The History of the Glarus Families, especially of the Sernf Valley

by Gottfried Heer : Introduction

Zur Geschichte glarnerischer Geschlechter, derjenigen des Sernftales insbesondere.
Allerlei Bilder aus vergangenen Tagen, von Gottfried Heer.
Druck und Verlag von Rud. Tschudy, Glarus 1920.

The Sernf Valley (Sernftal) in Canton Glarus is named after the Sernf River, flowing into the Linth River at Schwanden. The valley comprises the communes of Engi, Matt and Elm.


Canton abbreviations :
GL = Glarus
GR = Graubünden / Grisons
SG = St. Gallen
SZ = Schwyz
UR = Uri

Heer's research covered the following families (with links to the chapters translated to date) :

Altmann Bäbler Baumgartner Beglinger Blumer Bräm Disch
Elmer Freitag Giger Hämmerli Hauser Hefti Kubli
Luchsinger Madutz Marti Rhyner Schneider Schuler Speich
  Stauffacher Wirth Wohlwend Wyss Zentner  

If you feel you could contribute to this project by translating further chapters, please, contact Sue Wolf: . The book has been filmed by LDS, and is available as film number 0908641, item 3.

The History of the Glarner Families, Especially Those of the Sernf Valley.
A Medley of Pictures from Past Days.
By Gottfried Heer
With a coat of arms table
Printing and publishing by Rud. Tschudy, Glarus, 1920
Translated by Sue Wolf, 1999

[All lettered footnotes and information in brackets were added by the translator]


Whereas in earlier reports I narrated the history of the families of the church commune of Betschwanden (Historical Yearbook XV), of the Linthal commune (Historical Yearbook XXIII) and of the Eschen Tagwena (Historical Yearbook XXVI) as varied "pictures from past days", in the present report will be found, in a similar way, a portrayal of the families of the Sernf valley.

In order for my work to possess the right foundation, first of all I allowed myself to give the 1915 inventory from the authorities of those holding Tagwen rights. Accordingly, in 1915 in Engi I counted 288 Tagwen rights, of which nearly a third, 87½, were found in the possession of Martis. Next to them stood the Baumgartners with 65½ Tagwen rights. Then followed the Hämmerlis with 53 and the Blumers with 40. The Altmanns were gifted with 13 Tagwen rights, the Luchsingers with 10, the Gigers numbered 9, the Bräms 5, the Wysses 3 and the Burgers and Däfters one each.

In Matt (160 Tagwen rights) the Elmers and the Stauffachers, who each number 32 enjoying Tagwen rights, are nowadays the most numerous. The Bäblers follow them with 28, and the Martis with 22. The Speichs, once Matt's largest family, now number only 12, the Kublis 9, the Schulers 8, the Wohlwends 5, the Madutzes 4, the Beglingers and Wirths 3 each, and the Schneiders 2.

In Elm the Rhyners stand in first place. In 1915 they owned exactly a quarter of all Tagwen rights (55 out of 220). The Elmers follow with 49, and the Zentners with 20. The Disches and Freitags number 18 each, the Schneiders 13, the Bäblers 12, the Hausers, the Heftis and the Kublis each have 9, the Martis 6, and the Gigers (or Geigers) 2.

Hence it appears that, among the families of the Sernf valley, the Martis are the most numerous. In 1915, in all three Tagwens, they numbered 115½ Tagwen rights. The Elmers followed them with 81, the Baumgartners with 65½, and the Hämmerlis with 53. The Bäblers and Blumers each numbered 40, the Stauffachers 32, the Zentners 20, the Disches, Freitags and Kublis each had 18, the Schneiders 15 and the Speichs 12. Enjoying fewer than a dozen Tagwen rights are the Gigers (11), the Luchsingers (10), the Hausers and the Heftis (9 each), the Schulers (8), the Bräms and the Wohlwends (5 each), the Madutzes (4), the Beglingers, Wirths and Wysses (3 each) and the Burgers and Däfters (1 each).

From a total of 27 citizen families today in the Sernf valley, 21 are to be found in only one of the three Tagwens. Five of them are represented as citizens in two Tagwens: the Bäblers, Elmers, Kublis and Schneiders in Matt and Elm, the Gigers in Engi and Elm. Only the Martis are represented in all three Tagwens.

This compilation could [also] be made for socio-political considerations. But we omit that, for instead we deliver some comparisons with earlier times. About one and a half centuries ago, a compilation by Melchior Schuler was given to us, who, in the appendix to his history of Canton Glarus, rendered a summary of the canton tax-rolls of 1763, arranged in order by family. Sadly, at the same time it was lacking -- alone of all the Canton Glarus Tagwens -- the commune of Elm, while Engi and Matt are listed together.

In Engi in 1763 the Martis already appear as the most numerous family. In comparison, the Baumgartners stand close to them as today: while the Martis are presented with 40 head-taxpayers, the Baumgartners follow in their wake with 39. In third place appear not the Hämmerlis, who number only 14 head-taxpayers, but the Blumers with their 36. In fifth place stand the Altmanns with 9 head-taxpayers. The Luchsingers number 8, the Bräms (Schuler wrote "Brem") and the Gigers each have 4. Of the citizen families which are in Engi today only the Burgers and Däfters are missing. On the other hand, 6 Schneiders, 2 Wintelers and 2 Norders also were found in Engi at that time.

In Matt the Stauffachers stand at the top with 40 head-taxpayers and the Bäblers with 27. The Elmers follow, only in third place, with 21 head-taxpayers. The Speichs and the Martis each numbered 8, the Beglingers and the Schulers each 3. Of the citizen families which are in Matt today only the Madutzes, the Schneiders and the Wirths were missing in 1763. On the other hand, the Wilds are presented with 7 head-taxpayers, the Jakobers with 5, and the Blumers, Steinmüllers, Störis and Zwickis with one head-taxpayer each. So, compared with 1915, [there is] some shifting in the large overall picture of the citizen population's composition, but no big changes.

In comparison, the drop is far more when we once again go back one and a half centuries and look over the numbers of the children baptized in 1595-16171 in the churches of Matt and Elm. Then even the numerous Stauffachers, Martis and Blumers of 1763 recede into the shadows. In Matt the Speichs, with 25 people to be baptized, meet us at their most numerous, the Bäblers follow them with 19 and the Buchmüllers, who today and as early as 1763, are extinct, with 18, the Hämmerlis with 16, the Kublis and Büssers each with 12, the Elmers and Baumgartners each with 11, the Jakobers with 9 and the Stigers with 8 people baptized. Not until 11th and 12th place do the Martis and the Stauffachers follow, each with 7 people baptized. But the Blumers follow only in 24th place with only 2 people baptized, as the Höslis and Solmans (6 each), the Altmanns, Wysses and Zopfis (5 each), the Wohlwends (4) and the Dusts [sic], Fleischmanns, Husers, Lagers, Luchsingers, Norders, Schärers and Suters (3 each) go on ahead of them. With the Blumers compete the Blums, Eugstlers, Gigers, Hoffmanns, Leglers2, Pfiffers and Ulrichs, who all likewise report 2 people baptized.

Fifteen other families are represented through one person each to be baptized, among them the Bräms, Cloters, Schniders and Zentners.

In Elm, in the period from 1595-1617, the Bäblers were represented the most strongly, which is likely to surprise you too. Whereas today Matt appears as their headquarters, it was at that time the Kilchhöri in Elm, perhaps since Elm itself was, to be sure, the chief residence of the Elmers and the Rhyners lived in the Untertal [lower valley], as it appears, on the small estate of Hintersteinibach. Of the 234 people to be baptized, which the Elm baptismal book mentioned to us for the time-period being considered, 59 children were from the Bäbler family, which thus numbered a full quarter [of the total]. In second place followed the Elmers with 27 people baptized, in third place the Zentners (21) and in fourth the Husers (14). The Rhyners, who today are the most strongly represented in Elm, are found only in the 5th place, with 13 people baptized. Following them are the Disches with 11, the Josses3 and the Solmans, each with 9 people baptized, the Gigers and the Michels, who today are extinct or emigrating, each with 7, the Schniders and the Flämms, each with 6, the Stigers with 5, the Dunouws and the Schellenbaums, each with 4. The Varlis, the Ritzes and the Toblers (the children of Pastor Tobler) are recorded with 3 children each. The pastors Engeler, Goldbach and Dorta have two children each designated as theirs. Likewise, two children each are found from the families of the Höslis and Welis. Thus, at that time, the citizen families of Freitag, Hefti, Kubli and Marti, who today live in Elm, were still not represented at all.

Gladly would we once more go back about one and a half or two centuries to get to know about the citizen families of the Sernf valley in the 14th and 15th centuries. If the late anniversary book of Matt had survived, then it would offer rich occasions for that purpose. But sadly, at that time by chance in Glarus, it perished in the May, 1861 great "night of fire" with other valuable documents likewise, and the few pages which have survived in the pastor's archive of Matt as excerpts from the old anniversary book, and to which we have referred still a few times on later occasions, offer no substitute in its place, since they do not name for us the late donors, the citizens of the 14th and 15th centuries who made their legacies for the benefit of the church. They name for us only the ones who in 1525 had taxes to pay as a consequence of that legacy from their estates.

So only a few scanty statements are at our disposal for the pre-Reformation population. Our time-honored travel letter names for us, among the victims of the Weesen "murder night", as citizens of the Sernf valley: Ulrich Elmer, Rud. Kröcher (Kraucher), Hans Touri, Aebli Nenung and Heini Salman, and as victims of the heroic battle of April 9, 1388: Sutter Welti and Welti Koli. Among the heroes of St. Jakob on the Birs the anniversary book of Linthal names: Hans Elmer, Uli Elmer the young, Welti Zay, Hans Kündig, Hans Schuomacher, Heini Ramer, Hans Thörn and Heini Schütz. As killed in action in the battle of Novarra (1513), the same anniversary book names as Sernf valley people: Jakob Elmer, Thomen Solmann, Rutsch Pfiffer and Largy Dürst. How many strangers these names point out to us. You will recognize anew only the Elmers still as citizens of the Sernf valley today. Then too, join with them the Speichs, as an Alp letter of 1416 names for us as Alp leaders of the Mühlebach Alp: Rudi Speich, Albrecht Wichser, Hans Hopphan, Fridli Speich and Hans Speich, and an addition to this document: Hans Wüst, Hansli Linder, Rudi Wichser, Joss Speich and Heini Jänny. That's why it is, that, when we now go on to the stories of the individual families, we give precedence to the Elmers and the Speichs.

[All lettered footnotes and information in brackets were added by the translator]

a Tagwen – an ancient term, from at least the 6th century A.D., which is still used today in Canton Glarus to denote the commune of the citizens, i.e. those who have inherited or purchased the Tagwen rights (this may only partially coincide with the political commune). It is derived from Tage Wann, meaning the work someone could perform in one day in the commonly-held fields, pastures and forests. Over the years the number of Tagwen in the canton has varied considerably, with the present-day number being 29. Also its duties have changed – from jointly working on and enjoying the benefits of its common property, to administering all the commune’s public interests, to (today) administering and enjoying the benefits of its common property. [SW]

1 The baptismal records of Matt and Elm begin with the year 1595. The period of 1595-1617 gives the number of baptized people approximately for 20 years, since in between times large gaps are found. Thus, the year 1611 sees only 3 baptisms recorded (in January and February) in all of Elm and in Matt. It is the year of the pestilence, when even the pastor of Matt fell victim. But even besides that some large gaps are found.

2 Pastor Schörli (in Matt in 1612 and 1613) wrote "Lägler". That meant, to be sure, Lägelen-maker (Lägelen, that common wine measure). The father of Johann Lägler, a child who was baptized in 1612, stemmed from Diesbach and came to Engi as a tailor, where he remained in 1613-1614, and then returned to the great valley [on the west branch of the Sernf river], at first to Haslen. From 1616-1638 another 6 children were baptized to him in Schwanden.

3 Altogether, 9 children are children of a Joss Joss. Probably because he bore Joss as baptismal name and at the same time as family name, he was called, according to the Elm baptismal book information, the 'Ueberjoss' ["more-than-Joss"]. The Book of Death reported about one of his sons, "Around this time (around 1635) Michel Joss, son of Ueberjoss, died in France. He had been a piper under Mr. Captain Jakob Marti's and Mr. Kaspar Tschudi's flags."

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