Swiss Citizenship

****** Swiss Citizen - a complicated matter ******

A Swiss passport bears the words "Swiss Confederation''. It is made out by the Chancellery of the canton concerned on the basis of papers issued by the commune.

This is the way in which the three entities - Federal Government, Canton and Commune - mesh in public affairs in Switzerland .

Each Swiss citizen is registered threefold. He has a Swiss citizenship, the citizen rights of a canton (state) and the citizen rights of a community. In most cases the "Heimatort" or the "Bürgerort" or the "Heimatgemeinde" is not the community in which he is born or in which he lives. Many Swiss citizens have never seen their "Home community" - something hardly understandable for a Non-Swiss!

Birth, marriage and death are registered at the place where one lives but are also registered in the "home community" The "home community" is in charge of the family registry! For the length of his stay a Swiss deposits his "Heimatschein" (certificate of the home community) at the place of residence.

You become a Swiss citizen by birth, marriage or naturalisation. Usually the citizens have to give their consent to a person wishing to become naturalised. And the candidate usually has to pay a fair amount in order to achieve Swiss communal rights.

If a Swiss citizen becomes a pauper the community had the responsibility to look after him. It also lay in the responsibility of the "home community" to place him in a home for the elderly. Nowadays these social responsibilities are usually taken over by the community where he lives. In the centuries of emigration from Switzerland many communities got rid of their poor people by paying for an overseas passage!

To complicate matters of being a Swiss citizen, apart from the "normal" home communities with their citizens you often also have the "Burgergemeinde" or "Ortsgemeinde" or "Ortsburger" (Burger without Umlaut!!). These are public corporations from the past of fully fledged citizens. In the 19th century they had to yield their political right to the new public communities. But they still had special rights.

As the family records were always kept at the home community for most Swiss people there was no reason to "buy" a  new citizenship at their residence.Tthat is why many family names can easily be traced to a specific region.

For more detailed information on surnames refer to the 2086 pages, three volumes, 400 $ book: "Familiennamenbuch der Schweiz / Repertoire des noms de famille suisses / Repertorio dei nomi di famiglia svizzeri / Cudesch dals nums da famiglia de la svizra / Register of Swiss surnames". Schulthess Polygraphischer Verlag Zürich 3. Aufl. 1989

The Swiss Citizenship Law (summarized by the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington DC)

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This page is maintained by Klaus Augustiny. / Last updated: 18 December 2004 (wws)
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