My Anabaptist/Mennonite/Canton Bern, Switzerland Surname List


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I was recently asked by another researcher what Swiss surnames in my tree I was researching in Canton Bern, Switzerland that belonged to the early Anabaptist followers there.  Below is an updated list of surnames and place names:


Gungerich/Gungery*, Schindler, Vogel, Muller, Rubeli*.  See GAMEOChristian Gungerich was an Anabaptist preacher that was imprisoned in Schwarzenegg prison when he escaped in 1669.  He was re-captured and imprisoned in Waisenhaus Prison in the Canton’s capital Bern.  He died there in 1671.  He is my 10th great grand uncle See Der Tauferlehrer Christian Gungerich (1591-1671) und der Streit um Seinen Nachlass for more on his relations.  Also see Oberdiessbach Kirchenbuchen via Canton Bern archives, and the book Bernese Anabaptists and their American Descendants.  



Vogt, Strubel known as Rubeli* in Oberdiessbach.  See Langnau Kirchenbuchen via Canton Bern archives.  Part of the Rubeli family emigrated to the German Palatinate in 1672 as religious refugees. See


Related links:

Link to Christian Gungerich on

My German Palatinate, Saarland, Lorraine, France, and Swiss Anabaptist Surname and Place Lists

Immigrants #11 to 20 ~ The Anabaptist Strubel/Rubeli of Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Switzerland

*Gungerich and Rubeli are known Anabaptist surnames.  Christian Gungerich is believed to be the first of the Anabaptist faith in his family.


My German Palatinate, Saarland, Lorraine, France, and Swiss Anabaptist Surname and Place Lists

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The German Palatinate

  • Nunschweiler: Leies/Lais/Layes/Leis/Leyes, Bold, Pfeiffer, Scheid (originated in Loutzviller, Moselle), Bauer, Burkhart, Conrad (originated in Schweyen, Moselle)
  • Knopp-Labach: Bold, Becker
  • Rodalben: Scheid (originated in Loutzviller, Moselle), Buchler (originated in Weselberg, Becker, Wilhelm, Hauck/Hocque/Hock/Hoque, Bisser(in), Helfrich/Helferich/Helferig
  • Vinnigen: Hauck, Kolsch (originated in Moselle)
  • Leimen/Merzalben/Leiningen: Reber, Helfrich/Helferich/Helferig (in Leimen before and after the Thirty Years War according to 850 Jahre Leimen.  See also Die Helfriche)
  • Mauschbach: Conrad, Steu/yer, Pfeiffer, Kempf, Burkhart, Ziegler
  • Grosssteinhausen: Pfeiffer, Kempf, Schaefer, Engel
  • Kirchenarnbach: Bisserin
  • Leichelbingen (Monbijou): Ziehl
  • Hornbach: Ziehl
  • Beidershausen: Stuppi/y, Muller, Rubli
  • Niedershausen: Stuppi
  • Oberhausen: Rubly/Rubli, Schwartz, Leyies/Leies/Layes/Leyies-Trauden/Traudi
  • Bechhofen: Rubli
  • Zweibrucken: Schwartz
  • Weselberg: Buchler/Bugler, Wilhelm
  • Weisbach: Leies
  • Contwig: Leyies/Leies/Leyies-Trauden/Leyies-Traudi/Traudi, Rubeli
  • Messerschwanderhof: Rubeli/Reubal/Ruble

I share DNA with the descendants of the Hauck family and Helfrich family that emigrated to Pennsylvania before the Revolution. 

Anyone in America that has the surname Leies in their tree and has ancestors that immigrated to NYC and Wooster, Ohio is my DNA cousin.  They can all be traced back to Wenceslaus Layes-Trauden who lived the Zweibrucken area in the 1690s.  His origin is unknown. 

Please see this former post on the ancestry of Emilia Bold from Nunschweiler who descends from the Hauck, the Helfrich, and several Moselle and Pfalz millers: Immigrant #24 ~~ Great Great Grandmother Emilia Anna Bold Leies~~



  • Saarbrucken: Kempf, Ludt, Hufflinger
  • Burbach: Gans, Hufflinger

*My Kempf ancestors from Grosssteinhausen, RP are possibly descended from the Saarbrucken Kempfs in the Saarland.  I am working to prove descendancy from the Bailiff Hufflinger who lived in Saarbrucken in the 1400s which French researchers on Geneanet seem to think is a possibility.


Moselle, Lorraine, France

  • Loutzviller: Bittel, Scheid(t), Conrad
  • Schweyen: Conrad, Stauder
  • Volmunster: Bittel, Ziegler, Stauder, Stauder dit Le Suisse
  • Haspelscheidt: Fabing/Faber
  • Sarreguemines: Bittel
  • Roppeviller: Schaub dit Bittel
  • Bliesbruck: Stauder dit Le Suisse
  • Leiderschiedt: Weyland
  • Urbach: Faber, Champion (origin possibly Picardie, France)
  • Petit-Rederching: Faber, Faber dit Schoff Jockel
  • Bitche: Faber

I have DNA matches with the Conrad family that emigrated to Germantown, Pennsylvania. I share DNA matches with the Stauders the emigrated to Ohio from the Palatinate. 


Bernese Anabaptist Refugees to the Palatinate

  • Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Bern: Rubeli/Strubel (from Langnau), Muller – Rubeli and Muller migrated to Fischbach, RP and lived in Messerschwanderhof and Contwig.  The Rubeli were related to the Gungerich Anabaptists of Diessbach.  See: and Der Tauferlehrer Christian Gungerich von Oberdiessbach (1595-1671) und der Streit um Seinen Nachlas by Hanspeter Jecker.
  • Oberdiessbach, Bern: Gungerich/Gundrich/Gungery, Schindler
  • Langnau, Bern: Strubel, Vogt

My DNA matches the Rubeli descendants that emigrated to Pennsylvania before the Revolution.  They used Ruble and Ruple in America.  See also this former blog post for sources and references on the Rubeli: Immigrants #11 to 20 ~ The Anabaptist Rubeli of Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Switzerland.

See also: My Anabaptist/Mennonite/Canton Bern, Switzerland Surname List


Links to my Palatinate Immigrants and Refugees on

Christian Rubeli – Mennonite Refugee to the Palatinate

Anna Muller – Mennonite Refugee to the Palatinate

Emilia Bold Leies

Elisabetha Scheid Bold

Johannes Leies

Peter Leies – Palatinate Immigrant that died at Antietam 

Shoot me an email if you want to compare DNA. Have a Wonderful Fourth!








Immigrants #11 to 20 ~ The Anabaptist Strubel/Rubeli of Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Switzerland

descendancy chart

4/20/18 – A genealogy angel (Hanspeter Jecker) from Switzerland sent me more complete, accurate, and voluminous data on the Strubel/Rubeli family that lived in Oberdiessbach, Bern in the 1600s.  Their origins were in Langnau where they were known as Strubel.  The data detailed an Anabaptist preacher (Tauferlehrer) 10th great grand uncle of the writer that was imprisoned twice by Bernese authorities named Christian Gungerich and the disbursement of his property upon his imprisonment and death.  For those related to me, our branch of the Leies family are now confirmed Gungerich descendants. 

The Rubeli family were religious refugees that fled to Germany from Switzerland in early 1672.  They were forced to leave Canton Bern because of their belief in the Anabaptist faith.  They emigrated 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 Tauferlehrer Christian Gungerich von Oberdiessbach (1595-1671) und der Streit um Seinen Nachlass by Hanspeter Jecker.

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 (

The Family in Switzerland

4/20/18 – The information under this subheading has been updated to reflect new information in the article published in Mennonita Helvetica by Hanspeter Jecker: Der Tauferlehrer Christian Gungerich von Oberdiessbach (1595 – 1671).  New data is reflected in this post with bold text in PURPLE.  

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: and Emigrants Refugees and Prisoners). 4/20/18 – Christian was born Christen Strubel in Langnau, Bern.  His father was Peter Strubel and mother was Barbara Gungerich.  

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. 

You cannot take the translation of the book literally.

4/20/18 – Peter Strubel/Rubeli was Christian’s father and he bought the farm in Oberdiessbach from his father-in-law Hans Gungerich when his brother-in-law died.  Peter Strubel/Rubeli WAS STILL alive in 1630. 

At this time, 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 baptism of our Hans Rubeli from St. Alban’s, Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Canton Bern

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, 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,

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.

3rd line, 1st word, spelled Rubly in Nunschweiler

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:

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/, 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. 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, Otterberg Germany has its own Mennonite cemetery that they have kept through the centuries.  I wonder if Contwig has the same…



Immigrants 6 and 7 ~ Auguste Eckebrecht, domestic servant and Anna Liesbeth N.N., religious refugee

Immigrant Auguste Eckebrecht was the only sister of Fritz Eckebrecht, my great great grandfather, and two years his senior.  Anna Liesbeth was my 7th great grandmother and a religious refugee.  Her last name is not known.

Auguste was born in 1846 in Schwarzburg, Thuringia, Germany.  She came to America with her family in 1866 aboard the Jenny that had sailed from Bremen in a journey across the Atlantic that took approximately 3 months.  At the time of the 1870 Federal Census, Auguste lived as a domestic servant in the home of a grocer Adolph Kate and his young wife Emilia.


By 1876 she had married Charles Wolder or Wolter and they had a child that didn’t survive to adulthood.  In the above snipping tool “snipped photo” you can see Auguste is showing you her wedding ring.  She put her hand in that position on purpose.  She was married in this photo that Eckebrecht descendants believe was taken between 1872 and 1875.  I was unable to find the name or the sex of the child she had in 1876 or to trace her husband.  He has proven difficult to find.  Auguste Eckebrecht passed away in Chicago in 1916 and was buried in Rosehill Cemetery.  She was the only sibling of Fritz Eckebrecht that did not have any children that survived to adulthood.

Anna Liesbeth N.N.

Anna Liesbeth was born in Switzerland and immigrated to the Palatinate in Germany around 1675-1685 as a religious refugee.  She and her husband Hans Theobald Rubeli were part of the Anabaptist migration to the Palatinate.  Previous Anabaptist congregations that had already settled in the Palatinate set up shelter for the refugees when they had to leave their Swiss homeland with nothing but the clothing on their backs.  Their possessions had been seized by the cantonal governments.  They were forced to leave their homeland if they refused to take the oath to the state church.   If they stayed and practiced their faith, they were hunted down by Taufer hunters, imprisoned, beheaded, burned, drowned, and in the most extreme circumstances that forced the greatest number to flee their cantons, they were sold as galley slaves to the Venetian Empire.  The former punishments just drew more followers.


I found a church record in the Massweiler area of the Palatinate that references a surname Vetter after a person named Anna Liesbeth.  However, I am not sure they are the same woman, or why an Anabaptist refugee would be mentioned in a Catholic church record.  I suppose it is possible.  She was the mother of Balthasar Jakob Rubly, the Gerichtsschoff and 5 other children born in Germany.  She was my 7th great grandmother.  Since I do not positively know her last name, I do not even know her birth or death dates.

These two women are parts of separate lines in my German grandmother’s ancestry.  One went to Germany and another left Germany.




New York Passenger Lists

United States Federal Censuses

Cook County Birth and Death Indexes

Photo from Frank Eckebrecht

Weisbach Catholic Church Registers

Massweiler Catholic Church Registers

Contwig Catholic Church Registers

Aeschlen bei Oberdeissbach Evangelical Reformed Church Register List of Taufers (Anabaptists) living in the vicinity

Palatine Mennonite Census Lists

Bernese Anabaptists and Their American Descendants

History of the Bernese Anabaptists

Rubli-Ahnen in Dachsen ZH und Zürich,  Rubeli aus Oberdiessbach BE und Gampelen BE, sowie Rubly und Ruble in Deutschland, im Elsass und in Amerika (dort auch Ruble, Rublee, Rubley, Ruple, Ruplely, Rupley, Rublier, Rupple, Ruppley, Robblee,  Robilyrd, Roblee, Roblyer)

Emigrants, Refugees, and Prisoners: An Aid to Mennonite Family Research

~Next immigrant:  Carl Johann Eckebrecht, and his colorful descendant ~

Grandma Had Mennonite Ancestors?! Yes.

For an update to this blog post, please see this newer post: The Anabaptist Rubeli of Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Switzerland.

Grandma had Swiss Anabaptist/Mennonite ancestors from the Emmenthal Valley of Bern, Switzerland. Grandma’s and Uncle John’s German Palatinate ancestry trails back to peoples from another area of Europe – the Swiss Mennonites. Or Anabaptists. They were persecuted and exiled from the Bern Stadt by the government.  The Rubeli or Rubly line that married into the Leies line in 1751 were part of the large number of ethnic Swiss Anabaptist refugees that fled their homes in the late 1600s and early 1700s and settled in the German Palatinate. Notably, Anna Margaretha Rubly, 5 x great grandmother, was the daughter and granddaughter of the Swiss Anabaptist Rubeli/Rubly that were exiled from the Swiss State of Bern because of their faith. Balthasar Jakob Rubly, her father, was an important man in his village and an important piece of the Anabaptist ties.  Anna Margaretha married Johann Leyes in 1751. Johann Leyes’s mother, Anna Ottilia Schwartz, may have also been the daughter and granddaughter of Swiss Mennonite refugees from the Emmenthal Valley of the Bern Stadt.  More on the the Anabaptists below.

You can see the changes in the Leies name in this capture.  Simply click for a larger image. I would not be surprised if the Stuppi were Anabaptist too.

 The Swiss Anabaptists

The Anabaptist Brethren were a radical offshoot of the Swiss Reformation.  It grew in Zurich in the year 1525. They flourished in response to what the earliest Anabaptist leaders, Catholic priests, felt was a corrupt Church. Its early preachers and teachers, Catholic priests, renounced riches, renounced praying to the Saints and Mary, ate meat during Lent, and married. The largest difference between that and other reformed faiths in the Swiss States was that they didn’t believe in infant baptism. They believed in the baptism of older children and adults. Hence the name Anabaptists or Re-Baptists. The other threatening parts of their creed were pacifism, including the avoidance of military service, and the refusal to take oaths, were what probably scared the Swiss States. But, pacifism in Switzerland would make sense because Switzerland was neutral, yes? Yes. However, the Swiss States stressed equal participation of all during times of war and their noble lords required those on their lands to be used as mercenaries for a fee to feed the armies of Europe. This hurt the noble lords’ pockets. Anabaptism was born when Switzerland was not yet a country. Each Swiss State, or the later geographic divisions in present-day Switzerland called Cantons, had their own “state religion” as a result of the split during the Reformation. A growing religious movement that avoided military service and would not take oaths was a threat to these sovereign states.


 Anabaptist Persecution

The first Anabaptists were burned at the stake, imprisoned and starved to death, exiled, or drowned. Some had powerful friends that gained their release from imprisonment. When they were released, a few Anabaptists would continue to preach against the state’s church. Having been expelled from Zurich Stadt, they went about other Swiss States and German speaking areas of Central Europe converting new believers. Bern Stadt enlisted hunters to go fetch Anabaptists for a bounty. Yes, they had Anabaptist hunters. Bern would capture and torture the Brethren into recanting. If they recanted they could stay in Bern Stadt. After 10 days if they didn’t renounce Anabaptism they were exiled from Bern Stadt  and escorted to the borders. If the men returned to the Bern Stadt they were beheaded and if the women returned they were drowned. This only caused the populace of the secluded, remote, and independent- minded Emmenthal Valley in the Bern Stadt (where Grandma’s ancestors had to leave) more sympathetic to their cause. The killing of Anabaptists actually just swelled their numbers. The people of the Emmenthal Valley would continue to aid and hide Anabaptists.   Because of the region’s sympathies, many non-Bernese came to the Emmenthal and etablished an Anabaptist settlement near Lake Thun. Since their methods at eradicating the Anabaptists weren’t working, Bern Stadt then tried a new form of punishment after imprisonment and exile. If the Anabaptist was exiled and returned the women were put in the pillory and the men sold to the Italian City-States as galley slaves. This helped empty the over-crowded prisons and fill the State’s pocket.

An artist’s Rendition of Swiss Anabaptists being taken as slaves to be sold to Italy

 Our Rubeli of the Emmenthal Valley

When the galley slave sentence began to be enforced the Rubeli family appeared in the list of names of Anabaptists living in the Emmenthal Valley near Oberdiessbach in 1670, according to the History of the Bernese Anabaptists and Their American Descendants by Delbert L. Gratz. I think they may have been part of the Anabaptists from outside the Valley because the surname is not native to the area. Bern Stadt forbade Anabaptists from owning land. The Schwartz were living in a nearby village according to this same publication in my possession. The persecution and the fear of slavery had become too much for the Anabaptists and they began to trickle out of the Bern Stadt to other German-speaking areas of Europe. *

The Rubeli family lived in Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, of the Emmenthal Valley, Bern Stadt (present-day Canton Bern) before the exile. They made their way to the German Palatinate to escape from their homeland where they were no longer permitted to own property. Obviously it is impossible to know their route but many Swiss “faith refugees” skirted through France’s southernmost border with Switzerland into Alsace and then to Palatinate because Alsace began to kick some of them out. What is known right now is that the oldest in the Leies ancestral line to emigrate with his children and their families to a farm outside Otterberg, Rheinpfalz was a Christian Rubeli, our 8 x great grandfather. The emigration included his children, and most importantly, his son Hans Theobald Rubeli – our ancestors.

Oberdiessbach, Switzerland Baptismal Record of Hans Theobald Rubeli (Balthasar’s Father). It states he was born in Aeshlen bei Oberdiessbach.

 Flight to the Palatinate

The Swiss Anabaptists had been invited to the German Palatinate by the ruling prince. The Palatinate had been de-populated during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). He promised religious freedom and the pacifistic Anabaptists, with their superior farming abilities, seemed to be an attractive fit for his domain. The Rubeli appear on records around 1688, near Otterberg, Rheinpfalz. Hans Theobald and Anna Liesbeth have their son Balthasar about 1689 near Biederhausen, Rheinpfalz. Christian, a Hans and Christian’s brother Peter appear on Mennonite Census lists compiled and translated by Hermann and Gertrud Guth. These were then published by a Pennsylvania Mennonite couple and sold by a Pennsylvania company, Masthof Press in Morgantown. The Schwartz too appear in the census lists. This is another book that is proof of their origins.

Balthasar Jakob Rubly and the Palatinate

In conclusion, for now, on Grandma’s Anabaptists, they had to assimilate in the Palatinate. By the time Anna Margaretha Rubly (as they were in Germany) married Johann Leyes in 1751, her father Balthasar Rubly, grandson of Christian Rubeli and son of Hans Theobald and Anna Liesbeth, was a Gerichtsschoffe.   In “American” – that is a Justice of the Peace. An alderman. A respected village elder appointed by someone in a position of power to mete out justice as you would see in a type of small claims court. Why is that important besides he had a neat job and awesome name?  Because Balthasar probably had to TAKE AN OATH of some kind to a state or a ruler. He was now no longer considered a practicing Mennonite and would have been banned.



According to the Online Global Online Anabaptist Encyclopedia, in the early 1700s the Palatinate fell into the hands of an Anti-Mennonite ruler.  They were strong Catholics. Taxes were levied on the Mennonites because they were considered religious dissidents. They were not permitted to purchase more lands for their sons when their families grew. If their population grew too numerous they were shipped to America to keep their numbers down. Because they were superior farmers, it caused jealousy. The law looked the other way if a non-Mennonite allowed his livestock to graze on their fields. Religious meetings were restricted to twenty people and they were not permitted to try to convert the rest of the local populace. Eventually, of their own free will, Mennonites made their way to William Penn’s lands because of his promise of religious freedom. Oh and by the way, the Swiss Mennonites are credited with bringing the potato to the Palatinate, according to the Swiss Mennonite Cultural and Historical Association. Many Swiss faith refugees and their descendants lost their dialect and culture and assimilated into the Palatinate, speaking the language – Plattdeutsch. Maybe Balthasar assimilated to protect his property and family. No doubt he would have been a friend to them.

*For readers descending from Ulrich Wirth – his Swiss Anabaptist ancestors also fled the Bern Stadt but lived on the other side of the Rhine in Alsace, France. His sons, most notably the fifer/drummer, if they were still Mennonites, would have been banned from the Brethren when they fought for the good guys during the Revolutionary War.



As previously noted, there is the possibility that the mother of Johann Leyes, Anna Ottilia Schwartz, was also a Swiss Anabaptist living in the Palatinate. Johann Leyes’s cousin also married a Rubly, and still another of his cousins married a Schwartz. While researching these newly discovered Anabaptists I came across a comment in a book noting how common the use of the name Anna was in the 1600s and early 1700s in Switzerland. Not only did Wenceslaus Layies – Trauden have a daughter name Anna, so did his son Johann Jakob Leyies-Trauden that also married an Anna Ottilia. Anna Margaretha Rubly had a sister named Anna Eva.   I don’t know where Wenceslaus Layies – Trauden came from.  He too was not from the Palatinate.

If you would like to read more about Anabaptist history online the Global Online Anababaptist Encyclopedia has numerous articles on the places referenced in this posting and they have recently been expanded and updated.  Another interesting site is the Swiss Mennonite Cultural and Historical Association.

In case you hadn’t noticed the new tagline photo at the top is a panorama of a view the Emmenthal Valley in Canton Bern. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about this new discovery.  It was fun and enlightening to find.  Because the Anabaptist discovery is still so fresh, the amount of Anabaptist/Mennonite genealogical information available so ridiculous, AND the number of Rubeli/Rubly descendants researching their roots so plentiful, it is fruitless to apprise readers of the noteworthy events surrounding their origins, survival, and flight to the Palatinate in a couple of paragraphs. The unfortunate side of the abundance of information, in this age of the internet, is possible misinformation. One must work through what may be false information out there already on the Rubeli/Rubly.   However, the sharing and swapping of information and records among the descendants and distant cousins of the Swiss refugees to the Palatinate is wonderful and if it wasn’t for some of them the writer would be lost. 

Until I locate the birth of 8 x great grandfather Christian Rubeli and records pertaining to his parents, I will not prognosticate or copy what has been said on the world-wide web about his potential ancestry. As I stated above, he may not have been from the Emmenthal Valley originally, let alone from Bern Stadt. There are two fantastic tales alive out there pertaining to Christian Rubeli’s ancestry. Until someone shows me proof or, I find that proof, I don’t want to include them.  It is my opinion alone that the Anabaptist pacifism and refusal to take oaths is what caused the harsh persecution they faced in Switzerland.