When you think of a Swiss village, you think of a Swiss chalet and the Swiss Alps. That is exactly what I saw when I visited Grindelwald in November 1965. The Valley of Grindelwald is referred to by Hans Michel in "Grindelwald-The Glacier Valley" as among the most beautiful in Switzerland. I agree with that statement as surrounded by Alps and other beautiful scenery. It makes you wonder why someone would want to leave such an area. The Valley is sixteen kilometers in length (about ten miles) as it it runs west to east. The Valley and Village of Grindelwald are located in the Bern Canton of Switzerland and east of Interlaken in the German speaking part of Switzerland. Mr. Michel describes the language as High Alemannic, and that the dialect of the valley has dtrong intonation which has earned it the description of singing. In the German language Grindelwald means the wood at Grindel (Wooden Fence).
When our ancestor, Hildebrand Inabnit, was living in Grindelwald, the main occupation was farming and raising cattle, goats and sheep. The cattle were used for dairy farming, and milk was used to make a full cream cheese. Now, Grindelwald is a popular winter sports area.
Grindelwald, the village, is about the size of Smithville, DeKalb Co, Tennessee. Mr. Michel states that the population in 1737 was 1673, in 1900 it was 3346 and in 1950 it was 3053. When I was there in 1964, the owner of the shop where I purchased the book on Grindelwald was owned by an Inabnit family. So one can easily see that we probably still have many Inabnit cousins living in Grindelwald today.
Hildebrand probably left Switzerland around 1738-1742 while a very young man for better economic opportunities in America. His christening is recorded as
1725-4 Mar (IGI)
-In Aebnit, Hiltbrand Christening son of Peter In Aebnit/Anna Braband, Grindelwald, Switzerland
According to Faust, in "Lists of Swiss Emigrants In The Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies", Hiltbrand emigrated to America from Switzerland with his sister Catharina (Cathri) Inaebnit and her husband Hans Muller, and other Swiss emigrants, sometime between 1738-1742. The exact date is unknown, as Swiss Records list several dates, but all between 1738-1742. His emigration tax was not paid until 1744.
The decision to leave their homeland could not have been easy for Hiltbrand, his sister and her husband. Emotionally, they must have felt torn, leaving the rest of their family behind, not knowing if they would ever see them again (research indicates that they did not), and going to a strange land of which they knew little, but had heard much! Travel in those days was much different than today! Several weeks or months were required to complete the journey. Many ships were wrecked. Food and water were scarce, as what was taken aboard had to last the length of the trip. Many were sick and a great number died enroute. Life was difficult!
The Swiss government had passed laws to prevent emigration to the American Colonies. Emigrants would lose their citizenship, land right, and property. There was also an emigration tax which amounted to 100 pounds on property of 1000 pounds, which was a hefty sum! However, those who stayed in Switzerland faced continued persecution, both political and religious, and this, along with the possibility or dream of religious freedom and a better life for their families, became the driving force behind a great exodus of Swiss/German emigrants to the American Colonies in the early 1700s.
Upon his arrival in America, Hiltbrand settled in Cocalico Township, Lancaster Co., PA which had a large element of German-Speaking immigrants so one can assume that Hiltbrand continued to speak German. This area of Pennsylvania also included many other immigrants from Switzerland.
- Faust, Albert Bernhardt & Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, Editors, "Lists of Swiss Emigrants In The Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies", National Genealogical Society, Washington, DC, 1925.
- Michel, Hans, "Grindelwald-The Glacier Valley", Paul Haupt Berne, Switzerland, 1953.
- Grindelwald - Discover Its Beauty and History!
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