I gave my Schwab line only brief mention in my introductory post, so I want to get back to them. I confess that I have not given this line as much attention because it was so easy to achieve my initial goal of tracing this line back to Europe. After all, my great-grandfather, Alexander Schwab, and his siblings were all born in Siselen, Switzerland. Alex was born May 31, 1871. My great-great-grandfather, John Jacob Schwab was born in Siselen in 1843 and his wife, Maria Schwab (no relation) was born there in 1838. He emigrated in 1880 and stayed for a while with one of his brothers, John Frederick, who had come to the US in the 1870s and was living in Pennsylvania. In 1882, my great- grandfather Alex immigrated with a group from Siselen going to Germania, PA. He and his brother, Fred, took a ship from Le Havre, France. In 1883, the rest of John Jacob’s family came, staying in Renova, PA. In 1888, they moved to Cameron, PA.
One generation further gets much more difficult without polishing up my German and is complicated by the fact that looking for John (or Johann) Schwab in Siselen is a little like looking for John Smith in the US. The family kept good records, so I’m reasonably confident in the information they had stating that my great-great-great grandparents were John Benedict Schwab, born 1808, died 1875 and Elizabeth (possibly maiden name Schwab, but family records aren’t clear on this) from Siselen. He was Der Salzmann, the government’s salt distributor, for his district and he ran a tavern. The family records offer no further details of the family prior to John Benedict.
I often wonder what drove the family’s decision to leave Switzerland. About the time my great-great grandfather John Jacob was born, Switzerland adopted a federal constitution and the country was well on its way to becoming the prosperous country it is today. On the other hand, what I found at swissworld.org pinpoints the timeframe and suggests a possible reason:
Population growth and famine were two important factors which forced hundreds of thousands of Swiss to emigrate during the 19th century. In particular there were waves of emigration in 1816-7, 1845-55 and 1880-85.
As a result of new farming methods, fields were fenced off as private plots, where previously everyone in the community had been able to graze their animals on common land. The arrival of the railways in the middle of the century meant that grain could be imported cheaply. As a result, farmers switched to more lucrative and less labour-intensive areas, like dairy farming. Thousands of landless labourers were forced to look for employment elsewhere, and migrated to the towns and their factories - or emigrated, often to America.
I know I’ll need to buckle down and work on Swiss sources at some point, but, uh, not today. I have a sudden urge for some chocolate.