Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies

Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century 

to the American Colonies

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Why this book is a major resource for the Saylor Y DNA Project
A few of the Y DNA tests in Group 3 of the Saylor Y DNA project connect to Seiler, Seyler emigrants from Binningen and Bottmingen; today suburbs of Basel, Switzerland. Emigrants leaving Switzerland were required to pay a manumission tax and these and other records have survived. The book discussed below ties the manumission records with some other local records and provides the trail for us to follow some of the families that found passage to Philadelphia and settled nearby. The population of Binningen, Bottmingen and nearby Muttenz in the mid 1700's were only a few hundred folk so likely the Seiler families were all related.

The book, the
Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies by Albert Bernhard Faust and Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh is a major resource. It was originally published by the National Genealogical Society in two volumes.

Volume 1 has the subtitle
Zurich 1734 - 1744 and was published in 1920 and has no Seiler references. Volume 2 has the subtitle From the State Archives of Bern and Basel Switzerland and was published in 1925. Both volumes were reprinted in one volume by Genealogical Publishing Co, Baltimore in 1966 and 1976. [TRL 929.3 F134]

Volume 1 of this book is posted on [pages 1 to 122].

Volume 2 has not been found on the internet.

Only Volume 2 has references to Seiler and Seyler families emigrating from the Basel area to America and these are listed below. It is these families that we can follow on the Ship Lists of Philadelphia and also in the land and other records in America.

  1. Sources used for this book.
  2. Why did the Swiss wish to emigrate?
  3. Seiler and Seyler accounts from the book.


The sources used for the book are manuscripts mostly from the Staatsarchiv of Basel-Stadt. The abbreviations below are those used in the book and show up beside a few of the Seiler records. The Manumission records (MP) form the major source used and the others are used when it involves a family. It would be a great project for someone to examine these records again.

AA = Auswanderung A, Emigration A, is a collection of documents relating mainly to emigration to the American Colonies, such as partial lists of emigrants, reports of commissions, letters of application on behalf of emigrants written by district officials, testimonials by pastors and others, letters from the Colonies, official examinations of returned emigrants, etc.

CAM = Concepte Abgegangener Missiven, drafts of official communications and informations sent out, a large volume for each year, containing also all instructions and orders issued to district officials in connection with emigration.

FAF = Finanz-Acten F, Revenue Records F, which contribute some itemized accounts of fees paid by emigrants.

GAV = Gerichts-Archiv V, Court-Archives V, a series of volumes with the proceedings of the 'Waisengericht,' Orphans' Court, to which all intricate and doubtful matters of inheritance, and requests to declare persons legally dead, were referred.

KA = Kirchen-Archiv, Church-Archives, records and documents relating to church matters.

KB = Kirchenbücher, Parish Registers, furnishing (apart from marriage and funeral dates) baptismal dates alone more frequently than both birth and baptismal dates. The huge volumes of the city of Basel do not distinguish between the two and head their columns: 'Geburts-oder Tauftag.' Births and baptisms occurred sometimes on the same day and at least with very short intervals between. The registers of Basel-Land are now found mostly united in the Staatsarchiv of Liestal. Some registers, e.g. those of the of Waldenburg, Niederclorf and Oberdorf, are partly or entirely missing.

MP = Manumissions protokoll, Manumissions Register, one volume only partly filled, intended to record all manumissions. It was begun in 1733 and discontinued in 1796, six years after the abolition of serfdom and manumission dues, the last years recording payments of taxes on emigrant property. There are no entries between July 7, 1736, and January 7, 1741, and for some other dates also a few are missing. The manumitted emigrants of 1736, 1749, 177I, 1772, 1788 and 1790, are giyen all together and also the emigrants of 1750 who were not manumitted are recorded.
RL = Rechnungen der Landvögt, accounts rendered by these officials at Oculi, four weeks before Easter, of each year.
RP = Ratsprotokolle or Protokolle des Kleinen Rats, Records of the Small Council, at first approximately and later on regularly a Volume a year, averaging between 800 and 1000 pages, containing the minutes of the proceedings at all meetings of the Council. They arc indexed, but not so fully as to make a page by page examination of important periods superfluous. Probably at the Staatsarchiv Basel-Landschaft today.

"Manumission" refers to the act of the serfs of Basel paying manumission dues and gaining their freedom to go to America. The Canton of Basel in the 18th C comprised the city and seven country districts called 'Aemeter'. Bottmingen and Binningen were in the Amt of Munchenstein.
The church was the Reformed Church. Today they are all in the district of Arlesheim in the Canton of Basel-Landschaft.

Finally, Anne Burget, author of many books on German emigration, has written that it is beleived that Faust and Brumbaugh published "most all of the avaiable emigration records" for the Basel area. It must also be remembered that many people left without permission or passes leaving no official Swiss record of emigration.

The city had control of the whole Canton and kept its subjects until 1790 in the state of serfdom in which it acquired them from the Bishop of Basel and other rulers.

The Church was the reformed church. Willful and continuous absence from worship could be punished by banishment.

Yet this restriction of religious liberty, which was by no means limited to Basel, was only one of several other restrictions and burdens of an irksome character. To mention only the principal ones, the tithes and the extent to which they were exacted, the 'Fronungen,' statute-labors and their frequent occurrence, the inability to dispose of property, especially of real estate, which as a rule could only be done at a 'Gant,' a public sale, and with the consent of government, and finally, if they wished to escape all these things, the obstacles put in the way of emigration.

For a number of reasons it became more difficult for the subject population to find their sustenance. The population had much increased, the best estates were being bought up by citizens of the city, the rate of interest was raised to no less than 5 percent and the peasants did not avail themselves as much of the help of the day-laborers as formerly on account of the hard times.
Source: Selective quotes from the book, 86 and 87

Below is a transcription of what is printed in the book regarding the Seiler and Seyler emigrants.
Note: The £ symbol is used for Basel pounds.

Pg. 124
5 March 1740, Muttenz in Amt Munchenstein
Claus Seiler & f. and a maid servant [note, Claus can also be Nichlaus.]
Hans Seiler
Han Bernhard Seiler
[note, Claus can also be Nichlaus.]
[Note: Hans can also be Johannes. Hans is sometimes used as a prefix to other names and sometimes omitted - Hans Bernhard could also be simply Bernhard.]

Pg. 130
Barbara Welterlin, Wallterlin and Li, his wife, 45 years of age.
Their Children:
      1. Anna, bapt 1 Dec 1720
      2. Jacob, bapt. 12 Apr 1723
      3. Elsbeth, bapt. 20 Jul 1725
      4. Heinrich, bapt. 3 Aug 1728
      5. Barbara, bapt. 23 Apr 1730
      6. Maria, bapt. 14 Dec 1732
      7. Johannes, bapt. 31 Jul 1735
      8. Ursula, bapt. 28 Sept 1738
From Claus Seyler, of Muttentz (65 years of age)
Ten percent tax on £2360 worth of property ... 236.
Pro manumissione for him and wife ..................20
Ditto for their two children ............................... 10 ............. £266.

Pg. 132
1740, Muttenz in Amt Munchenstein
Hans Seiler, unmarried, appears to be identical with the emigrant of that name in 1749. His financial status, which left him a balance of  £340. 19 would have enrolled him among the paying emigrants of FAF if he had left at the present time.

Hans Bernard Seiler desisted from emigrating (AA Report of March 17).

Claus Spänhauer, moler, 59 years of age.
Ursula Schwartz, his wife, aged 55.
Their children:
      Jacob, bapt,. 17 Jan 1723
Mattheus, bapt. 23 June 1726
His balance of only £56.7.8 exempted him from the payment of dues. Verena Tschudi, servant of Claus Seilers, may have accompanied the family.

Pg. 146
1749, Binningen, Stopfel Seiler, baker, 43 years of age, ten percent tax on £241.18, manumission paid.
Barbara Schultheiss from Richen his wife, 38.
[Note: Stopfel can also be Christof.]
Their children.
            Matthias bapt 12 Nov 1730
            Barbara, bap 21 Jun 1733
            Hans Jacob, bap 12 Jun 1735
            Anna Maria, bap 27 Oct 1737
            Margareth, bap 5 Mar 1740
            Emanuel, bap 28 Oct 1742
Remained at first in the vicinity of Philadelphia.

Pg. 147
1749, Bottmingen, Jacob Seyler, Hans Jacob, tailor, 51, ten percent tax on Remained at first in the vicinity of Philadelphia. 214.14.7, manumission paid.
Chrischona Brodbeck his wife, 42 years of age.
Their children:
            Elsbeth, bap Nov 19, 1730
            Anna Maria, Nov 23, 1732
            Hans Jacob, Jun 2, 1737
            Johannes, Jun 12, 1740
            Barbara, Sep 22, 1743
Is an honest citizen. There is an interesting letter of his printed by A.B. Faust in the American Hist Rev, XXII, pp 119-121 in which he expresses the relief he feels in Pennsylvania: "No ground-rent, no tithes, everybody may do with his property as he pleases; neither statute-labour not guard duty; great liberty compared to the 'servitude of Egypt' in the Canton of Basel. He has bought 80 acres for 100 Bazel pounds 20 'Stunden,' leagues, from Philadelphia. [Probably refers to Studen, Switzerland. A league was about 3 miles.]

Pg. 147
1749, Bottmingen, Hans Ulrich Spar, age 40, Manumission dues £20. Ten percent tax on £659.15 paid.
Margareth Seyler, his wife, aged 40.
Their Children [baptised]
      Anna Barbara, bapt, 24 Oct 1734
      Hans Ulrich, 19 May 1737
      Theodor, 10 Jan 1740
      Matthias, 30 May 1741
      Johannes, 22 July 1742
      Walter?, 26 Jul 1744
      Anna Maria, 7 Nov 1745
      Hans Heinrich, 2 Jul 1747
Honest citizen Hans Heinrich died in Holland and Anna Maria in Philadelphia. Their father bought a farm 20 'Stunden' from Philadelphia.

Pg 149
1749, Muttenz, Hans Seiler, Heinrich's son, unmarried, bap Feb 8, 1718. Manumission of £10 and ten percent tax on £292 paid.
Appears to be identical with Hans Seiler who intended to emigrate in 1740.
Has always been honest in his dealings.

Pg. 149
1749, Muttenz, Martin Seiler, Day labourer, 37, Manumission of £20 and ten percent tax on £112.11.4 paid.
His wife Elisabeth Heyd, 31.

Pg. 167, 168
1752, Bottmingen (Amt Munchenstein)
Fridlin Seyler, KB Friederich, son of Theodor, deceased. Anna Catharina Spaar, Sparr, his wife.
[Note: Fridlin can also be Fridrich.]
Their children:
      1. Matthies, bapt............................. Dec.    16, 1738
      2. Hans Ulrich, bapt........................... July      7, 1743
      3. Hans Jacob, bapt...........................Apr.     17, 1746
Several entries in RP (125, 271, 299 and 342) show that the Council occupied itself repeatedly with his clandestine and fraudulent emigration. Nevertheless his three sons obtained in 1770 (RP 143, 80) the release of their property and their manumission. The entry in MP is as follows: Matthias, Ulrich and Hans Jacob Seyler, legitimate sons of Fridlin Sailer and Catharina Sparr of Botmingen, who have settled in Pennsylvania, have been manumitted together with their still living mother, who is also staying with them, by Our Gracious Lords March 28, 1770. Their property consisted of 572 pounds on which 'Herr Landvogt' on Munchenstein has collected the ten percent tax.
Pay:  Manumission..................................40.—
Letters.......................................  6.—'    46.—
At that time the sons were all married and located in Carlisle, Pa., the one being a tinner, the other a locksmith and the third a saddler. Their step­brother Leonhard Low, whom we meet in 1763, seems to have emigrated with them in 1752 and gone back to live in the Canton of Basel once more until 1763.

Between 1754 - 1766
Leonhard Löw
(KB Johannes Leonhard), bapt. May 10, 1733, from the Holee, Amt Munchenstein, lawfully begotten son of Emanuel Löw ... and Catharina Sparr (KB Anna Catharina), who intends to go to the American West Indies, has been released from serfdom ;March 30, Anno 1763 with
Anna Barbara Junt, his wife. and three children:
L Elisabeth, [KB Anna Elisabeth]. Bapt., 19 Dec. 1756
Anna Margreth. Bapt., 3 Apr 1760
Anna Maria Löw, bapt. . Dec. 13, 1761

His father, of whom his pastor says in KB that he was a fine man, died ten days after his birth. His mother married Fridlin Seyler, emigrant of 1752, and seems to have taken him along to America without being able to prevail on him to stay there, About the time of his second emigration he was talking however so much about America in his community that the Landvogt urged the Council to grant his request because he feared that his further presence might do more harm than good (AA, Letter of March 29, 1763).

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