The Neuenschwandger line
This is a very old family of the region of Signau of the Nilder-stocken (The German-speaking area of Switzerland) Hofen, Lietzelkirk, Canton Bern, Switzerland.
Willis L. Neuenschwandger, 1115 Cadillac Blvd., Alerm 20, Ohio, #44320 had described it all very well. A few years ago (before 1971) he and his wife spent a summer studying the family records and meeting the families of this name – he said there were several John Neuenschwandger families living in Switzerland at the time.
Many families of this name were listed in the parish record in the Gemendehaus at Lagnau, a town located on the watershed of the Emme (in French) river (Emmenthal is the German) in the region of the Canton Bern, Switzerland. There were records of this family going back to the 12th century.
In the early 1700s some of these families, John Neuenschwandger for one, moved to Sonbog in the parish of Sorenton on the Jura Plato of the French-speaking region of the Canton Bern, Switzerland. According to the old law, however, they retained their citizenship in the parish where their forefathers lived at the time of the enactment of the law.
The Neuenschwandgers had become of the Anabaptists, a persecuted religious sect, which denied the validity of infant baptism although they did practice baptism of the adults.
According to record found in the archives of the Canton of Bern, Switzerland a band of settlers, as early as the 12th century made a clearing (schwand) in the valley forests for raising food. The new clearing was a new schwand (neuenschwand) and these people took the name of NEUENSCHWANDER, in the Swiss dialect, or NEUENSCHWANDGER in the German. Schwand is the imperfect form of the verb Schwanden, which means to cease, to disappear to clear. The er denotes a person.
There follows some quotations:
“People will not look forward to there posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” -Edmund Burke
“A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.” -T.B. Macaulay
“A contempt for antiquity is rightly considered as a mark of a mean and narrow intellect of an uneducated and illiberal mind.” -Allibones Dictionary of Authors
From another source we received the following: In Swiss history in 1357 Henneus of the Neuschwand officiated at the establishing of the rights of the church at that time (before the Reformation of the Catholic Church.)
At this early time the village people, mostly had one name, but Henneus being a man of some note, assumed the name of his birthplace, Neuenschwandger.
In 1654 there was an exodus of these people to the Jura Mountains on the border of France owing to the persecution of the state church, which was Calvinist. The French language was spoken during this nearly twenty years, which in turn caused the “d” in the name to become the softer “g” and “neuen” to become “new”.
As the families migrated through Germany or France to the American colonies and then spread throughout the United States, the name became spelled in many ways, mostly resulting from poor handwriting or attempts to spell it as it was heard pronounced. Some of the most frequent spellings are:
Nighswander Niswonger Nyswaner Nyswonger
Neyswander Niswanger Nicewandger
Neiswander Niswanter Knighswander
At one time Abraham, one of the brothers of Christian Neuenschwandger had a chest of family records going back prior to the 1200s, but it was lost some time during the move to America.
The largest castle of the family was built in 1357 on the Neuenschwand. During the 15 and 16 and 1700s, Switzerland was beset by religious wars in which great hatred arose between the established churches, the followers of Hugue (later Huguenots), the German Lutherans, the Swiss Reformed churches, and the Roman Catholics. It became the thing for the younger members of the prominent families of those times to strike out for themselves and the religious freedom in America made it the place to want to go. Many families had already moved out of Switzerland into south west Germany, Alsace Lorrain, and even into France. Early German missionaries had found undisturbed religious freedom in Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and Virginia. They could have their won hymn books and Bibles in this new land.
In 1671 and during the years following, there was an exodus of Mennonites to Germany and to the American colonies. This religious sect was names after Menno Simon, and among other things there was opposition to taking oaths, infant baptism (from which came the name Anabaptists) and military service and the rules for plain dress and livng were adopted. That part of the Reformation that lead to the Mennonite movement began in Switzerland in 1525. Menno Simon, a Roman Catholic priest, joined the group in 1636.
As these families dispersed over the American colonies and later the United States, many of them gave up the rigid rules of the Mennonites and took on the social life, education, and joined the churches of the area in which they lived. This was particularly true of the Neuenschwandger families. As a matter of fact, there are eight members of these families who served or fought in the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars of that ear, as well as Europe. Several decades ago there were more teachers in Darke County, Ohio of the name Niswanger (or other spellings) than all of the teachers of other names put together. And of course, there have been ministers of the Gospel in these families.
It should be noted that while in Europe, the Amish became an offshoot of this sect, taking the name for the founder, Jacob, firm in holding fast to their church rules of plain dress and living habits – and most still do.
When I looked up Neuenschwandger on Google earth, this is the location of the town. Neuenschwand, Eggiwil, Switzerland. Maybe the family castle is there.
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