About the search

The search was as interesting as what the search uncovered. It required a lot of time-consuming and sometimes difficult research that took on the character of a quest, one that was fun and satisfying, yet at times very frustrating. It involved challenging detective work, a mystery (actually several mysteries) to be solved. Little by little the pieces of the puzzle came together, missing links in the chain were found, and a more complete picture emerged.

There are a lot of ways that mistakes can be made during a genealogy search. Only a search of original records (some of which are on microfilm or microfiche) can assure accuracy and confirm facts and details. Most of the original documents found in this search were in German, and many were found on microfilm copies of the German kirchenbuch (church book) records. They were in an almost unintelligible handwritten script that requires experience to read and translate. (Examples of the script can be seen in the "Image Gallery" pages in the Contents list). I did search those records and was very careful in all the research I did. I learned how to interpret the script enough to spot our name and some key words, and used translators when necessary (which was fairly often, because I don't know German). I made every effort to be thorough and accurate. I kept a record of the sources I used; a link to a partial list of those sources is provided, and sources can also be found with the specific records they refer to. Therefore, anyone who wishes to search the records themselves or confirm the information I've found and presented on this site can do so.

If you want to read all the details about my search to discover the history and genealogy of our family, “The complete search history” link on the Welcome page will take you to an extensive (34 pages in Word!) description of the entire process.


About future searches and unanswered questions

I am fairly certain that we still don't know everything there is to know about the family, that there is more to learn and there are new discoveries to be made, especially about the very earliest beginnings of the family in Switzerland. There are several questions that I think might yet be answered, and speculations that should be proven or disproven if possible. (I have found that some of the stories or alleged "facts" about the earliest Swiss Varnbülers may be false or, at the least, are highly questionable. More investigation is needed).

For anyone with the interest, time, energy, and most important, good research skills, there are many possibilities, and many places to find information. Most are in archives in Germany and Switzerland, but there are some resources in Austria, Liechtenstein, and here in the U.S. as well. For success in the European archives, an ability to read/interpret German is almost essential (and, ideally, early forms of Swiss/German). Someone in the family in Germany with good research skills would probably be the best equipped for this. (I know the family in Germany is already very knowledgeable about its history, but I don’t know how much it has delved into the details of the family beginnings in Switzerland). Knowing how to read the old script, a special skill in itself, would be especially useful, as the oldest documents are written with it. Learning about the history of the times of our ancestors often helps in understanding the context of the documents that one reads, and can also be an enjoyable and educational side effect of such a search.

There are so many records available in Switzerland (primarily at the archives in St. Gallen, but in several other places as well), that it seems to me one could piece together a fairly complete picture of the Varnbülers life in the 1400's. Most families are lucky to be able to trace their ancestry back as far as the 1700's. We are especially fortunate, for in our case there are records back to at least 1375 (before Columbus discovered America!). For example, there are over 50 pages in the 15th century volumes of the "Urkundenbuch" of the Abbey of St. Gallen archive with mentions of Hans Varnbüler. We can read (if we know the language) what he was doing on specific days in the early 1400's! In Germany there is an entire archive about the barons Varnbüler in the Württemberg state archive, and extensive records in many other archives. Few families have access to such detail about their ancestors from such early time periods, and few countries like Switzerland, or cities like St. Gallen, still have such good records from those early times. Because of this combination of (1) records that have survived intact in the area in which our ancestors lived, and (2) the fact that our ancestors were some of the most important people in the business and political communities of their time, there is an unusual wealth of information available. I think it’s quite possible that more discoveries are waiting to be made.

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