Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beyond Survival

Having detailed family archives are indispensable when it comes to discovering personal historical narrative but it is also instructive for a broader understanding of family history.

For many years the de Büren family, not unlike other families of the time, was always on the verge of extinction. Between warfare, disease, and high maternal mortality the continuation of the family was by no means assured in Switzerland of the Late Middle Ages/Early Renaissance.

Within the family much has been made of David de Büren (1615-1659) starting a new era of prosperity with his marriage to Marguerite de Bonstetten. This union led directly to the acquisition of the Château de Vaumarcus and the title of Baron for his descendants.

Whatever the reason – moving away from the city, new found wealth, greater political influence, or simply fate – family life expectancy and birth rates improved dramatically with David’s descendants.

On average the life span of de Büren women increased by 23 years from the 17th to the 18th century. More importantly male births increased from 12 in the 17th century to 27 in the 18th century. As a result of longer life spans for mothers and more sons, the 18th century made the family larger and more resilient as a group.

In 1631, after the death of his brother, David de Büren was the last male heir of the de Büren name, one that could have died with him. Some 400 years later, there are over 50 of his direct de Büren descendants living in Switzerland, France, England, Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

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