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The Eller Chronicles


A translation of a letter dated 26 Nov. 1990 from Prof. Dr. Benno Eller (Blutzwis 30, CH-8604 Kindhausen) to Prof. Dr. K. Napp-Zinn (Gyrhofstrasse 15, D-5000, Koln 41)


You had to wait a while for an answer to your inquiry of 22 Oct. 90, but I think you have found in me exactly the person who can give you the most exhaustive information.

At first I wondered where you found -my address, but then I remembered. that you were kind enough to quote some of my works In your newest edition of the book "Anatomy of the Leaf[?]". The information certainly came from there concerning where one should look for Ellers in Switzerland.

Now first to the Ellers in Switzerland. According to my knowledge all Ellers stem from one line, and this is also confirmed by the entry in the "Historic-Biographical Dictionary of Switzerland" (copy enclosed). It could be true that in recent times Ellers immigrated. from the South German region* but I know no person with the name Eller who does not stem from our line, Still today we are mainly settled in the Uri Canton (I was also born there), but the younger generation, to which I still dare to count myself despite my 54 years, has established itself in part in the Zürich region (one of my brothers has also settled here) and recently in western Switzerland (sons of my brother). Several members of other divisional lines of Ellers are today also settled. in the Zürich region and neighboring territories.

To the question of whether I have worked, on the genealogy of our family, I must answer with no and, yes. An actual search has been unnecessary up to this time for two reasons. First, we come from a Catholic territory and by decree of the Pope in the 16th century socalled parish registries were required in all Catholic parishes. In these registries birth, death, marriage, etc. were required to be entered. So from 1565 until the beginning of this century when the Swiss civil registries were established, all Ellers who were born in the Uri Canton were entered in these registries. Fortunately these registries have been preserved intact, so that we possess a complete family tree from 1565 on, Secondly, until the end of the thirties a painter (Flach [?] painter) was a renter from us In the house. This Mr. Anton Huber after the Second. World War dedicated himself entirely to his artistic interests and then became the best known authority even today on heraldry and genealogy for the Uri Canton. At one time he extracted our family tree from the registries and made a draft for a family tree (we actually do not own a beautifully designed heraldic family tree).

We conjecture that the Ellers immigrated in the 14th or 15th century from the South German region (transport and trade over the Gotthard Pass), for Johann E, (1565) was already town councillor in Uri. Such a position was only achieved after one had been settled. in the region for a prolonged period (at least at that time).


After the breakdown of the mercenary armies the family was reduced to poverty (the emigrations were more than likely also for that reason). In the last century the Ellers were farmers in the high mountains, and only with the Gotthard railway and the electricity works at the beginning of this century did the family recover. Our part of the family line is strongly connected with the public electricity supply; I myself have along with my doctorate in botany the diploma of an electrical engineer from the Swiss Technical College in Zürich.

At the beginning of the 19th century there was only one male Eller settled In Uri. The three lines existing today stem from him. It Is unclear who of the male descendents emigrated before or around 1800. Presumably the "Urner Ellers" in America come from this period, for afterwards just one (male) emigration followed.. The exact name of that person my sister will attempt to learn from a still living aunt (89 years old), but it may be only of marginal interest to you.

Now to the essential point of your question: Hans Georg Eller and Georg Michael E. do not appear In the parish registries. They were therefore with certainty not born In the Uri Canton. At first I thought that these Ellers could scarcely have had anything to do with us. The considerations which led to that are as follows:

- The giving of names throughout the entire parish registry is very conservative, i.e., the same first names appear over and over, such as Johann, Josef, Melchior, Ludwig, etc. The name Georg is completely absent.

- In the Uri Canton Georg is absolutely not a common name. On the other hand, it Is frequent in the Reformed. cantons, and what is important, it is a very frequently used name in the Graubünden Canton.

I remembered then indeed, that my father who has been dead for a long time, mentioned that there were or had been Ellers in Graubünden. I do not know if there are still Ellers in the Graubünden Canton. If so, I should have somehow been told that, for I have acquaintances and relatives in and from the Graubünden Canton, who certainly would have nut me in touch with bearers of the name Eller.

Perhaps that seems trivial to you, but there is a fact here that must be kept in -mind. An emigration route from Catholic Uri normally led across Lucerne and Basel, while an emigration from the Graubünden Canton with great probability led over Zürich (navigability from Lake Walen and Lake Zürich connecting to the traditional ship route from Zürich to the Limmat River to the Rhine!). And Georg is a frequently used name in the Graubünden Canton! I have a hunch that the Ellers which concern you do not come from Zürich, but from Graubünden, for often (especially at that time) the starting point (thus Zürich) would. be given as statement of place rather than an unknown small village in the mountains. If these Ellers were indeed living in Zürich, it would be valuable to know whether they were Catholic or Reformed.


Since we just recently moved into a new house, I must first find my genealogical records in one of the many boxes (that is also the reason for the delay of my reply). By a closer examination of the records in our family tree an idea came to me of a possible connection of the persons mentioned by you with our family tree.

The name Georg and the fact that the two are surely not born in Uri means that a possible connection must be sought earlier, thus perhaps marriage between 1650 and 1680. Moreover it is traditionally the practice to give to the grandson the name of the grandfather as second name (this Is still to some extent in practice today). Therefore the grandfather of Georg Michael E. must have been named Michael.

In the second generation after Johann E. (1565) there is a Michael! (Father Andreas, Family 2). He can be found. as 4 in Family 4 (copy enclosed). It is interesting that no details about the further whereabouts are to be found in the parish registries. Especially important is the fact that no death has been recorded... which would. have happened If this Michael had died. in Uri. One can therefore derive from this that after his marriage in 1672 (!!!) he disappeared from Uri. The approximate birthdate of "your" Hans Georg (1690) could fit, If we at the same time proceed on the assumption that he was a son of Michael.

The likelihood exists, and in -my view it could. be very great. It is also interesting to note the wife of Michaels Barbara Jauch. She is In greatest probability not identical with the Barbara Jauch as wife of Peter E. (2b, Family 2), for if she had been a widow, then it would. have been mentioned in the parish registry in greatest certainty. Michael was 36 at the time of his marriage, and it is not likely to assume that he married a widow more than 50 years old. One can therefore assume it was a young woman who had children.

And now to the name of this wife, which will hardly be of significance to you, but for me is quite essential. The Jauch family is very old; according to the information of a colleague, Urs Jauch, it was already . mentioned in the 8th century. The family is still in existence in the Uri Canton, but what is more important, it was prior to the 16th century already active in trade and. transport in Uri as well as in Graubünden. A marriage with a Jauch daughter from the Graubündner line would therefore have been possible, especially since several Eller daughters were married by Jauchs and vice versa. Moreover at this time (1672!!) Maria Eller (Family 5) married Jakob Gyger from Graubünden. The interrelations must have been very great, if one takes into account the travel conditions of the time. It is furthermore interesting that normally the parents of the bride are written in the parish registry if they make their home in Uri. This is not the case for the Barbara Jauch in question, which could point to the fact that she comes from a family not settled in Uri, therefore perhaps from Graubünden or even from Zürich, if the trade connections of the Jauchs wound up in Zürich.

As a working hypothesis I would begin by saying that Hans Georg E.
was a son of Michael E, and Barbara Jauch, was married and for some reason emigrated to America with his son. Another possibility would be very speculative, and. that is, that one must always keep in mind, the possibility of an emigration from the Palatinate, thus meaning that the Ellers from Zürich have no direct connection with the Ellers from Uri.

I have received. the tip from my colleague Prof. Bachofen (an old Zürich family) to turn to the retired State Archivist of Zürich, who could at least give information on how one could proceed most efficiently with further research in Zürich, I will inform you of these possibilities.

I hope you are pleased with my information and. I have a counter question. Years ago I bought in a used bookstore a book from 1723 by a Johanne Th. Eller (photocopy of the title page enclosed). Do you by chance know anything about this Eller?

I would, be happy to hear from you again sometime.

With cordial greetings and the best wishes for the coming holidays..


Benno Eller (signed)


Descendant chart

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