The Rubeli family were religious refugees to Germany from Switzerland in early 1672. They were forced to leave Canton Bern because of their belief in the Anabaptist faith. They immigrated to the part of Germany that was called Pfalzfgrafschaft bei Rhein (the present-day Palatinate or Pfalz Region). Christian Rubeli and his wife Anna Muller were my 8th great grandparents and they brought their 6 youngest children with them, including, my 7th great grandfather, Hans Theobald Rubeli, who was only 10 years old, to the village of Fischbach to receive aid from earlier Anabaptist migrants.
Data and Sources Concerning the Origins of the Family
A book is written about the farm the Rubeli lived on outside Otterberg in Germany called Messerschwanderhof claims Christian Rubeli was born in Langnau, Bern, Switzerland. His father may have been Peter Rubeli and his mother may have been a Gungerich. This is a link to the website where Christian Rubeli’s family lived on their farm after he settled down in Germany: Messerschwanderhof. The buildings you can see on that webpage were most likely built after his death. Because new research continually comes out to aid those researching Mennonite ancestry, I wrote this post using the following sources:
Der Messerschwanderhof by Herman Karch, Section on the Rubeli (translated to English);
Langnau and Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach Reformed Church Records;
Bernese Anabaptists and Their American Descendants by Delbert L. Gratz;
Palatine Mennonite Census Lists 1664-1793;
History of the Bernese Anabaptists by Ernst Muller, Minister in Langnau;
Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners Vol 1-4, by Richard Warren Davis;
Contwig Reformed and Catholic Church Records;
Nunschweiler and Weisbach Catholic Church Records;
French and Swiss History; and
The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (Gameo.org).
The Family in Switzerland
At the suggestion of a distant cousin, I found the Rubeli family in Bernese Anabaptists and Their American Descendants, because they were listed among the names of Anabaptist families living in Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach in the Thun area of the canton in the second half of the 17th Century. Christian Rubeli was born in 1620. (sources: Mennosearch.com and Emigrants Refugees and Prisoners) I could not find any church record to back up the information in Der Messerschwanderhof that Christian was born in Langnau, Bern. He was simply not in the records available to me. The researcher of the book checked and stated there were no Rubeli mentioned in the oldest church records of Oberdiessbach dating to 1587. The author also stated that the Rubeli likely left Langnau for Oberdiessbach because of persecution by the sovereign and said that Christian’s father Peter bought a house from his brother-in-law Hans Gungerich in Oberdiessbach in 1630. Gungerich, according to the data in Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners and Mennosearch.com, was a prominent surname in the Oberdiessbach area and they were all Anabaptists. Because of the amount of Gungerich in that area, I believe it is impossible to figure out which woman could have been Christian Rubeli’s mother.
I too searched the Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach records to 1587 and also found no Rubeli. I do agree with the author of Der Messerschwanderhof that they weren’t from Oberdiessbach, but the Langnau records didn’t prove Christian Rubeli was born there either.
Der Messerschwanderhof, if I am understanding the translation to English, and perhaps something happened in the translation, Peter Rubeli, supposed father of Christian, perished in the Thirty Years War. First of all, it could be very likely that the rich men of the canton sent a Rubeli or Rubelis as mercenaries to fight for a foreign power in the Thirty Years War. That is what the Swiss did, and that’s how the rich men in Switzerland kept their money… So I checked the dates of the 30 Years War because I planned to write the Bernese archives about Swiss mercenary rolls to see if it was possible to get any military data regarding Peter Rubeli. So I looked up the Thirty Years War. I then realized that given the dates of the Thirty Years War, there was a problem with what was in Der Messerschwanderhof. There are two things that I think aren’t accurate with that if that man was our Peter Rubeli. 1. The Anabaptists refused the oath and were against violence, and that was a main reason for their persecution; and 2. If Peter Rubeli, Christian’s father, did perish in the Thirty Years War, he wouldn’t be there to have the children the book claims descend from him and also probably couldn’t buy that house.
SO! there are three things we can surmise from what is in Der Messerschwanderhof:
-Christian’s father was not Peter or one of these Peters. Gungerich is not the last name of his mother either.
-Christian’s father bought the house in 1630 and was not in the war.
-Christian’s father did perish in the war and it angered his children who then trended to follow the anti-State religion – Anabaptism. This makes for a better story.
The only way to know is to go to Switzerland and visit the archives in Bern. Either way, you cannot take the translation of the book literally.
At this time, I do not have any verifiable data on the mother of Christian Rubeli besides the possiblity she was could be a Gungerich (again, if Der Messerschwanderhof is correct). Additionally, the only information I have on Christian Rubeli’s wife is that she was named Anna Muller, the church record of St. Alban’s in Oberdiessbach states she married Christian Rubeli on December 2, 1642, and she was obviously in the baptisms of her children, including the baptism of my 7th great grandfather Hans (Theobald) Rubeli pictured below.
The Rubeli – Muller Migration
In 1671-1672, persecution of the Anabaptists in Switzerland was at it worst. In November 1671, 200 persons had come to the Palatinate from Switzerland, including cripples, and elderly people ages 70-90. They arrived destitute, having walked, with bundles on their backs, and their children in their arms. In January 1672, 215 Swiss came to the west of the Rhine, and 428 came to the east of the Rhine. (sources: Gameo. link, History of the Bernese Anabaptists.
With that data, I suspect that Christian, Anna Muller and 6 of their younger children, including our 10 year old Hans Rubeli, were part of the 215 Swiss Anabaptists that arrived west of the Rhine in January 1672 – because the data in Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners and Mennosearch.com, says Christian “was called Christen Roling when he was listed as a Swiss Anabaptist refugee in April 1672 at Fischbach, Germany. He was age 52 and his wife Anna Muller was 50 years. They had 8 children, 6 with them, with the oldest 20 years.” Fischbach was west of the Rhine River. The following are the children of Christian and Anna that came to Germany:
Barbli- 20, Anna-16, Christian-14, Hans (Theobald)-10, Nikolas-8, and Madlena-3.
Source: Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners, Mennosearch.com.
Eventually, our Hans married a lady named Anna Liesbeth, who may also have been a refugee, they had at least 6 children somewhere near Biedershausen, Germany. If you are a Rubeli researcher reading this, there is misinformation on this website you may be familiar with: Rubli. As you can see, Hans Theobald was only 10 when he got to Germany, he didn’t marry his future wife Anna Liesbeth in Switzerland, bring her to Germany and have my 6th great grandfather, Balthasar Jakob, the Gerichtsschoffe. Hans and Anna Liesbeth were already there in Germany.
In my search, Has and Anna Liesbeth had Balthasar near Biesdershausen in 1690. I found Hans Theobald RUBELI listed as a resident of the Contwig area of the Palatinate with his wife Anna Elisabetha on June 27, 1695 in the Catholic Parish. They are not Catholic residents. The nearest big town to Contwig is Zweibrucken. In 1720 in the Reformed Church records of Contwig, Hans Theobald is listed as a “common man” and the name is spelled Rubli. Contwig is also a couple of miles from Nunschweiler, birthplace of Johann Leies and Emilie Bold. Hans Theobald’s children appear in the local Reformed Church records, while Balthasar appears in both the local Reformed and Catholic records. The name changes to Rubly, Rubli, Ruble, and Rubel in the early 1700s in Germany. Balthasar married Anna Elisabetha Stuppi, and their daughter Anna Margaretha Rubly (as it was spelled in the Nunschweiler Catholic Church records) married Johannes Leyes, making them the 3rd great grandparents to Anne Leies Ferraro. Sources: Contwig, Weisbach, and Nunschweiler church records.
The Children Left in Switzerland
Christian and Anna’s oldest son Peter Rubeli didn’t accompany them to Germany according to the Fischbach refugee list. According to Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners, “he was a Mennonite of Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach when he was to be sent to Pennsylvania on April 17, 1709. He was in jail at the orphanage at Bern with his wife Margaret Engle. Ulrich Rubeli, their second oldest son, stayed and married Anna Russer.” However, Der Messerschwanderhof tells that Peter’s wife Margaret spent some time in the Palatinate with him and went back to their valley in Switzerland because she missed its beauty. He went after her and they were caught, and were sentenced to be sent to America. Der Messerschwanderhof said they made their escape back to the Palatinate but also states they escaped from being sold as galley slaves which causes some confusion for a reader. An Anna Rubeli had been imprisoned as well and she was sent away in 1711 to Holland on a ship called the Thuner. Source: History of the Bernese Anabaptists. I do not know her relation to our Christian and Anna, or if she was the daughter named Anna that may have returned to her homeland as well. There are numerous other Rubeli shipped away too, of which I can’t establish a connection to our Rubeli at this time.
What Became of Christian and wife Anna
Back in Germany, Christian and his son Nikolas moved to near Otterberg and lived on a farm where a farm had had been continually in existence since the year 1195. (Source: Messerschwanderhof). Der Messerschwanderhof implies that Christian, Anna, and Christian’s father Peter moved to Otterberg, Germany where they lived there as early as 1688 and another date of 1682. Other farm sources: Otterberg and Messerschwanderhof website. The surname is spelled on those websites as Rubel and Reubal. I believe a father of our Christian Rubeli would have been too old and doubt that. Der Messerschwanderhof says that Louis XIV burned the Palatinate in 1684. That year may not accurate. He burned parts of it more than once, in 1674, 1688, and 1689. Messerschwanderhof was burned down, and the French killed or stole the Rubeli cattle, and it is believed the people that survived the devastation fled to a small island in the Rhine River where they lived in huts and survived on frogs and snails (Source: Der Messerschwanderhof). Because of the French actions, October 6, 1683 saw the first wave of Mennonite settlers from the Palatinate arriving in the Philadelphia at the invitation of William Penn. They founded a new settlement called Germantown. Source: GAMEO.org.
Contrary to what is written in Der Messerschwanderhof, after the burning, our Christian Rubeli didn’t run off or sail to America because the farm was lost. If you want to accurately take what is in Der Messerschwanderhof though, in 1698, with the payment of protection fees to the sovereign, their youngest son Nikolas Rubel (as they spelled it) went back to the farm and began the rebuilding of the lower part of the Messerschwanderhof. I tend to believe this part of the book since his descendants continued to live on the farm for hundreds of years.
According to Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners/Mennosearch.com, our Christian Rubeli was living at Messerschwanderhof in 1691. If that is accurate, what year was the farm really burned, and what year was it really re-built?
Given the age of our Hans Theobald, and the possible dates of the burning of Messerschwanderhof, I surmise there is a possibility that he was living there when the French rolled through. This could explain why Hans ended up near Biedershausen in 1690 and then near Contwig in 1695, where the children he and Anna Liesbeth had after Balthasar were born.
Mennosearch.com relates that descendants of Nikolas Rubeli, Christian’s brother, emigrated to Pennsylvania, settling in York and Mifflin Counties before the Revolution. My DNA likely matches so many PA Dutch descendants because of these various portions of my Palatinate ancestry.
Finally, my research hasn’t discovered when Christian, Anna, and their son Hans Theobald and wife Anna Liesbeth died. According to the GAMEO.org, Otterberg Germany has its own Mennonite cemetery that they have kept through the centuries. I wonder if Contwig has the same…