Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Witness to History

David de Büren was the first son of Jean de Büren (1544-1594) and Appollonia Ougspurger (1550-1620). David's father would die when he was only 11, and so he would be raised by his step-father, Jean Sager. David's step-father treated him like his own son and provided him with a first-rate education.

In their late teens, young noble men were typically sent to a royal or princely court to further their education and experience, David was no exception. He was sent to be a page in the court of the François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières, chief of the Huguenot resistance in Dauphiné. David's family were protestant, as was Bern, so the choice made sense. Bern had been protestant since the reformation. David's great-grandfather is noted in fact as the last Catholic of the family in the de Büren genealogy from 1839. This fact remained true until the 20th century when some de Büren's were raised in Catholic Argentina, but that is another story. David would serve with the Duke for a number of years and even fight with him at his battles against Savoy. He would return to Switzerland in 1607.

François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières

In the years following his return to Bern, David would become a member of the Grand Council, a Senator, Governor of Aarwangen, and Lord of Dettingen. In 1625 he was sent on a politically sensitive mission to confer with the French General François Annibal d'Estrées, Marquis de Coeuvres during the Valtellina offensive.

François Annibal d'Estrées, Marquis de Coeuvres

The following text from Yves Bercé's The Birth of Absolutism: A History of France, 1598-1661 provides context for how Lesdiguières, de Coeuvres, and Valtellina are linked. It also proves how religious affiliation takes a back seat when political ambition is involved.

"The Duke of Lesdiguières, governor of Dauphiné, a great Protestant magnate, former companion of Henri VI, and a brave military leader, kept himself informed about developments in northern Italy and the Swiss cantons. His role was, so to speak, that of the king's watchman on the Alps. Since 1605 he had been warning against what he saw as the threat posed by the strengthening of the Spanish presence in the duchy of Milan. This rich and powerful possession enabled the Spaniards to intervene effectively in the affairs of the Italian princes, to exert influence over the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, and to control the Alpine passes which gave them access to Germany and formed a vital stage of the 'Spanish Road' by which troops from the Iberian peninsula made their way to the Netherlands. One particular little valley, strategically placed to the north of Milan was to dominate the attention of politicians for about two decades.

The Affair of the Valtellina

The high valley of the Adda makes its way from the head of Lake Como south of the massif of the Grisons, linking Lombardy to the Tyrol. This route, known as the Valtellina, was negotiable from spring onwards, connecting the domains of the Spanish Habsburgs to those of their imperial cousins. Since the early sixteenth century it had been in the hands of the Grisons League, an ally of the Swiss Cantons. The conversion of the majority of the Grisons League to the Reformation had not fostered a happy relationship with their predominantly Catholic subjects in the Valtellina, In July 1620 the people of the valley had risen and expelled their Grisons rulers. The Spanish governor of Milan had supported their cause, helping them repel the Swiss punitive expedition. The French and the Venetians were uneasy at the territorial gain thus made by the Spaniards in this little corner of the Alps. But as nobody was yet prepared to go to war, an agreement was reached at Milan in 1622 by which the valley remained under the protection of papal troops who guaranteed a kind a peaceful neutrality.

When he returned to the King's Council in 1624, Cardinal Richelieu reopened the file. In summer that same year, French agents were active in the Grisons, Switzerland, Savoy and Venice – all traditionally pro-French – with a view to military action. A force of some 4,000 men, recruited in Switzerland and commanded by the Marquis de Coeuvres, expelled the papal troops and occupied the valley in November."

On his return to Bern from his mission to the Valtellina, David became very ill. He would only make it as far as Königsfelden abbey in Aarau where he would die at the age of 42. Sadly like many of his ancestors, he died in the midst of what appeared to be a very promising career. He would be buried in Königsfelden abbey, where he lies still.

Königsfelden in 1669

Königsfelden Abbey today

In 1607, David would marry Anna Güder (1592-1645) daughter of Jean Antoine Güder, Governor of Thorberg and Fraubrunnen and Marguerite Sager.

His wife would give him one daughter:

1. Anna ∞ Albert d'Erlach

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Battle of Warburg

Philippe de Büren was the fourth son of Victor Charles de Büren (1707-1773) and Catherine Fischer (1712-1787). Like his two older brothers David and Louis, Philippe would become a part of a Swiss regiment in the service of France. He would start his military service at the age of 17 and would become a First Lieutenant three years later. Philippe would fight in many battles of the Seven Years' War starting in 1757 and his future was considered bright.

On the 31st of July 1760 during the Battle of Warburg in North West Germany, Philippe would be killed by a canon blast. He was only 22 years old.

Illustration of the Battle of Warburg

The French were said to have lost between 1,500 and 8,000 men during the battle depending on the account. While doing historical research and looking at battle summaries it is easy to get numb to casualty numbers. However it is important to reflect on the fact that Philippe, like every man, like every number, had a possible future that went unrealized.

Philippe (in red) with his older brothers, father and mother

Three of Philippe's brothers would live to adulthood, and they would become the heads of the three main branches of the de Büren family, two of which still flourish today.

Charles de Büren – 1st – Descendants live in Switzerland, France, The United States, Argentina and Brazil.
David de Büren – 2nd – Died with Eugène de Büren of Bern in 1966.
Louis de Büren – 3rd – Descendants live in The United States.

Monday, April 19, 2010

David de Büren 1734-1782

David was the second son of Victor Charles de Büren (1707-1773) and Catherine Fischer (1712-1787). He could be quite impetuous, but was very hard working, and morally beyond reproach.

He would start his military service in the Swiss guards in the service of France in 1751. He did not enjoy his time in Paris and very happily returned to Bern after only 18 months. In 1757 he was made a Major in the Bernese military for Emmenthal and Aarau, and in 1760 was made a Captain in the Grenadiers.

From 1760 to 1770 he helped oversee the lands of Vaumarcus for himself and his brothers, Charles and Louis. David and his brothers had to step in and rescue the castle from their father who lived far beyond his means and would eventually have sold Vaumarcus as he did most everything else left to him by his father.

In 1764 David became a member of the Grand Council of Bern and would later serve as Governor of Sumiswald from 1770-1776. David would be the second de Büren to hold this position. David's ancestor Victor de Büren would serve at Sumiswald from 1679-1701.

Château of Sumiswald

de Büren crest that hung in the Castle of Sumiswald to commemorate David's service

In 1766 he would marry Susanne Dorothée Berseth (1741-1823) daughter of Charles Berseth, Governor of Thorberg and Salomé de Jenner.

His wife would give him one son:

1. Charles Louis (1767-1851) ∞ Madelaine Elisabeth de Steiger

Monday, April 12, 2010

Arnold Louis de Büren 1775-1854

Arnold Louis was the first son of Louis de Büren (1735-1806) and Marguerite de Sinner (1754-1842). Arnold Louis started his military service in 1792 as an aide-de-camp for his father. He would later become a member of the Artillery forces and then a Cavalry soldier. In 1797 he would enter the University of Leipzig, but his stay would be short as the eminent danger to Bern in 1798 by French forces called him home. Upon his return he would reprise the role of aide-de-camp for his father, the now General Louis de Büren.

Engraving of Louis de Büren, Arnold Louis' father in 1792. Arnold Louis, his aide-de-camp is probably within the frame.

After the French defeat of Bern in 1798, Anold Louis still in his 20s would leave Switzerland to become a Hussard soldier for Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony. In 1800 he would leave Saxony to join a Swiss regiment in the service of England. During his service for England he fought battles against the French in Germany. In 1803 he would leave the foreign service and return to Bern where he became a member of the Grand Council from 1811-1815.

Rio Illustration from Daniel P. Kidder's Brazil and the Brazilians portrayed in historical and descriptive sketches.

Sensing an opportunity to make a new life for himself and his family outside Switzerland, in 1820 he left alone for Brazil. After doing some research it seems likely that he went to Nova Friburgo (New Fribourg) near Rio. He did not find the situation in Brazil to his liking, his notions of colonization dashed, he would return 12 months later to Bern.

Nova Friburgo, Brazil in 1820

Interestingly enough, he would pass his sense of adventure onto his sons Louis Amedé and Frédéric who would leave for Indiana in 1830. The descendants of Louis Amedé form the third branch of the family and live in the United States to this day.

Arnold Louis was singular mix of qualities and flaws. He was affable and generous, was very well educated and could have made a great name for himself. He had very strong opinions and was high-minded, but he lacked follow-through and self-discipline. He started to have liver problems in 1847, and his health would slowly deteriorate. He would die in 1854 at the age of 78.


In 1801 Arnold Louis would marry Marie de Herrenschwand (1778-1822), daughter of Amedé de Herrenschwand, Major in the service of France and Knight Order of Merit, and Elisabeth Julie de Herrenschwand.

He had three children by his wife:

1. Arnold Louis Amedé (1802-1879) ∞ Anna Bühler
2. Charles Louis Antoine Frédéric (1804-1878)
3. Emilie Marie Anne (1811-1887)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Request for Submissions

I have been asked to write some interesting stories of Swiss emigration to the United States for a Swiss genealogical publication. I can certainly start with some of the big names that we all know, but I would like to include some stories of common emigrants who made a big impact on their new country.

If you or someone you know has a great story that they would like to share about their Swiss ancestors emigration to the United States, and the new life they made from themselves, please leave a comment below.

The only caveat I would make is the more genealogical and historical information the better to help me construct a compelling narrative. Thanks in advance, Jean-François

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Very Distant Relatives

There are distant cousins and then there are Distant Cousins. I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by a fellow de Büren from Geneva. He was not from the family I know in Geneva, so I was intrigued. To add even more interest we have essentially the same family crest.

He proceeded to tell me that his family came from Flumenthal in the canton of Soleure (Soloturn), not far from Büren an der Aare where the family gets its name. He told me of a story passed down in his family of two brothers who chose different paths at the time of the reformation, one staying Catholic and moving to Soleure and one becoming Protestant and moving to Bern. It was a very romantic story, and one that was new to me. I looked through the family archives, and I found a possible link between the two ancient branches but it seems to be much earlier than the reformation.

"Older" crest still used by the Soleure branch of the family. Stained glass window from 1508. The only difference is the branch from Soleure has inverted the bee hives, so there is one bee hive on the top and two on the bottom.

"Newer" de Büren crest at left. The silver bee hives and silver border have been used since 1669.

The first de Büren (von Büren) men to officially come to Bern from Büren an der Aare were Rodolphe (Ruf) and his brother Jacques (Jakob) in the early 14th century. They are both listed as bourgeois of Bern, Rodolphe becoming a member of the government in 1326. Rodolphe is my direct descendant and also of the de Büren families of Bern, Vaumarcus, and Denens.

Jacques had two sons, Immer and Mathieu. Mathieu was also a bourgeois of Bern like his father and listed as part of the Grand Council of Bern in 1357. In one genealogical archive it states that Mathieu had one son, Jean and that he moved to Soleure and became bourgeois of that city in the latter half of the 14th century.

If this is correct, then Jean is most likely the founding member of the de Büren line that comes from Soleure and why we share the same family crest. While our trees may have blossomed in different parts of Switerland, we still share the same roots.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Easter Gift

I have been actively writing about my family history for a while now. It has led me among other things to reconnect with old cousins and connect with new ones. Through the power of email and Facebook, I am now connected with cousins that before would have taken months if not years to get in touch with. About a month ago I received an email from one of my father's first cousins in Córdoba, Argentina, who said she would be traveling to the United States with her sister, and her first stop would be San Francisco. These were cousins we had never met, and she finished the email by saying "if you don't have time to see us, don't worry." Don't worry, are you kidding? This was a big deal for myself and my dad, I think we can clear our schedules for one meal.

In fairness to them, I remember seeing some family in Switzerland as a boy, who seemed actually put out that we were dropping by. Once your 15 minutes were up, Adieu!

Myself, my dad, my brother, and my cousins met for lunch. My French was of no use and thankfully my brother who speaks Spanish was there to assist. Without him, there would have been even more awkward silences, smiles and nodding. Oh my kingdom for a portable Spanish-English digital phrase book.

In truth, so much was said in the silences. There were truly beautiful moments during that lunch. One my dad's Argentine cousins kept looking at his face and remarking about how much he reminded her of one of her brothers. She also gently held his hand and turned it over and said "these are de Büren hands." My cousins asked my father a couple of times, "do you like being with us?", while he couldn't tell them all that he was feeling, he was clearly enjoying the moment.

There were bittersweet moments as well, that stemmed from acrimony during my grandfather's generation. As one of our cousins looked out towards the San Francisco skyline and the bay from our restaurant in Tiburon, she remarked half-joking, "why couldn't my father (Carlos) have come to San Francisco and your father (Henri) have returned to the ranch."

The pain that Carlos felt being sent back to Argentina and having to take of the ranch was clear in the stories my cousins told. Afterwards, Carlos wanted nothing to do with Switzerland and was seemingly indifferent to his heritage. As I shared photos with my cousins and information about their own family, some of which they were hearing for the first time, there was a pain beneath their interest.

My cousin asked me pointedly, "why do you care so much about the family history." My answer was simply "I always have."

I feel more acutely than ever that I am simply an instrument for this information. I don't expect others to have the same love and passion for this subject, but I feel that my ability to share family stories with my cousins will provide some answers and in certain cases a necessary healing.

I certainly hope that the lunch with my Argentine cousins is the first of many. The road ahead for me is clear, learn Spanish pronto!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A rose by any other name

While doing some family research I stumbled upon the Multiflore de Vaumarcus a beatiful pink Noisette rose. It was introduced by Menet in 1875 and due to its name is either an homage to theChâteau of Vaumarcus and its gardens, or to Henri de Büren its chatelain, botanist and head of the Neuchâtel Agricultural Society.

I sent the information on to my father who like his forefathers has a great gift for the cultivation of flowers and plants. He thought it would be nice to have the rose that honored the home of our ancestors in his garden in California. He did some research and found that the species was only sold in Europe. As my father is very dogged when it comes to things he wants, he found out that he could import a bare root version of the rose. After a great deal of bureaucratic red tape and inspection by the California Agricultural commission, there are now three Multiflore de Vaumarcus rose bushes slowly coming back to life in California soil.

The Multiflore de Vaumarcus rose that was sent to California as bare root stock bloomed for the first time this Mother's day.

Old world stock, a stressful voyage, bureaucracy, putting down new roots and blossoming in a new land, a nice metaphor for the emigrant story I think.


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