Heintzman Muller and the Mystery of the Boltigen Choir Court Window – 52 Ancestors #314

Old, meaning really old records are extremely rare. Once you’ve reached the end of the church records, and you’re back in the early 1600s, the late Medieval age, in remote alpine villages and hamlets in Switzerland, let’s face it, you’re likely not going to find much of anything except pristine mountain meadows and Edelweiss.

By Böhringer Friedrich – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11882229

At that time, alpine chalets clustered in tiny hamlets were waystations on mule paths across the Alps between France and Switzerland.

The highlands were only accessible by pack animal and the locals enjoyed a secluded pastoral life, living off what they or their animals could produce, including cheeses. The higher the elevation, the fewer crops could be grown. At the highest elevations, no crops could be grown and the land could only be used for alpine pasture.

Von Yesuitus2001 at de.wikipedia – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12135242

The 37-mile-long Simme River originates at the foot of the Tierberggketscger glacier high in the Alps.

Beginning about where the red arrow points, the ice-cold Simme carves its way through the Simmental Valley, 37 miles until it empties into Lake Thunersee.

Along its path, we find the villages and hamlets that make up our family story – the family stories of everyone who lived in the Simmental Valley.

Along its downward path, the frothy waters of the Simme plunge over cliffs, its whitewater rushing through sleepy villages and hamlets consisting of just a few houses, past cattle and goats, near the house where Heinsmann Mueller lived in the 1600s.

Heinsmann Muller was the father of Johann Michael Muller, spelled variously as Muller and Mueller in Switzerland and Germany, and Miller eventually in the US, as noted in Johann Michael’s 1684 marriage record. I wrote about Heinsmann in the article Heinsmann (Heinrich) Muller (<1635-<1684) of Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland.

Based on Johann Michael’s birth, marriage, and one tax record for his father, Heinsmann, we know that Heinsmann was born sometime before 1633, that he died sometime after Michael’s birth in 1654/1655, and before Michael’s 1684 marriage where Heinsmann is noted as deceased.

After I thought we were at the end of the line with Heintzman, also recorded as Heinzman and Heinsmann, Müller in Schwarzenmatt, I was blessed with an amazing, and I do mean amazing find.

My friend Christoph who lives in Germany found the family who owns the historic Muller home, today. Peter, the current owner, wrote a letter explaining how he had tried to preserve the heritage of this structure.

I wrote about this amazing discovery in The Muller House on Kruezgasse; Humble Beginnings in Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland. The Muller home dates from 1556 based on the date carved into a wall. You can see another stunning preserved historic home from this same period, nearby, here, here, and more here, allowing us a cultural peek back in time.

While we can’t place Heintzman in this exact house, there were only a few houses in this tiny hamlet and we can definitively place the Muller family in this home just one generation later. There were only two Muller families living in Schwarzebmatt in 1653 and Peter’s house has to be one of them. This amazing historic home has been in the Muller family ever since and remains so today.

You can see that Schwarzenmatt, even all these years later, is still quite small.

The pin shows the group of houses where the Muller home was located along with another house from about 1693. This was the heart of this little hamlet, a mule and traveler stop on the way over the Alps into France through the Jaun Pass, one of the highest paved roads in Europe. This means, of course, that the homes along this route are also the highest settlements in Europe, then as now.

If you’re brave, ride along the current road on a motorcycle here. Motion sickness warning – trust me – hold on to something. I watched, but had to do it in several separate sittings.

The beauty of this alpine post-card-perfect view makes my heart just skip a beat.

Jaun Pass

The modern-day Jaun Pass road was completed 1878, cut through the hillsides and forest with modern machinery, not following an old trail. Prior to that time, according to Chris S. of Footsteps of Ancestors, another friend, who has worked with local historians, the old mule trail followed the Reidigrabe, the stream draining the Reidige(n) meadow into the Simme. This is the namesake meadow and stream of Chris’s Reutiger/Reidiger family. This trail followed the stream on both sides of the pass and used the naturally open ground in the meadows at and above the tree line.

Chris mentions that Jaun is the last German-speaking village in that direction. Charmey is Francophone. Jaun’s German dialect is quite unusual and very distinct, probably a combination of both and colloquially known as Switzerland’s 5th language. I would wager than Heintzmann, his ancestors and descendants spoke the franca lingua as well.

The ancient Jaunpass mule track, then known by the old field name still in use by the locals today, facilitated exporting cattle to Paris and wine and grain in the other direction, back into the Bernese Oberland.

Heintzmann Muller wasn’t just a peasant living in a convenient place for a stray shepherd or man walking with a mule over the mountain to rest, but an astute businessman, positioning himself in a location where his family stood to benefit from commerce and trade, providing services at the doorway to the other half of the continent. It appears that the Muller family owned mills in Eschi, Boltigen and Zollikofen in addition to an early B&B for travelers.

Today, we enjoyed beautiful photos of a sleepy out-of-the way hamlet and alpine meadows, while in the 1500s and 1600s, and likely long before, this mule path was literally *the* route from the Arrental through the central Simmental into the French-speaking part of Switzerland and on to Geneva, the southeast of France and the Mediterranean.

The Boltigen – Schwar(t)zenmatt – Reidigraben – Reineschli – (Lower) Reidigen* = Reidigenpass – Faengli – Leimerabach – Jaun Castle (ruins) – Jaun/Bellegarde path was the old route from time immemorial. It linked and still links the middle Simmental with the Jaun-Charmey Valley above Gruyeres and the road on to Lake Geneva, known locally as Lac Leman.

Either Going in Circles or Coming Full Circle

And so, we come full circle.

I lived in the village of Versoix on Lac Leman and in Crans-Montana for several months as a student, having no idea of course that my ancestral home was nestled in one of those alpine meadows I hiked at every opportunity and came to love so much.

While Versoix was a couple hours of hair-pin-turn mountain roads away from Schwarzenmatt, from the top of the mountains above Crans-Montana, I could literally have seen Lenk about 5 miles distant across the mountaintops, and possibly Schwarzenmatt, had I known to look.

Nothing like the magnetic draw of the Alps, reaching someplace in the soul, beckoning one back home.

Language is interesting in this part of Europe. We spoke French in Geneva, Versoix and Montana, but most people spoke German as well. Dialects abounded in locations just a few miles apart.

Interestingly, Chris says that Reidige in the Swiss dialect has no N, typical for most Swiss-German places, especially in Bernese dialect. Locals say “BOL-tih-geh” for Boltigen. So, I’m guessing the N is Schwarzenmatt would have been silent too.

The Original Mule Path

click to enlarge

The original Jaun Pass mule pathway went right past the old Muller house in Schwartzenmatt, which likely explains the large stable facilities and cheesemaking equipment found in the old homestead.

This home, at one end of the cross-mountain journey would have been a very important stopping point, going both directions, to rest both weary people and animals. The distance from Schwarzenmatt to Juan is about 8 or 9 miles as the crow flies, but the actual mountain distance considering the up and down elevation rise of about 1300 feet and the difficult and rugged high-altitude mountainous terrain could easily have doubled the walking distance.

If you look closely, you can still see the pathways along this quarter mile or less of the Reidiggraben leaving the small road. People didn’t live at this elevation. Nothing much did.

Peasant Revolt and Church Fire

We know that Heinzman Muller lived in Schwarzenmatt in 1653 when he appeared on the tax list of 43 “chimneys,” which equates to 43 or fewer houses, given that some houses might have had more than one chimney. Five houses away we discover Wolfgang Muller too – probably a close relative. We know that one Benedikt Muller lived in the hamlet as early as 1502. Was this an ancestor of Heintzman and Wolfgang? We don’t know, but I’d certainly say that it’s likely. It’s unlikely that many new settlers arrived, at least not to stay, especially not millers who needed location, money and opportunity all three to build a mill. If a second mill was needed, that would represent a good opportunity for a brother or son.

The closest church was down the mountain a mile or two in the village of Boltigen – and that church was mentioned as early as 1228 along with other churches where small groups of hardy souls lived, up and down the Simmental valley.

Unfortunately, the church in Boltigen burned in 1840, along with its records. Other nearby hamlets had early churches too, particularly St. Stephan and Zweisimmen dating from 1300s. In 1525, those two churches broke away from the Abbey in Bern and formed their own parish. Three years later, the Canton of Bern adopted the new faith of the Protestant Reformation and local churches were forced to convert.

I’m guessing there as much gnashing of teeth in the valley, especially in 1653 when the currency was devalued, allowing peasants only 3 days to exchange their copper coins for gold or silver at the old rate before a 50% devaluation, causing the fortunes of the rural population to be sliced in half overnight and precipitating the Swiss Peasant War of 1653.

Battles were fought as close as Bern with thousands of peasants organizing into an angry army and wielding weapons such as these.

I can’t help but wonder if the 1653 chimney tax list was in some way a result of or connected to these financial issues.

At least three families from this region migrated together to Steinwenden after the end of the Thirty Years’ War – our Johann Michael Mueller, the Stutzman line and Michael’s cousin, Jacob Ringeison (and similar spellings.)

It’s through those Steinwenden records that we found our way to Schwarzenmatt where Tom, Christoph and I sifted through the few remaining records hoping to connect the dots.

That’s it. Nothing more to be found due to missing Boltigen records. We’re done, right?


Meet Chris

Enter Chris S. from Footsteps of Ancestors, probably a distant cousin, who writes:

In many Canton Bern parishes there were two copies of the church books for a span of time, sometimes a long one. As you know, the Heimatort of a family and its members was and still is more important for Swiss personal and familial identity and records, rather than the birthplace of a person.

What’s missing from the archived records due to a Boltigen church fire are:

    • 1627-1709 baptisms
    • 1627-1661 and 1751-1815 marriages
    • 1627-1683 burials
    • Information such as a table of contents, index, and notes in spaces and margins on some records 1716 – 1728.

If these records are in a duplicate book, somewhere (but obviously not in the city of Bern at the archives), then they might be available sometime in the future. We can hope and pray.

The Boltigen church records which still exist are found here.

The great news is that these records exist, beginning in 1594. The not-so-great news is that they are not transcribed or indexed and unless you can read ancient German script AND know German, you’re out of luck.

Heinzmann was probably born before 1627, and if he wasn’t, his father surely was. It’s possible that more Mueller records will surface one day if these and other Simmental Valley records are ever indexed. It might be possible to reach back another 2 or 3 generations.

What’s a Heimatort?

Chris might have thought I knew what a heimatort was, but I didn’t. I love history because it provides me with endless opportunities to learn.

In Switzerland, citizenship has three levels. A heimatort refers to either “home place” or “citizen place,” not to be confused with place of birth or place of residence. A person may have been born or live in a different place than his or her heimatort, which confers specific legal rights and obligations.

In Switzerland, both historically and currently, people are identified by their heimatort, or place of origin, not their birthplace or place of residence. However, all three of those locations are sometimes one and the same. At one time, beggars and paupers were deported back to their heimatort so that the location where they lived didn’t have to support them if they could no longer support themselves. At another point in history, Switzerland was sponsoring immigration to the colonies if people would relinquish their right to welfare. You can view the register of Swiss surnames, here.

Boltigen Descendants

Chris is a Boltigen descendant as well. What are the chances of finding another descendant from that tiny hamlet in the Swiss Alps, yet he found me? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

If you share any of Chris’s lines such as Rediger/Rettinger, Andrist/Andress, Jaggi, Bachler/Beckler and a Swiss-German “Indian John” Miller 1730-1798 found in colonial Pennsylvania, he’d love to hear from you at Rediger_Origins@outlook.com.

Chris writes:

I wrote earlier this summer with a question about your Muller/Mueller/Miller lineage from Boltigen.

This was to compare Boltigen area lineage Y DNA haplotypes with our Reidiger/Reutiger/Rediger haplotype after our Rediger cousin had test results post. Were our Reidigers originally Mullers, Jonelis, Boschungs, Andrists, Julmys, Teuschers, or something else entirely? We have lists of pre-1800 Boltigen and Jaun families.

It turns out that our Reidigers/Reutigers from Boltigen are none of these. Instead, their male lineage is a well-known and very old and large Swiss-German clan. Most of them are from the Aare valley, between Thun and the city of Bern.  Verification is happening now, and if anybody out there is curious as to the identity of this family, they can contact me.

Your Mullers are apparently involved here as well: My ancestor (Baschi’s) younger brothers Steffen and Michel had two Muller witnesses at their baptisms in Boltigen. Steffen’s in 1727 were Stefan Tschabel, Joseph Müller, and Elisabeth Warzenmeier. Michel’s in 1729 were Barthlome Mühlener (Von Mühlenen), Michel Müller, and Elsbeth Reutiger (Reidiger) born Sul(l)iger.

Of course, this Michael Muller can’t be our Michael Muller who was born in 1655 and was living in Steinwenden, Germany in the 1680s. But the 1727 Michael could certainly have been a cousin or other relative.

More Mullers in a Mannrechtsrodel

Thinking back, I recall seeing something else about inhabitants leaving and required “passports.”.

Christoph, my German friend, explained that:

Swiss emigrants usually had to register before emigrating abroad. This was done by them to retain the right to return to their home town in Switzerland later on, if needed. This right to do so was called “Mannrecht.” They (and even their children born abroad!) kept this lifelong right and received a passport.

Therefore, a register was written for all emigrants, stating their home town in Switzerland and the place abroad they went to. The register was called “Mannrechtsrodel”.

Unfortunately, there were exceptions to the rule. When registering, the emigrants had to pay 10% of their money. Some emigrants, especially the poor ones, thus emigrated without prior registration.

Another group of non-registered emigrants (there may have been further groups) were Swiss anabaptists, Mennonites etc. They fled abroad and/or where expelled from Switzerland, hence no registration.

Anyway, I found online a transcription of the Canton Bern “Mannrechtsrodel” starting in 1694 – see attached. If you go to the family name “Müller”, you will find quite a few ones from Boltigen, the parish including Schwarzenmatt.

Unfortunately, those are much too late for “our” Michael Müller. But now I start to wonder: Maybe the state archive of Bern houses another “Mannrechtsrodel” for the time prior to 1694? If so, it would probably not have been transcribed yet.

From the Mannrechstroddel, we find the following Muller men from the Simmental Valley:

    • December 2, 1720 – Michael Muller von hinter Zweisimmen zieht nach Leistadt (Bad Dürkheim)
    • November 29 ,1726 – Benedicht Muller von Boltigen zieht nach Eppingen
    • May 6, 1732 – Wolffgang Muller von Boltigen zieht sein Mannrecht nach Wurttemberg
    • February 1, 1752 – Christen Mullr von Boltigen aeiht sein Mann und Landrecht und seine Mittel nach Sundhausen/Elsass
    • March 14, 1754 – Johannes Muller von Boltigen zeicht sein Mann und Landrecht nach Horbach im Zwiebruckischen (nicht in SE/W)

One man, Michael, from Zweisimmen and four from Boltigen. The names of both Benedicht and Wolffgang will become familiar as we see them several times scattered across many generations.

Arms and Heraldry

Almost as an aside, Chris mentioned:

The second reason for this fast message is to also show you the second image.

Two Muller arms are shown on the 1683 Boltigen stained-glass window. It was in or for their Choir Court in or annexed to the local church. The window is now housed in a museum in the city of Bern. I don’t know if this represents two branches of the same (= your) family, or if there were two distinct Muller lines in the middle Simmental e.g. Boltigen. Either way, this image is very likely linked to your own family history.

Some of these arms were not at this extremely useful heraldry site which is great for finding Swiss families and determining their origins and branching.

I contacted the creator, Alfred Dobler, and sent him the Choir Court window image, and its source link, here. He immediately added the missing arms/surnames to the site.

What? There’s a window and my Heinzman Muller is involved?

The Choir Court Window

Note that the third image from the top on the right-hand side of the 1683 window clearly shows Heintzman Muller, along with a heraldic shield beneath. This information about the window, in German, was translated by Deepl translator into English as follows:

In 1587, the Bernese government had established the choir courts by means of a “Christian mandate”, which watched over the respect of the national religion, moral order and respectability in the parishes. For this purpose, the founders of the disc chose a suitable iconographic pictorial theme: the judges of Jehoshaphat, who are not to pronounce justice in the name of people but in the name of the Lord. The same representation is found in analogous form on several disc crack copies (by Hans Jakob Nüscheler, Werner Kübler the Younger, Lorenz Lingg and a Bernese master, among others).

Coat of arms names: in the center above: Mr. Abraham Walter this one / at the time Castlan Jm Obersimenthal; left row: Mr. Johaness Grim / predicant zu Boltige // Mr. Hans Jm Ober= / stäg Haubtman // Benedict / Müller // Mr. Stäffen / Zwalen // Mr. David Sulliger / old Kilchmeÿer // Mr. Bartlome Jonneli / new Kilchmeÿer // Stäffen Knöri / old Kilchmeÿer; right row: Mr. Hanβ Eschler / old governor // Mr. Hanβ Kunen / old Kilchmeÿer // Mr. Vlrich Jm Ober= / stäg Schreiber // Mr. Heintzman / Müller // Mr. Hanβ Grünen / wald Weibel // Hanβ Stocker / Grichtschreibe // Mr. Vlrich / Büller; bottom row: Hannβ Herder // Vlrich / Lutz // Mr. Bartlome / Zäller.

A second description:

The main picture, framed by inscriptions at the top and bottom, shows Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, standing with his sceptre raised at the front left, at the installation of a judge, who is enthroned on the judgment seat surrounded by the people (2 Chr 19, 5-7). On all sides the representation is covered by the coats of arms of the choir court of Boltigen.

The 18-part wreath of arms begins above with the oval framed full coat of arms of the Kastlan of Obersimmental Abraham Walter. This is followed clockwise by the coats of arms of the following choir judges: Governor Hans Eschler, Kirchmeier Hans Kuhn, scribe Ulrich Im Obersteg, Heintzman Müller, Weibel Hans Grünenwald, court scribe Hans Stocker, Ulrich Bühler (Büeler), Bartholomäus Zeller, Ulrich Lutz Hans Herder, Old Churchwarden Stefan Knöri, New Churchwarden Bartholomäs Joneli, Old Churchwarden David Sulliger, Stefan Zwahlen, Benedikt Müller, Captain Hans Im Obersteg and Pastor Johann Grimm.

Looking at the list of other residents that comprised the Choir Court, and the 1653 chimney tax list thirty years earlier, it’s very likely that Heintzmann’s wife’s family is among these residents as well. Possibly his parents too. In fact, it’s likely that every single one of these people are related to each other in multiple ways and probably have been for generations. The perfect example of endogamy in this remote, sheltered, valley.

Chris provided a most helpful photo of the window with the names beside their shields.

click to enlarge

Heintzman Muller’s Shield

What does Heintzman Muller’s shield tell us?

Shields were inherited and identified the person and their family line in some way – often hung above doorways for tradesmen. A method of writing and identifying the craft of the person living there during a time in history when few could read or write. These shields, or blazons, were passed down in the family from father to son from at least the 1400s and 1500s.

Different family “branches,” especially if they were currently or historically in the same business as their ancestors, had similar but not exact heraldry. Keep in mind that the only way to learn a trade was as an apprentice – or to literally grow up “apprenticing” to your father.

As it turns out, the yellow “thing” (device) on Heintzman’s shield (blazon) is a cogwheel which was used in a mill to turn the wheel to grind the grain.

This article shows several examples, including the one shown in Heintzman’s shield.

The “cog-wheel”, also called a  “gear-wheel” or “mill-wheel”, with an embattled outer edge, is used in mechanisms from tiny clockworks to giant mill-works and is found in the canting arms (German Mühle, “mill”) of Mülinen c.1460 [GATD 20v].

Immanuel Giel 08:42, 29 October 2007 (UTC) (own photography)

Here’s an old German mill wheel, probably much like the Muller family mill wheels.

Looking at the coat of arms for Benedikt Muller, it’s a variation, only by color, of the same cog wheel. He was clearly a miller too, and not just by name.

This of course begs the question of whether these are two Muller lines, or one? Why are they both miller cog wheels, but different colors and positions?

Two Muller Lines, or One?

Back to Chris, again:

You’re very welcome for the choir court window mention earlier this year. I had a feeling you’d be fascinated with that like my family and I were.

Ringeison/-sen, Ringieson/-sen is an interesting surname. My maternal grandmother, is basically 100% Swiss-German Amish-Mennonite, and I know many Swiss-German surnames (Anabaptist or not), but I have never seen this surname often. I will keep my eye out for it in the future for you.

As for your Muellers (Mullers) in and around Boltigen, these might actually be two different families and male lineages, or at least sub-lineages. There are two Mueller coats-of-arms (specifically blazons = shields) on the choir court window. I’ve asked Rudolf, Aldo, and Ulrich about this, as well as some cousins in Switzerland.

The reason they urge caution against us thinking they were close lineages of the same family is two-fold.  The first is the number of mills in the Simmental, the second are the villages in the Simmental which are Mueller Heimatorts.

First, I need to mention that growing grain was common in the Simmental for centuries, from the Roman Era into the Renaissance. This valley grain was milled locally of course. Then, the continuing Little Ice Age (from about 1300-1870) made the climate too cold for lengthy hay seasons in the Alpine meadows and grain growing occurred on the valley floor. Wheat and barley growing switched to lower elevation areas, such as around the city of Bern (which helped it rise to power), and the Simmental floor was dedicated to hay production for winter feed. The higher Alpine meadows turned to summer-only pasture. This is now changing back as the world warms.

The history of St. Stephan tells us a little more, referencing the 1500s:

Traditionally the villagers raised crops on the valley floor for local consumption. Beginning in the 16th century, they started to trade for grain from the cities of the Swiss Plateau and raised cattle for meat, milk and cheese on the valley floor and in seasonal alpine herding camps.

Chris asks, “Where did your Mullers get their surname?” Chris isn’t the only one who wants to know.

Mills in the Simmental Valley

Chris provided a great deal of information about mills in the Simmental Valley. I’ve lightly edited his information to include mileage and maps.

Going downhill in the Simmental, there were two old grain mills in Lenk (23 km up the mountain, south, from Schwarzenmatt), and one near Zweisimmen (9 km south from Schwarzenmatt between Schwarzenmatt and Lenk, and the location of the ruins of an ancient castle from the 13th century.)

The Betelried mill in Zweisimmen is notable because it is a good example of an old dual-purpose mill, one with both saw (Säge) and grain (Getreide, Korn) – flour (Mehl). Its full name was Betelried Säge und Mühle.

And, amazingly, there are still two big old (ancient?) mill stones on the Furggeli (a slope and Alpine pasture) of the Albristhorn mountain, which is almost due east of St. Stephan.

People likely quarried these mill stones up there. But then how to bring them down?

Roll down carefully with many people and livestock assisting?


This mountain is not small, by any stretch of the imagination, and the Furggeli is located on the far side of the Albristhorn, meaning the stones would have to be brought around the mountain. Perhaps this explains why they were abandoned and remain as silent sentinels today. I can’t help but wonder how they were quarried, and when.

By H.sch.57 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8127483

Wouldn’t the mill stones crack? It would depend on the composition of the stone, granite vs. dolomite, and so on.

Moving, on, headed downriver along the Simme, there was a former grain mill south of Boltigen proper called the Eschi Mühle (2.4 km from Schwarzenmatt).

There’s a good chance your Miller family’s male line has a link to this place, but it may be another mill in the Simmental, and that’s the whole point of the caution.

The Eschi road is the first road off (a left) the Jaun Pass road. The Juan Pass road is one of the highest elevation paved roads in Europe and the Pass at 4,951 feet is one of the highest passes as well, which means that the homes of our ancestors were too.

That’s something to think about – Heintzmann and Michael were living at the highest elevation of (European) humanity at around 2700 feet above sea level and they probably had absolutely no idea!

Very close to Schwarzenmatt, the ‘inner’ Mühle road is off the Eschi road, but there is another Mühle road (‘outer’), very close by – just on the other side of the property – off the main Simmental highway = the old valley road.  This is all near where the Weissenbach (Wyssenbach; left bank), Garfbach (left bank), and Goldbach (right bank) flow into the Simme River.

Muhle translates to mill.

You’ve been in and around Boltigen and likely remember the road off the main highway, south of Boltigen, heading to Ruhren.

Also, you may remember the turnoff to the Jaun Pass, which is a bit closer to Boltigen than the Ruhren turnoff. There is also a road between Ruhren and the Jaunpass road, so it makes a ‘triangle’ of sorts.

There are three old sawmills near Boltigen (2.4 km north from Schwarzenmatt): the Säge Schwarzenmatt, Säge Reidenbach, and Säge Taubental. These are water-powered and may have originally been grain mills that transitioned to wood cutting in the Renaissance during the colder climate.

Then, there is another old (former = Ehemals) flour mill near Boltigen, for a total of two known for sure. This is the Mühle Wüstenbach in Oberwil (6.3 km southeast from Boltigen or 8.7 km from Schwarzenmatt). Downhill further there are two former flour mills at Därstetten (5.6 km southeast from Oberwil or 14.3 from Schwarzenmatt): the Obere and Untere Mühle along the Simme. To the south in the mountain forests there is also the Mühle Wampflen Zwischenflüh in Diemtigen, (19.8 km down-mountain from Schwarzenmatt.)

Then, there are two former mills in Erlenbach, (17.4 km southeast from Schwarzenmatt.) The Untere Mühle ground grain flour, but the Erlenbach Ölmühle made oil out of fatty seeds, e.g. mustard, flax (linseed), and perhaps poppy seeds or safflower seeds. Before the Simmental converted from Roman Catholic to Swiss Reformed, seed oil was important especially during Lent as suet and lard were verboten. One of the Simmental Muller families may have made flour while the others originally made oil.

Finally, there’s the old Latterbach Mühle, the old Obere Säge und Mühle in Wimmis (24.4 km southeast from Schwarzenmatt,) and apparently a current grain mill in Wimmis at the mouth of the Simme.

Reading about the villages and hamlets in the Simmental Valley, one would think they are both remote and sequestered. Surprisingly, there were castles built rather high into the valley to collect taxes and control the cross-mountain trade. Of course, the people living high in the valley, especially after the climate cooled and farming was relegated to the warmer valley floors would have had to travel to the lower elevations to trade with the people around Wimmis and Thun. Still, their families would have continued living in the higher elevations of the valley, especially considering travel was difficult at best, and by mule.


Nope. Wrong again.

This entire Muller family, beginning to end, is the perfect example of “never assume.”

Boltigen Zollikofen Connection

Chris had a surprising revelation, certainly not one that I expected.

click to enlarge

One of the Boltigen Muller families, according to its coat-of-arms (the gold on blue), also has a presence in Zollikofen just north of the city of Bern.

Chris was full of surprises:

So, I should mention that there’s the former Obere Mühle and Untere Mühle Reichenbach in Zollikofen, which you can see here. Both are near Reichenbach Castle along the River Aare. And, there’s the former Mühle Dietrich in Zollikofen as well. Maybe your family’s male line actually became Millers there?

The relevant Mueller coats-of-arms begin on this page.

Put the above mill locations in the Simmental together with the fact that there are three Boltigen Muller coats-of-arms and that there are Mullers with Heimatorts in Zweisimmen, Boltigen, Erlenbach, and Wimmis (but not Lenk nor Oberwil), and there’s a good chance that the two blazons on the choir court window represent two different families.

However, my gut says there’s a good chance the coir court window blazons are actually the same old male lineage with a shared trade passed down. Y-DNA testing would show of course. How could they be two families but the same male line? The split happened long enough ago that the blazons (shields) are not merely showing cadency = birth order. The memory of being related may have been lost.

I checked history about German and French heraldry online, especially how they showed cadency = birth order, as well as talking to Herr Dobler who has the useful Swiss heraldry site. Cadency was usually done with a single color change, such as the wheel changing color OR the background, not both. Or, a small object was added, such as a star, rose, etc.

In late Medieval, Renaissance, and modern Swiss heraldry people rarely if ever had personal arms, unlike in Britain where that’s the norm. Those blazons (shields) are definitely family-linked. Family-specific, not person-specific. The fathers and sons of those men on the choir court window would also use those same blazons = shields. After the Swiss got rid of most of their old nobility (Uradel), e.g. the Hapsburgs, it became common for all families to have what some historians and anthropologists call “civil arms.” Egalitarian. These are not tradesman marks or hausmarks per se. They are true heraldry, but non-nobles and gentry both had/have them.

At this point, I’m absorbing information like a sponge sucking water out of a fire hydrant, but the mention of Zollikofen stopped me right in my tracks.

I surely wonder when surnames were adopted in this part of Switzerland. When did a Hans who happened to be the local miller become Hans Muller and not just “Hans the miller down the mountain?” And then, one of his brothers or children moved, taking the family Blazon along to someplace far enough away that one would never think of a medieval family being so far removed.

Zollikoffen, Revisited

I really, really thought we had finally put Zollikoffen to bed, but it appears Zollikoffen woke up again and is now running unrestrained through the house, although cast perhaps in a different role this time.

Genealogy is always interesting

One upon a time, it was believed that Johann Michael Mueller the first (1655-1695), Heinzmann’s son but before we knew that, was from Zollikoffen, outside of Bern, Switzerland. Reportedly, a record existed in the church. I asked everyone who might know because I wanted to see the record and a translation. Trust me, we’ve hunted high and low. No one had ever seen that, but everyone had heard about it😊

How did that rumor ever begin?

Following the Thirty Years’ War, the Swiss were invited to settle in the portions of Germany that had been entirely depopulated during the conflict. Residents and citizens had either been killed, died of starvation or stayed where they found refuge for 30 years.

After the end of the war in 1648, thirty years later, the older people had died, the younger people had established lives, such as they were, and had no desire to return to a place they had never lived and where nothing remained. No houses, no churches, the fields had been destroyed and the forests had taken over once again. There was nothing to “go back” to.

Germans sweetened the deal by promising religious freedom and waiving taxes for several years. Therefore, many Swiss men or families, some Anabaptist, made their way to Germany.

In 2016 – 2018, I wrote a series of articles in which we documented three generations of Mueller/Muller/Miller men and their wives, beginning with the immigrant who was born in Steinwenden.

In the Steinwenden records, eventually, we discovered that the Muller, Ringeisen and Stutzman families were related to each other, and that the Ringeisen and Stutzman families originated in Erlenbach. Stutzman is also found in Schwarzenmatt. I wrote about that in the article, Muller, Ringeisen and Stutzman Families of Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland.

Erlenbach – does that location sound familiar? The Steinwenden church records state that Jakob Ringiesen is Michael Miller’s cousin, the Muller family has a heimatort in Erlanbach and there’s a mill. It appears that the Erlenbach church records exist, here, with some records reaching as far back as 1590. Again, no index or transcriptions.

Baptisms exist from 1590-1750, marriages from 1590-1668 and deaths from 1611-1735. I can’t help but wonder about the Muller names found there. If Jakob Ringeisen and Michael Miller are literal cousins, and that term wasn’t used loosely, they shared grandparents.

You’ll excuse me a minute while I drool over these stunning 13-15th century murals in the deceptively simple Erlenbach church, knowing that Heinzmann Muller and his ancestors likely stood right here. Whether this is “the” family or not, it’s likely that everyone in the valley was in each church from time to time.

By WillYs Fotowerkstatt – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16696191

Be still my heart!

Johann Michael’s father was revealed in his 1684 marriage record as Heinsmann Muller of Schwarzenmatt, and once we began to dig into those records, we also found Stutzman.

All roads led to Schwarzenmatt, where more information was revealed, and having confirmed our family line in the Simmental Valley, we could disregard the records in Zollikoffen.

Or could we?

Make no mistake, there is absolutely NO question about our ancestor Johann Michael Muller being the son of Heintzmann, Heinzmann or Heinsmann Muller/Mueller of Schwarzenmatt. His marriage record provided both his father’s name AND location. Thank goodness.

The problem in Zollikofen was that although there is a Muller family there, nothing else fit. However, since the Canton of Bern experienced an uprising in 1653, the combination of the Swiss uprising, the Miller family being Anabaptist in the US and the German’s making migration very appealing about the same time, those factors allowed Miller descendants to connect the dots. Unfortunately, those dots shouldn’t have been connected – a mistake still reflected in a great many online records and trees.

In 1996, cousin Reverend Richard Miller visited the church in Zollikofen where it was believed that Johann Michael Muller had been born. Lacking any other evidence, it was widely accepted that our Johann Michael Mueller began life about 1655 in Zollikofen.

Now, given the information provided by Chris, the heraldry website who cites the archives in Bern as the source of the Zollikofen and Boltigen shields, and that choir church window – it looks like maybe, in the greatest of ironys, the Schwarzenmatt and Zolikoffen families actually are the same historic family line. How is this even possible? These locations aren’t exactly close, about 41 miles – down a mountain and across a river, and given how many other mills and Mullers reside in-between, how can this be the same family?

Hmmm, maybe that history of trading in the valley when the climate cooled became a lot easier if you were trading with a line of your own family. Maybe.

Maybe the Zollikoffen Mullers found it particularly beneficial to have a family member at the trading gateway across the mountains. Maybe.

The Zollikofen Muller Records

So, what do we know about the Zollikofen line and how did early researchers make that connection?

I have no idea, but maybe a little genealogy archaeology will turn up some record or source someone might have used to link Michael Miller (the immigrant) and his parents with Zollikofen at some time in the past. It’s clear that no one today knows.

My friend Christoph, from Germany, asked in a very knowledgeable German genealogy chat room where he received a potential answer:

It appears that maybe the original connection between the Steinwenden line and Switzerland may have come from the little book by Fritz Braun, “Swiss and other Immigrants and Emigrants” in the reference KB Steinwend (1684-1780) from writings on the history of migration of the Palatinate, the note: “Michael Müller from Switzerland, lives in Steinwend.”

We could already have guessed this much about the Michael from Steinwenden, given the population of the other residents who were mostly Swiss. But that note would have sent researchers digging for Muller families in Switzerland, finding Zollikofen.

Working with German and Swiss researchers and original records, we find the following:

Not everything matches the “real” data in the KB of Bremgarten near Bern (Zollikofen belongs to this parish).

In 1655 I found the following baptisms there:

    • 1/21/1655 – Hans / parents: Hans M. & Anna Wyß
    • 2/04/1655 – Hans Rudolph / parents: Hans M. & Anna Schönauer
    • 4/01/1655 – Hans / parents: Tobias M. & Verena Müller

In 1655, no other Hans Müller were baptized here.

I don’t find any Michael Müller anywhere!

But there is the following couple:

Hans Rudolph Müller & Salome Huber, married February 18, 1653 in Bremgarten
they baptize the following children in Bremgarten:

    • July 29, 1655 > Anna
    • 08.1657> Hans

Other children (according to FamilySearch):

    • 04.1659> Barbara
    • 01.1661> Benedikt
    • 09.1662> Katharina
    • 04.1664> Peter
    • 04.1667> Peter
    • 04.1670> Elsbeth
    • 02.1673> Niklaus
    • 01.1679> Christina

The information from FamilySearch needs to be verified

The Millers from Zollikofen BE were found in the Billeter.

Here is the baptism of Jacob Hans Rudolph Müller on November 13th, 1625 in Bremgarten, perhaps the beginning of the solution to this riddle.

Hans Rudolph, who was married to Salome Huber in 1653, is only listed as Rudolph/Rudi M. in later baptisms.

When original records from Zollikofen were checked, there was no Johann Michael Mueller/Muller to be found.

Now, it appears that perhaps this Zollikofen family is indeed connected with our Schwarzenmatt Muller family. I can’t help but notice the name Benedikt Muller among Rudolph’s children which isn’t terribly common and is found in the Schwarzenmatt records as early as 1502, as well as in the window in 1683.

I can’t help but think about erroneous conclusions we would have reached had we found a Muller male from the Zollikofen line and their Y DNA had matched our Miller line in the US. Fortunately, we didn’t, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of me trying.

Chris had more information to offer.

Heimatorts, Heraldry and Families

The more I dig, the more I see that Simmental families often had very deep, old links to the Aaretal, or Aare River region, which is not what many Americans would assume and also not what many Swiss today would assume either.

This connection was either to the upper Aaretal along the pair of lakes, Thunersee into which the Simme empties, and Brienzersee, which used to be one lake until the land with Interlaken silted up, to villages such as Interkirchen, Meiringen, Brienz, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Ringgenberg, and Beatenberg.

Or, the connection was to the lower Aaretal, such as to Thun (arguably not that far away at the north end of Lake Thunersee, but still another geographic and sub-cultural world); Steffisburg, Münsingen, Rubigen, Muri, Bern, Bolligen, and Zollikofen.

When I say connection, I don’t mean only surname registry and heraldry, but sometimes records used to build verified trees. It’s multifaceted.

Thinking out loud. My family has this same problem with our Jaggis. We aren’t 100% certain if Benedicta Jaggi’s family was from higher in the Simmental, or if she and/or her parents were born in the Aaretal e.g. Meiringen area. There are Jaggis in both areas, and they appear to be the same family. Some Swiss surnames are much rarer than others, and the heraldry information often lists multiple village Heimatorts, sometimes many miles apart. And of course they were naming children the same names each generation. On Ancestry some user-submitted trees have Jaggi guy A and Jaggi daughter B… from the lake area, and other trees have Jaggi guy M and Jaggi daughter N from the Simmental in the same slots. I have spent more time on the Redigers and Boltigen history lately to untangle this. It will be done.

I’ll bang out a fast map for you showing the Mueller Heimatorts in Canton Bern, especially the Simmental, as well as where the heraldry records show lineages and which blazons (shields) apply to which places.

This information – the official Swiss surname/location rosters and the heraldry registration, old and modern – often overlaps perfectly, but not always. One way to look at the ‘gap’ of not overlapping is as a discrepancy… and sometimes maybe it is. Another way, cautiously optimistic, is that the differences help show the bigger true picture. If the first three dozen pages of an old American Heritage or Websters dictionary fell out and were lost, and the last four dozen pages of an old Oxford English Dictionary likewise fell out and were lost… the two can be used as one even though their word set and definitions are not exactly the same. Together they make a usable whole. What’s missing in one is present in the other, but not exactly, and that’s ok.

Maps! Chris, bless you, bless you, bless you…you’re an official cousin now!

Heimatort and Heraldry Maps

Chris created two maps.

click to enlarge

The first map, above, shows all of the pre-1800 (so, late 1400s, early 1500s to 1799) Muller Heimatorts in Canton Bern, the data from here.

click to enlarge

The second map shows ~20 of the Canton Bern Muller coats-of-arms (specifically blazons) arranged on a zoomed-in map of part of the Canton. The brown rectangles represent flour or seed mills.

As you can see, there are three blazons present at/for Boltigen. I have these simply lined up; they are not adjacent to imply they are equivalent or related. The one with the or (gold/yellow) mill wheel on the blue field is also found in Zollikofen, and the listing for these arms mentions both towns for this blazon, so this is not a coincidence.

You can definitely see some patterns on the map. Differences and connections. And, there are some good examples of cadency. The male line at Reichenback in the Kander Valley is obviously a branch of the male line at Spiez.

With a dozen old mills in the Simmental, it makes sense that there were potentially four different male lineages with the surname Muller. There are four (a fifth at Darstetten was found after this map was created) different Simmental blazons if the black-on-gold and yellow-on-blue are not branches of the same male line. I’d say the chances of them being different vs. related are 60-40 or maybe 70-30.

One Simmental Mueller line is from Zweisimmen, from the mill Betelried. One family is probably named after the mill just upstream of Boltigen at Eschi, and one is probably named after their work at the Wüstenbach (Oberwil) mill just downstream from Boltigen. The fourth Simmental (= third Boltigen) red wheel on yellow background arms and family would be connected to one of the other mills in the valley.

Note that Erlenbach (birthplace of Jakob Ammann (born in 1644 and died between 1712-1730), Anabaptist leader after conversion between 1671-1680, and namesake of the Amish religious movement, and Wimmis are two official pre-1800 Muller Heimatort locations in the Simmental, but they do not have their own blazons listed. This must be a factor. We have four Simmental Heimatorts and four Simmental blazons. I don’t think this is coincidence. This indicates four independent ‘Miller’ families. Or, there are three distinct lines and the fourth blazon/family is a sub-lineage of another. I think this is less likely but the possibility is worth mentioning.

Boltigen as you know is halfway up/down the Simmental Valley (above) along the Simme River, and so people gravitated to it over the centuries. It became a ‘catch all’ village for other Simmental locales. It has a relatively large amount of overlap in surnames with villages both up and down the valley.

This technique helps untangle some strings, and shows apples vs. oranges. I find that visually mapping out the Heimatorts and blazons can be very useful. I’ve done this with other Swiss surnames before, trying to determine if we’re dealing with totally different families or different sub-lines of the same large, old family.  And sometimes the Y-DNA data later verifies the connections or differentiations.

Peter Mosimann

In 2018, Chris in Germany found Peter Mosimann who had authored a 2015 out-of-print book about Boltigen.

If anyone has or finds this book, I’ll buy it!

Peter was kind enough to copy chapter 25 and send it along, from which sprung the article about the Muller House of Kreuzgasse. This house remains in his wife’s family many generations later.

In a letter which I recently found again when researching this article, Peter provided some additional information.

In addition to the Boltigen blazon, Peter had found a Muller mill in Darstetten.

Peter wasn’t researching Heintzmann Muller specifically, because he didn’t know which Muller man, Heintzmann or Wolfgang in 1653 lived in the Schwarzenmatt home that was passed down in his wife’s family.

I, on the other hand, was specifically interested in Heintzmann, especially since the name was so unique.

Peter said that the name Heintzmann was found in the Boltigen area records until at least 1779, another century.

Peter’s comments, translated using DeepL and Google translate:

In 1679 -1703 a Heintzman Müller was a choir judge and in 1687-1691 Kilchmeyer:

    • Choir Court Manual Boltigen II: p. 61, 87, 103, 118, 208, 221
    • Choir Court Manual Boltigen III: p. 2, 113, 171
    • Chorgerichtmanual Boltigen IV: p. 4:

The choir court manuals can be found in the community archive of Boltigen in Reidenbach.

The baptismal register 1710-1761 from Boltigen shows 3 boys born to Heintzmann Müller and Barbara Zmoos.:

    • July 13, 1712 a Heintzman Müller
    • July 13, 1721 a Jacob Müller
    • June 6, 1726 a Niclaus Müller

Unfortunately, the exact place of residence is missing in all three cases.

Well, this is deflating because it means that the Heintzmann Mueller in the 1683 wndow may have been the Heintzmann Muller who was a member of the choir court until 1703. In which case, he’s NOT the deceased Heintzmann who was the father of Michael Miller noted in April 1684.

What Does This Mean?

There’s actually quite a bit of information revealed.

  • We know that Heintzman Mueller was deceased by his son Johann Michael’s marriage on April 17, 1684 in Miseau, Germany.
  • We know that in 1683 when this stained glass window was created, both Heintzman Muller and Benedikt Mueller were choir court judges.
  • We know that the Boltigen burial records are missing through 1683, but not 1684 and Heinzmann is not listed in 1684, leading to the tentative conclusion, which had to be revised almost immediately, that Michael’s father, Heintzman died after the window was created in 1683 but before April 1684.
  • In the window, Heintzman has the honorific of Hr., Herr, before his name where Benedikt does not. At that time, Hr would have indicated respect, similar to “Mister” or “sir” today, literally “my lord” or “worthy gentleman” at that time. This might suggest, perhaps, that Heintzman is older and Benedikt is not?
  • We know that Heintzman Muller is recorded as a choir court judge until 1703, but we don’t know if there is more than one Heintzman Muller involved as a choir court judge. In other words, could that 1683 window have been Michael’s father who was deceased by 1684?
  • If this Heintzman in the window is a brother of Johann Michael Muller, and was born between 1650 and 1660, he would have been age 33-43 when the window was created, and 53 in 1703, the last year a man by that name appears as a choir court judge.
  • We know, based on the shields of both Heintzman and Benedikt Muller than their occupations were millers, although possibly either different family lines or related more distantly and/or milling different types of products; flour vs seeds.
  • We know that there are at least four Muller heimatorts in the Simmental Valley and four shields. This chart attempts to correlate the heimatorts, shields and the various mill locations from the maps in order from north to south, with distance from Schwarzenmatt.
Twelve Mills in Six Villages Four Mueller  Heimatorts in Simmental (and Aaretal) Five Mueller Simmental Shields (Heraldry)
Lenk – 23 km S of Schwarzenmatt (up the mountain) None None
Other mills in the Simmental, e.g. Zweisimmen – 9.5 km S of Schwarzenmatt Z2 – Zweisimmen Zweisimmen Mueller coat of arms (blue with silver stars)
Boltigen – 2 mills, one flour mill just S at Eschi (2 km S of Schwarzenmatt) and one just N at Oberwil (8.7 km N of  Schwarzenmatt or 6.3 from Boltigen) – also three old saw mills that might have previously been flour or seeds B4 – Boltigen = the “other” Boltigen families Boltigen blue-on-gold shield (Benedikt) OR Boltigen red-on-gold shield found later at Bern
Darstetten – 2 mills – 12.4 km N of Schwarzenmatt None Darstetten, golden arrow through golden half mill wheel on blue background
Erlenbach – 2 mills, one for flour and one for seed oil – 17.4 km N of Schwarzenmatt E3 – Erlenbach Possibly Boltigen blue-on-gold shield found in Zollikofen OR Boltigen red-on-gold shield found later at Bern
Wimmis – 3 mills – 24.4 km N of Schwarzenmatt W3 – Wimmis Further from Boltigen, so less likely to be one of the Boltigen shields
Zollikofen near Bern – 2 mills; village (and mill?) connected with a Boltigen family and mill, possibly Eschi? – 67 km N of Schwarzenmatt Z1 – Zollikofen = one of the families also in Boltigen Boltigen blue on gold shield in both Zollikofen and Boltigen in choir court window for Heinsmann Mueller
  • The two closest mills without an assigned blazon are the mill as Eschi and at Oberwill. However the closest mills with Muller heimatorts are Boltigen and Erlenbach.
  • Given that both men are found in the Boltigen choir court window, it’s likely that they lived in adjacent hamlets with mills on the Simme, closer to Boltigen than the next churches in the valley. In this case, the distinction between a village and a hamlet would be that a hamlet is a small collection of farms that used to be one farm long ago. A hamlet wouldn’t likely have a church and people who lived there would attend church in the closest village – in this case, Boltigen. Using this logic, this suggests that both Heintzmann and Benedict lived on the yellow road which follows the Simme within the red circle, below, the edges positioned half-way to the next location with a church.

  • Given that both Oberwil and Zweisimmen had churches at that time, it makes sense that all 3 Boltigen Muller families with shields would have had mills located where it was close to attend the Boltigen church than either the Zeisimmen or the Oberwil church. In the case of the Heintzmann and Wolfgang, they unquestionably attended the Boltigen church and were held in quite high esteem. Therefore, I would suggest that one of the shields was unquestionably the Eschi mill and perhaps at least one of the Boltigen saw mills was at one time a flour mill, or that perhaps we are missing a record of a mill. Were there two at Eschi? The next most likely location is Oberwill, but that does not explain why a miller living in Oberwill attended church in Boltigen. The next location is Darstetten and we know that miller is not one of the Boltigen millers.
  • Chris points out that a dozen mills in the Simmental Valley obviously shows that not all mills lead to a lineage having the surname Muller/Mueller associated with the mill. This is assuming, reasonably, that each mill was linked with one male line in medieval times, e.g. 13th and 14th century.
  • The common miller occupation, combined with the fact that we know two Muller families lived in Schwarzenmatt based on the chimney or hearth tax list from 1653, strongly suggests that indeed, the Muller men, Heintzman and Wolfgang, living 5 houses apart in Scharzenmatt are relatives.
  • We know that Heintzman Muller, Michael’s father, was living in Schwarznmatt near Wolfgang in 1653.
  • We know that there may be more Miller records in the unindexed church records after 1594 and before 1627 in Boltigen and potentially in Erlenbach where Ringiesen is found, St. Stephan and Zweisimmen where Muller is found, and other villages in the Simmental Valley.
  • We know, based on the 1653 chimney tax lists that two additional Muller men are living in the neighboring hamlet of Eschi.
  • Thanks to Chris, we know that Heintzmann or any similar name including Heinz and Heinrich are not in the Boltigen church record births between 1610-1627, the latest time that records are available, nor in the Zollikofen records through 1630.
  • We know, based on the Mannrechtsrodel or passport that in 1720, a Michael Muller from Zweisimmen emigrated, and that in 1726, 1732, 1752 and 1754 that other Muller men left Boltigen (which would have included the smaller surrounding hamlets) including one Wolffgang and Benedikt – names that repeat in the Schwarzenmatt family and Benedikt in Zollikofen.
  • Benedikt and Heintzman who have panes in the church window were not likely brothers and may not have been related, although the blazons tell us that Heintzman and the Zollikofen Muller family are related. We find a Benedikt in Zollikofen and Heintzman was Michael’s father’s name, so the yellow wheel on blue is likely the shield associated with Michael Miller’s father’s line.
  • Michael’s father, Heintzman would have been born in or before 1633, based on Michael’s birth about 1655 and the 1653 chimney tax list. Heintzman’s father would have been born in or before 1603. If Heinzmann’s father was not Wolfgang, he was dead or living someplace else in 1653.
  • Benedikt was not on the 1653 list in Schwarzenmatt, but one Wolfgang Muller was. The name Benedikt does not repeat in my family line. One Benedikt was on the 1683 Choir Court window. Bendikt was also among the children born to Rudolph in 1661 in Zollikofen, although the name Rudolph is not found in our Miller line either. Both a Wolfgang and Benedikt left Boltigen (region) in the 1700s, so those names were still in use then.
  • The name Heintzmann was found in the records as late as 1779.
  • If these families sharing the blue and gold blazon sprung from the same source, given where they lived, Schwarzenmatt and Zollikofen, it was likely some generations earlier. Given that Rudolph Muller was born in 1625 and Heintzmann was born in or before 1633, they are clearly separated by more than one generation.
  • Given the length of time that the Muller line was in Schwarzenmatt (1502), why is there no heimatort there?
  • While initially, I thought the choir court window established the death year of Heinsmann Mueller in 1683, additional information that one Heintzmann Muller was a choir court judge as late as 1703 calls the identity of the Heintzmann in the 1683 window into question.
  • Given that Heintzmann in 1683 is associated with the gold mill wheel on blue background, and that heraldry was hereditary within a family line, it’s likely that Heintzmann, Michael’s father, was a miller as well.
  • The Muller home in the Peter Mosimann family is not located directly on the Simme River, which is not to discount the possibility of Heintzman also owning a mill, but living a short distance away in a prime trading location.
  • The fact that Benedikt is missing from the 1653 tax list in Schwarzenmatt suggests he is living elsewhere, or that he was living with his parents in 1653. Either Heintzmann or Benedikt of 1683 could have been sons of Heintzmann or Wolfgang in 1653, or someone else.

It would be quite interesting to know if the hearth or chimney tax lists exist for any of the other villages and hamlets in the Simmental Valley, and if any other Muller families were living there in 1653. Perhaps we can find Benedikt or other Muller men.

When reviewing the pages of the hearth list that were provided by Peter and Christoph, I noticed that Eschi is listed just beneath Schwarzenmatt and I can see something that looks like Mulford Muller but the writing is difficult to read and the list may be continued on the following following page, although Eschi is smaller than Schwarzenmatt.

Then, it occurred to me that perhaps that word is not Mulford, which is clearly NOT a German name, so I asked my wonderful friend and cousin, Tom, translator of German-words-I-cannot-read to take a look.

Those two names are in fact:

  • Michael Müller, the younger
  • Michael Müller, the elder

Eschi, the tiny hamlet on the Simme with the mill, maybe 200 feet from side to side, within sight of the larger hamlet of Schwarzenmatt, had two Michael Muller adults living there in 1653.

Two years later, Heintzmann Muller would have a son that he would name Johann Michael Muller. Given the history of children being named after godparents who are generally relatives, promising to raise them in the ways of the church should their parents perish, it’s likely that one of these Michael Mullers was the Godfather of our Michael Muller who would one day leave the Simmental for Steinwenden.

Heintzman’s father could have been Wolfgang, his near neighbor in 1653, or, Wolfgang could have been a cousin, uncle, brother or perhaps, even not related, although that’s unlikely given the repeat names of Wolfgang, Benedict, Heintzmann and Michael beginning as early as 1502.

Whoever knew that a window could lead to so much information about our Muller family – in particular tying Heintzman Muller of 1683 to the Zollikofen Muller family through their shields – along with launching a whole slew of new questions.

Following the trail, in this case, the mule path of our ancestors is always an amazing experience.

We’re very fortunate that Chris found this window, which turned out to be a gateway to much, much more. I’m ever so grateful to Chris for his many emails and so generously sharing his invaluable research. We are kindred spirits in our tenacity. I couldn’t have written this article without him, along with Christoph, Tom and Peter Mosimann’s original work to preserve the history of the humble Muller house on Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt.



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14 thoughts on “Heintzman Muller and the Mystery of the Boltigen Choir Court Window – 52 Ancestors #314

  1. So this part of the story just doesn’t want to end, to our enjoyment! ^__^

    You wrote: “In the window, Heintzman has the honorific of Hr., Herr, before his name where Benedikt does not. At that time, Hr would have indicated respect, similar to “Mister” or “sir” today, literally “my lord” or “worthy gentleman” at that time. This might suggest, perhaps, that Heintzman is older and Benedikt is not?”

    I have another theory. Where the Hr would normally be, there is a reparation. Maybe the one who fixed this had to replace the original glass and didn’t have the skill to paint fancy letter, so he left the “Hr” part blank. All the names start from the upper left corners right away, Benedikt is the only one which start away. And there’s just the space to have a “Hr” there…

    • I didn’t even notice that. Thank you. You’re right. This is the story that doesn’t end. I’m hoping somehow to add more someday. Every time I think I’m done, I’m not. Finding this much through the generosity of so many has been surreal.

      • Well, I took stained glass lessons years ago, so I have a basic understanding of what is intended and what is not. And trivia, like the glass cutter and lead frame crafter is not always the same person as the painter. It seems this one is all clear glass, with paint giving all the colors. Some other stained glass have some color glass and some clear.

        As for everyone being so helpful, they all want the next chapter of the story, too. xD

  2. So wonderful to get a sense of the landscape. My paternal grandmother’s family were the group that emigrated from this region in 1800s. French and German names from Bas-Rhin and Baden. Some early roots in Switzerland. I have to take another look.

  3. Hi, Ms. Roberta!!
    Thanks once again for another interesting and informative article.

    My (M/Px2/M) 2 G-GMother was:

    Elizabeth *”Muelheim”*
    b: 1874 · Switzerland
    d: 1925 · Pennsylvania-USA

    Her father (my (M/Px2/M/P) )
    3 G-GFather was:

    Jacob *”Muelheim”*
    b: 1835· Switzerland
    d: (??) · (??)


    (but there are so many in my DNA matches that I haven’t started searching them yet — “currently” (since 2018 LOL) researching my father’s lineage).

    I did not know the meaning of “Mul-” until I read this article . . . could you please tell me what “-heim” means?? (I don’t know much about German language).

    Thanks for any help you can offer.☺


  4. Wow.
    Very impressive.
    My own aha moment from arms involved finding “HEXT” and “HICKS” had basically the same shield in the Tamar Valley in Cornwall, so the first was therefore a variant of the second. My people were at the opposite end of the country, and probably no relation, but it spurred me to discover that this was in fact the case for my ancestors, after looking at lots of church records.
    Much more recently, Australian records of stock brands (horses, cattle, sheep) can also be useful in putting families back together if they have a much-used surname.

  5. Geography was very important in the lives of my farmers. In one area, successive generations edged further eastwards until the rain ran out, and they had to go somewhere very different. Finding what life was like in that area, and where they went next was quite difficult but very rewarding.
    In this case, human resources was not some hated department, but described some wonderful individuals who either had the information I needed or planted the seed of how to find it.
    Visiting a location can also really help. And it can now be virtual as Roberta has demonstrated countless times.

  6. Very interesting and impressive!! This was also a little frustrating for me – as my name is Christopher Muller and the shortest dead-end branch on my tree is my MULLER line. The earliest Muller ancestor I know is my 2nd GGF, William Frederick Muller born ~1856 in Germany and immigrated to New York City around 1875 (I suspect he was born either Wilhelm Friedrich or Friedrich Wilhelm.) I have found all the available records for him in New York, including naturalization paperwork, but nowhere is his hometown mentioned. I know of no siblings he had; he married twice and had 7 children. His death certificate mentions his father Frederick Muller but nothing more. With such a common name, it seems like an impossible task to find any further definitive link in Germany. I do analyze my DNA results (mostly on Ancestry) but none that I can definitively link further back than my William Frederick. My hope is that one day a match will appear with a tree that I can link to my Muller line…

  7. Indeed very interesting and fascinating! Regarding “Heimatort”, you wrote “In Switzerland, citizenship has three levels. A heimatort refers to either “home place” or “citizen place,” not to be confused with place of birth or place of residence. A person may have been born or live in a different place than his or her heimatort, which confers specific legal rights and obligations.
    In Switzerland, both historically and currently, people are identified by their heimatort, or place of origin, not their birthplace or place of residence. However, all three of those locations are sometimes one and the same.”
    This is absolutely right, but the word “Heimatort” is more than that. I was born in Dithmarschen, Germany, but my Heimatort is Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein. I was 5 years old when we moved to Kiel. It is more than specific legal rights and obligations, the word is even about feelings – it was in Kiel I grew up, went to school, made friends, got a job… For me, thinking of my “Heimatort” Kiel always gives me positive feelings. So – it ´s more than just a word.

  8. Maybe other readers of Roberta’s blog might know.
    Was there a term for someone living away from their Heimat-ort?
    Similar to the English “sojourner” for a temporary relocation?

    • That place should be “Aufenthaltsort”, but this is more like place of residence. The english “sojourner” could be “Besucher” although I think Besucher means visitor. I live in Sweden, away from my “Heimatort” but I cannot recall a special term for what I am. It´s a bit like – after about 40 (of 70) years in Sweden, I cannot give a good answer to the question “are you swedish now, or still german?”

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