Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Visiting the Bern State Archives

For my internship for my Family History degree, I researched 5 Swiss generations.  I spent a summer researching in the Salt Lake Family History Library and then spent two weeks in Switzerland.  For one week, I did research in the Bern State Archive and for the other week, I researched in the small church archive in Frutigen.  Here are some things I learned from that experience.

(1) Sometimes you must have a reservation.  If you don't know if the archive you want to visit requires it, call ahead and make one.  Do not assume they will just let you in.  When I visited the State Archives, I made reservations about 2 months ahead of time and made them for an entire week.  It's changed a bit.  Now genealogists may only come 3 days a year and only on Fridays.  Tough.  I made reservations to research in the Frutigen church and for the two weeks before I was to leave, I could not get in touch with the caretaker just to confirm.  I was so scared I wouldn't be able to research.  And I might not have been able to; she went on vacation!  But her daughter was there and she let me in.  It pays to be friendly to the locals who can help you out.  They gave me the daughter's address and phone number.
(2) There may be a dress code.  I was told I could not wear jeans in Bern, but after a couple of days seeing everyone else in jeans, I asked about it and they said I could wear them.
(3) You may need to fill out a form with a description of your research or why you want to look at their holdings.
(4) Some may require that you absolutely do not have a pen with you.
(5) When I was in the Frutigen archives, the caretaker of the archive had to be there the entire time, the door had to be open, I could not take in a pen, and I could not take pictures inside the archive.
(6) And to those who may not know-do not write in the old books!!!  I was heartsick looking at the modern-day pen underlinings and the circles in the books, the only books available for Frutigen parish records, the ones they stubbornly refuse to have microfilmed.  Once they're gone, they're gone!
(7) You may not get to copy anything.  I could in Bern, but obviously could not in Frutigen.
(8) And last but not least, use your time wisely and enjoy the opportunity!

The door to the Frutigen archive.  A tiny little hole in the wall-literally.


Anne said...

Okay this is so interesting! I love the little door and the pictures. Wow!

Beutler Family said...

How did you record your info without a pen?

Christian said...

With a pencil, my dear, and my laptop! :)

Christian said...

Abi, that was me answering, not Christian. Better switch accounts! hee, hee!