Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Lost Branch

I have been interested in my family history as far back as I can remember and am very lucky to have many historical resources at my disposal. Incredible scholarship has been done on the de Büren family by various ancestors over time. A fact was made clear to me as a teenager by the head of the Burgerbibliothek in Bern, when I told him that one day I would pen a new genealogy on the family, he scoffed, "It's all been done already." I was undeterred.

While it is true that a great many facts and wonderful stories about my family have already been discovered, one hole in the research always bothered me. In a previous post, I told the story of Louis Amedé de Büren and his emigration to Indiana from Bern in 1830. Within the most recent de Büren family genealogy done by Louis Fontanellaz in 1920 there is information about who Louis married and some information about his children, but nothing else. It occurred to me that while I might not be able to unearth any new medieval information about the family, I knew I could tackle this mystery of the lost Indiana branch.

I started doing some research on Southern Indiana in 1998 while living in Washington D.C., and found that there was an influx of Swiss emigrants in the 1830s to Indiana and was immediately interested. My research previously had always been Euro centric, so it was fascinating to start doing research on a U.S. locale. I knew Louis had settled in Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana in 1830 and took a wife. I contacted the Jefferson historical society and told them the information I had, no de Buren or de Büren listed in Madison. I was undeterred (Is this a trend?).

I joined and started posting on Rootsweb. I was eventually contacted by a woman in Louisville, who knew she descended from Jennie van Buren Foreman of Madison, grand daughter of Lewis van Buren. Could the name be van Buren? Once I tried van Buren, the information flooded in. After spending many hours swapping information with my new distant cousin in Louisville, and even more hours on, I had re-constructed the Indiana branch up until the 1930s or so.

Back row: Louis, Edgar and Eugene
Front row: Stella, parents John & Armenta, and Mary

While still living in D.C. I decided to see if I could contact one of the living relatives I found. I did so, and was able to share with him the news of his Swiss heritage. He remarked jovially, "I had heard stories about one of the family members being in the Swiss Guards, and that never make sense to me if we were supposed to be Dutch."

In 2000 upon returning to California, I stopped in Southern Indiana, and saw where the van Buren ranch had been. I later lost touch with my new van Buren cousin, and 10 years after our initial conversation I tried to contact him again. Sadly, I learned of his passing, but thankfully for me, his surviving children were listed in the obituary.

I am now in contact with all of my van Buren cousins and feel blessed that I am able to share with them the richness of our collective heritage. Be thankful for holes in your research, you never know where they will take you.

Interesting Note:

A van Buren cousin from Arkansas writes a blog on her rural life in the Ozarks called Living on the Little Mulberry, check it out.


  1. It's wonderful that you were able to connect with your family across generations and countrie

  2. I own a farm in madison indiana that was once owned by an otto van buren.

    1. Im going to visit the historical societies library soon. I'll see what I can find and let you know.



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