what else?) Johannes. Seven children followed in the next 17 years: Elisabetha, Christian, Nicklaus, Samuel, Michael, Anna and Katharina.

Shortly after Katharina was born both the father and mother died, just a few weeks apart.  The children, from the baby Katharina to 17-year-old Johannes were split up as they went to live with relatives.

Johannes (1797), the oldest of this unfortuante group of siblings, went to live with his mother’s father who lived in La Jaux (according to records), but Lehman notes that probably was “La Chaux-de-Fonds between the French border and Lake Neuchatel.”  There are a dozen towns called La Chaux in Switzerland, so it is difficult to pin down the exact location. La Chaux-de-Fonds is a city, rather than the rural small towns the Amstutz family generally lived in. Today La Chaux-de-Fonds is a UNESCO World Heritage City because of its long history of watch making.

Johannes only lived with his grandfather for four years before he got married and struck out on his own….our story for tomorrow.

(This week marks the wrap-up of the 52 Ancestors 2015 at Ancestors in Aprons.  Because I take time off over the holidays, I will be providing three Amstutz family stories in one week.)

How Ken is Related

Kenneth Ross Badertscher is the son of

Paul Badertscher, who is the son of

Ida Amstutz, who is the daughter of

Abraham Amstutz, who is the son of

Johannes Amstutz (1823), who is the son of

Johannes Amstutz (1797), who is the son of

Johannes Amstutz (1771), who is the son of

Johannes Am-Stutz (1735)

Notes on Research

John Amstutz Family History by James O. Lehman, 1971. All of the information in this story comes from the research and compilation of family stories and excerpts from family letters in this mimeographed, twelve page work. While this is a carefully researched and compiled family history, I have not been able to confirm facts with primary documents.


The Amstutz clan arrives in Sonnenberg

Thanks to a family history written by James O. Lehman about 1971, we have a vivid picture of the journey of my husband’s Amstutz family from Switzerland to Ohio. Ida Amstutz was Ken’s grandmother and her grandfather and father arrived in North America in 1871.

A little over 100 years later, Ken and I traveled to Switzerland with our two younger sons, Mike and Brent. We spent a few days in Sigriswil, the lovely village that the earlier Amstutz family had lived in.

John Amstutz (1823-1899)
Katharina Welty (Kattie) (1822-1902)

The elder immigrants were Johannes (John) Amstutz and Katharina (Catharine) Welty Amstutz. They married in Switzerland, and lived with her parents briefly before their first son, John L., was born.  Johannes had a prosperous dairy farm in Switzerland, but because he accumulated wealth, many people borrowed money from him.  When too few repaid their loans, the family fell on hard times and moved several times along the border with France, and then into France.

They had a total of five sons and three daughters, who received a smattering of education in the various places the family lived.  In France in 1869, a smallpox epidemic swept through the area and killed their two youngest girls.  Anna Lisi was 4 and Katherina was 8 years old. The family was in dire straits economically, and the sons, even twelve-year-old Jacob had to hire themselves out to other families to work.

Split apart by economic necessity, illness and deaths, they also had the worry of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. When France lost the war, the province of Alsace in which they lived was surrendered to Germany.  But by that time the family had decided to join other Mennonite families who had gone to America. They had to borrow money to make the journey, and because they had such a large family, decided that Daniel, who was 20, would stay in Switzerland and continue to make money to help the family. He could come later.  But at the last minute, the relative who loaned the money added enough so that Daniel could go also.

Johannes (48) and Katharina Welty Amstutz (49),  John L. (23),  Abraham (22), Daniel (20) and Benjamin (18), Jacob (15), Anna Maria (Maryann)(13) boarded the train in Basel to Frankfurt, Germany. They were hopeful that life would be better in America. And they were right.

Children of Johannes Amstutz (1823)

Standing: Benjamin, Jacob, Maryann; Seated: John L., Abraham and Daniel H.(circa 1895)

In John Amstutz Family History, James O. Lehman writes, “As the train rolled along the Amstutz family sang, “Vo meine Berge muess i scheide, wo’s gar so libli ist und schön.” (From my mountains I must depart where it is pleasing and beautiful.) ”  While this may strike you as just a little too “Sound of Music”, it is quite believable because the Swiss families were very musical and they passed down little stories like this about their immigration. The Amstutz family was known in Sonnenberg for their musical ability.

Travel was somewhat safer than it would have been a few years prior to the 1870s, because they would travel by steamship, and because America’s Civil War was over. (See my previous article on steamship travel for immigrants when I wrote about another of Ken’s Swiss ancestors with a similar experience).

Amstutz Family

Amstutz family listed on passenger list of Cimbria

S.S. Cimbria- Amstutz ship to America

S.S. Cimbria

The Amstutz family joined 200 immigrants, mostly from Switzerland and Germany on the S. S. Cimbria in Hamburg, German, after having spent a night in Frankfurt. The names are abbreviated, and some of the ages are off.

Name         Age   Occup.   Origin            Destination

  • Yon Amstutz, 48, Farmer, Switzerland, United States
  • Cath   ”             49                         ”                 “
  • Yon     ”             23                         ”                 “
  • Abe     ”             21                         ”                 “
  • Dan      ”            20                         ”                 “
  • Benj      ”           18                          ”                 “
  • Jacob    ”            15                          ”                “
  • Marianne ”          9                          ”                “

After just twelve days of mostly good weather, they arrived in New York City’s Harbor. Next they took a train from New York to Ohio and arrived in Sonnenburg.

On Sunday May 28, 1871 we arrived happily on the Sonnenberg, where relatives and acquaintances greeted us.  It was not hard for us to feel at home among these Swiss people who had gone on ahead.  Soon we all received places to work.  We 6 children with the parents made this region a permanent home. (Letter written by the son, John L. Amstutz.)
“Because of their recent arrival from Switzerland and to differentiate them from other Amstutz’s in the community they eventually had the nickname Schweitzer Stutz.” (from John Amstutz Family History

Abraham Amstutz would marry Elizabeth Tschantz, a fellow immigrant, and they would become the parents of Ida Amstutz Badertscher, Kenneth Badertscher’s grandmother.


Kenneth Ross Badertscher is the son of

Paul Theodore Badertscher, who is the son of

Ida Amstutz Badertscher, who is the daughter of

Abraham Amstutz, who is the son of

Johannes Amstutz (1823)

Notes on research

John Amstutz Family History by James O. Lehman, 1971. Most of the information in this story comes from the research and compilation of family stories and excerpts from family letters in this mimeographed, twelve page work. I have confirmed some information as noted below.

United States Federal Census, 1880, Sugar Creek, Wayne County, Ohio

Find A Grave.com, Johannes Amstutz (1873)

Photographs were shared on Ancestry.com by various people.