This story is about relationships between the families Amsler, Beldi and Büchli. These connections, dating back more than 300 years, have left traces in the form of the byname “Beldi”, which is still in use today. The nickname “Beldi” was first assigned to the Amsler of Bözen and from there was transferred to the Büchli in Elfingen.
Why are there bynames or nicknames?
Bynames or nicknames used to be an important distinguishing feature. In addition to the official first and last names, a second, traditional naming system existed in rural Switzerland, which older people still use today. It was based on nicknames given to individuals, families, or clans. There was a practical reason behind this: official naming was not a suitable distinguishing feature in many villages, where widespread kinship networks bore the same surnames and traditional first names were limited. Field names, conspicuous activities, or social and physical characteristics served as triggers for nicknames. Sometimes whole ancestral lines were added to the list to make it more precise.
Viniculture in Böztal – Büchli Winery
In the municipality of Böztal there is a considerable number of wine producers who offer a wide range of products, exhibiting excellent quality. One of these companies is run by the Büchli family residing in Effingen.
This family is known by the inhabitants of Böztal as “Beldi Heiris”. In this article, the origin of the nickname “Beldi” and “Beldi Heiris” will be clarified.
The founder of the successful company was Willi Büchli-Pfister (1915-1976) from Elfingen. He had been producing his own wine in Bözen since 1946. The family moved to Effingen in 1972, where Willi and his son planted a vineyard on a beautiful south-facing site and from there continued to tend his vines in the neighboring villages of Bözen and Elfingen. The business is now run by the third generation.
My father Willi Amsler-Hauser was an enthusiastic hobby winemaker. He cultivated his grapes in the “Fuchsli” in Bözen. The Büchli winery processed his harvest and helped him produce his own wine. The two Willi’s were good friends. However, they could not have known that this deep bond between the Amsler and Büchli families had roots going back to the 17th century.
In fact, there is a special connection between the two families through the nickname “Beldi”. The Amsler were the “bridge” through which the surname “Beldi” reached the Büchli.
Amsler – Beldi – Büchli
The Amsler and Büchli families were already well established in the parish of Bözen in the 16th century. Around 1655, Ulrich Beldi had also become a citizen of Bözen. The Beldi family originally came from Rüfenach in the parish of Rein. The family resided in the Bözen parish for only three generations and then disappeared again. Researching the connections among these three families reveals the origin of the nickname “Beldi”.
The Amsler – Beldi connection
It is generally assumed that the surname Beldi came to Elfingen by marriage. In fact, there were a few marriage partners named Beldi in the parish in the first half of the 18th century. But none of these marriages coined the nickname “Beldi”. The real reason lay in a much earlier marriage in 1659, the marriage between Uli Beldi and the widow Verena Amsler-Brändli. A detailed description of this relationship can be found here.
In the local church records, we can observe the family of Johannes Amsler and Verena Brändli with six children. At around the same time, there was the family of Uli Beldi and Freni Brändli with four children:
At first glance, these appear to be two different families. However, a “buy-out contract”, a kind of inheritance agreement between Hans Amsler (1652-1729) and his mother in January 1677 documented in the Effingen court records shows that Johannes Amsler died around 1658 and his widow Verena Amsler-Brändli had subsequently married Uli Beldi.
The children from the first marriage with Johannes Amsler received the surname “Beldi”, the name of Verena’s second husband. His surname Beldi became the nickname of the children of the deceased Johannes. Their stepfather Uli Beldi had four more children with Verena. Verena Brändli’s ten children were stepsiblings.
The nickname «Beldi» or «Bäldi» had been assigned to Hans Amsler (1652-1729) already in his youth. Written evidence of this was provided in 1729 by the local priest who recorded the death date in the church registry:
«On April 30, 1729, the 77.-year old Hans Amsler, also known as Bäldi,
passed away due to his advanced age without illness»
This nickname remained in place for all descendants of Hans Amsler (1652-1729) until the 19th century. In the first citizen register Bözen established in 1820 there is a record for Johannes Amsler who was called “Beldi”, he was a representative of the line of “Beldi Ruedis”. Later the “Beldi Shoemakers” were simply called “Shoemakers” and new surnames such as “carpenters” emerged.
The Amsler – Büchli Connection
Marriage to a widow once again was the trigger for the assignment of the nickname “Beldi”. However, in this case the existing nickname “Beldi” of Hans Amsler (1678-1762) was transferred to his stepson. Hans Amsler was the second husband of the widow Susanna Büchli-Heitz, and the son from her first marriage, Hans Urech Büchli, received the nickname from his stepfather.
Hans Urech Büchli was born in 1718 in Elfingen as the youngest child of Hans Büchli and Susanna Heitz who originated from Bözberg. Shortly after his birth, the young father of the family died at the age of 40. Hans Urech became the progenitor of the Büchli family, called “Beldi”. Among his descendants we find the above-mentioned winegrowing family Büchli in Effingen.
As in the case of the Amsler-Beldi connection, evidence is found in a marriage and inheritance contract. This contract was drawn up in 1735 in the presence of the head bailiff of Schenkenberg. Already in the first few lines we learn important details about the family situation of the couple. The inheritance contract names a sole heir, Hans Urech Büchli, youngest son from the first marriage of Susanna Heitz and Hans Büchli.
in Gothes Nahmen Amen:
Wir Hanss Amssler und Susanna Heitz Ehemenschen
zu Elfigen im Amt Schenkenberg gesessen, bekennend
dass wir bereits in die 17: jahrlang under dem Segen dess
Herren in süssem Friden und Einigkeit in der Ehe beyeinan-
gesessen und gelebt, ohne dass wir seither mit Kinderen
von unss beyden erzeüget, begabt, und ohne einche Ehebeding
under unss auffgerichtet, unss befinden. Derohalben…
In summary, the couple Hans Amsler and Susanna Heitz had decided to settle their affairs after 17 years of marriage, without having had children of their own. At that time, the couple was around 55 years old, so it was time to record their last will. There must have been considerable assets on both sides that made a contractual arrangement necessary.
Whether they had in fact lived in “sweet peace and unity” is beyond our knowledge, but it was customary at that time for the county clerk to use flowery phrases when drafting such contracts.
In the first point, the spouses promise each other mutual love, fidelity and “good will”. Secondly, in the event of the death of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse shall be the sole heir. The third point concerns the inheritance after the death of both spouses.
Drithens denn, soll nach beidseithiger unser der Ehe-
leüthen früh oder spath zutragenden Todesfahl mein der
Ehefrauen von meinem ersten Ehemann dem Hanss Büchli
seel: von Elfigen erzeügte Sohn, nahmens Hanss Urech Büechlin
(…als alleiniger Erbe eingesetzt…)
Based on the marriage contract, both Susanna Heitz, the wife, and Johannes Amsler, her second husband, unanimously declare that the “son begotten by the wife and my first husband”, is appointed sole heir. This was the youngest son, Hans Urech Büchli, born in 1718.
From the 16-year-old stepson Hans Urech continuous dutiful obedience is contractually required. This was the stepfather’s condition for Hans Urech to be able to take on his inheritance after the death of the parents.
From the church records we learn the further details regarding the above persons: Hans Büchli had married Susanna Heitz from Bözberg on February 10, 1708. Ten years later, on December 18, 1718, Hans Büchli died as a “young house father of not yet 40 years”.
Hence, he must have been born around 1678 or 1679. Hans Büchli was the father of Hans Urech Büchli, who was born on February 10, 1718. Little Hans Urech had lost his father in the same year.
Shortly after, on February 17, 1719, the widow Susanna Büchli-Heitz married the bachelor Johannes Amsler from Bözen, born on November 24, 1678. He was the oldest child of Hans Amsler, called “Bäldi Hans” and Anna Heuberger.
As a result of his mother’s second marriage, Hans Urech Büchli (1718-1799) was given the nickname of his stepfather. This is how Hans Amsler’s nickname “Beldi” was transferred to the Büchli family in Elfingen. This byname has survived over the centuries and is still in use today.
The nickname «Beldi» in the church records
An excellent source for the Genealogist is the “House Visitation Record” which was maintained by the pastors of the parish of Bözen. These records are like a census, a snapshot of all the inhabitants of the three villages of Bözen, Effingen and Elfingen at the time of the visit. Such registers were created around 1755, 1766, 1790, 1812 and 1822.
Depending on the parish priest, these records contain, in addition to the names of the inhabitants, extensive information, such as date of birth or whereabouts of the persons (for example in foreign military service). They also include important family nicknames, some of which are still in use today.
In the list of the inhabitants of Elfingen around 1790 written by pastor Johann Rudolph Lüpold, house Number 11 is the 17th household in the village. The residents of this household were three generations of the Büchli family, called “Beldi”:
Hans Ulrich Büchli, der Beldi 20. February 1718
Anna Brack von Bözen, obyt 7. February 1717
Hans Jacob Büchli, der Beldi Jacob 6. August 1747
Anna Maria Wülser 29. June 1749
Anna Maria 21. Oct. 1781
Barbara 11. April 1784
Hans Jacob 2. July 1786
Descendants of Hans Büchli (1678-1718)
These are the direct descendants of Hans Büchli. His son Hans Urech was the first Büchli with the Nickname «Beldi». He had received it from his stepfather Hans Amsler.
With Heinrich Büchli, born in 1819, the branch of the “Beldi Heiris” was founded. Four generations later, the three sons of Gottlieb Büchli and Bertha Brack kept the same byname. Among the citizens of Böztal, they are still known by their nicknames.
Family Gottlieb Büchli-Brack around 1930:
Center: «Beldi Heiri Willi» (1915-1976),
left: «Beldi Heiri Röbi» (1918-1991),
right: «Beldi Heiri Werni» (1924-1972),
Second from the left: Bertha Büchli-Brack (1889-1980),
second from the right: Gottlieb Büchli (1882-1941).
In the next image we see Maria Büchli-Dätwyler, «Pintenwirts» (1853-1931).
Her husband Heinrich Büchli «Beldi Heiris» had passed away a few years earlier.
Maria Büchli is seated on the left, to the right is her younger daughter Elise (1885-1967), standing behind her is daughter Lina (1878-1970) and her son Gottlieb (1882-1941).
The photographer was A. Varady-Pfister in Basel. He must have had a special relationship with the parish of Bözen. Varady was here often on business. Fortunately, some of his beautiful photographs are still preserved, for example group shots of the Elfingen music society dated 1904, or of the Bözen male choir around the same time.
This short article illustrates how the surname “Beldi” originated. Centuries ago, there were connections between the families Amsler, Beldi and Büchli in the Bözen parish. The nickname was created by marriages in 1659 for the Amsler, as well as in 1718 for the Büchli. The byname is witness of these relations to this day.