Saturday, February 4, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge Day 4

Swiss cow
While the Kübler family was fortunate to own land in Büsserach, that did not mean life was easy for them. The climate and the soil in that part of Switzerland were not particularly great for agriculture. The hills and mountains made it more suitable for cows and goats than growing crops, and there was insufficient land to accommodate a growing population. Perhaps a crop failure in 1853 was the final breaking point for Vinzenz, and the motivation to uproot his family and start all over again in America. He certainly wasn't alone in his thinking.

Between 1851-1860, over 25,000 Swiss emigrated to the United States. Generally speaking, it is not the richest inhabitants of any country who seek a home elsewhere. This is particularly true in Switzerland, where the love of country is so strong that only absolute necessity could tempt people to leave their native villages. The majority of the emigrants came from the agricultural cantons. They often traveled with groups coming out of their same region. In some areas the local council gave them a financial incentive to leave so they would have less citizens to feed during times of economic recession. The money was given to the emigrants on the condition that they never return to Europe, and with the caveat that if they did return, the money was to be repaid with an interest rate calculated on top of it.

Advertisements were placed in Swiss newspapers by travel agencies who catered to the demand for emigration. Some were reputable, and some took advantage of the poor Swiss who were enticed by the offers of cheap and fertile lands in America, or the opportunity for higher wages and better opportunities for work. The agencies of ill repute were referred to as Seelenverkäufer and Bauernfänger (soul-sellers and peasant-catchers). Eventually the Swiss government stepped in to supervise the travel agencies in an effort to protect its citizens.
Kübler passport
Whatever his motivation, on 8 February 1854 Vinzenz applied for a passport to America. He had sold his part of the family farm, conducting the deal at the very building pictured below which was located in nearby Breitenbach. The sale is how he financed the trip for his family. Using the name of Josef Kübler, the passport indicates that he was from Büsserach and was 41 years of age, 5'7" tall, with black hair, grey eyes and an oval face. It states that he was a farmer and would be traveling to America with 4 children. It is notable that his wife Carolina is not included on the passport. There is no death record for her in Büsserach, and in fact she appears in records in America. It's possible that there was an oversight, or perhaps she traveled at a later time period.

Landgasthof Weisses Kreuz
Where did the family go? And what was to become of Vinzenz's mother, Maria Anna?

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