Guggisberg - the history and genealogy of a unique surname from Bern, Switzerland

                                  Wedding chest of Christian Guggisberg and Magdalena Scheuner of Englisberg dated 1786.                         


The surname Guggisberg has long recorded ancestry in Bern, Switzerland, documented since the 13th century. Originally the name indicated to the geographic origin of the bearer as it was connected with the prefix "von" and "de" meaning "from" Guggisberg, an ancient village situated about 15 miles southeast from Switzerland's capital city, Bern. The "von" was eventually dropped and as of the 14th century, only Guggisberg remained. The oldest reference to the modern Guggisberg family is in the person of Niklaus Guggisberg whose name appears in a hereditary lease agreement with the monastery of Gottstatt near the town of Nidau dated 1336. A later, similar treaty is dated 1366. Niklaus Guggisberg is granted a hereditary lease of a vineyard on Gurten Mountain by the local branch of the Teutonic Order located in the town of Köniz. Although there is some geographic distance between Nidau and Köniz we still can presume the two Niklaus Guggisbergs are probably father and son. Whether it is a coincidence or not, some years earlier in the same seat of the Teutonic Order was a friar named Konrad von Guggisberg who served between 1328 and 1353 as chaplain to Berchthold von Buchegg, the Bishop of Strasbourg. Konrad was the son of Hans von Guggisberg by his wife, Mechthild and was a burgher of the city of Bern. Niklaus Guggisberg, the wine grower of Gurten Mountain is considered the common ancestor of all modern name bearers Guggisberg. Those Guggisberg family members that resided during the medieval era in the city of Bern eventually died out due to recurring pest epidemics or lack of issue, although they periodically reestablished themselves when other family members chose to reside in the city. With the death of Hans Guggisberg on April 4th 1560 ended the family's presence in the city of Bern. The family members that resided in the nearby countryside thrived and by the beginning of the Reformation in Bern in the year 1528 were already firmly established in the villages of Belp, Englisberg, Köniz, Oberbalm and Zimmerwald. 

Guggisberg family heirloom, small pocket knife, dated 1778, attributed to Hans Guggisberg of Zimmerwald

The modern Guggisberg name bearers of Switzerland hold ancestral citizenship in the villages of Belp, Englisberg, Köniz, Niedermuhlern, Obermuhlern and Zimmerwald. A branch of the Guggisberg family from Belp acquired additionally in 1774 the citizenship of the city of Vevey, using a variant spelling of the surname: Gougginsperg.

Family crests and emblems

29th August 1532 coat of arms on wax seal by Ulrich Guggisberg of Zimmerwald, burgher of Bern, civil administrator of Zofingen
coat of arms based on wax seal by Ulrich Guggisberg of Zimmerwald, burgher of Bern, civil administrator of Zofingen dated 1532

 16th Century, Guggisberg von Zimmerwald and Bern
1758, Guggisberg von Zimmerwald residing at Fallenbach
1778, Guggisberg von Zimmerwald
1780, Guggisberg von Zimmerwald, residing at Fallenbach
 1788, Guggisberg von Zimmerwald, residing at the Hofmatt bei Belp, innkeeper at the Drey Könige tavern in Bern

 1799, Guggisberg von Obermuhlern and Englisberg, residing at the "im Bach" homestead in Obermuhlern
 about 1810, drawing of a Guggisberg crest in the sketch book of Bernese artist Bendicht Rufer, attributed to the Guggisberg family of Zimmerwald

Zimmerwald, Belp and Fallenbach-Niedermuhlern Branch

The Guggisberg family divides today into 16 distinct branches, all of which share common ancestry. The largest and likely oldest branch are the Guggisberg family of Zimmerwald. There is evidence that they owned property as early as the 15th century in the hamlet of Niederhäusern. By the mid 16th century they expanded to the hamlets "im Wald" ("in the woods") and also nearby Hulistal, which formed part of the neighboring village of Englisberg. Around the same time a group of the family moved to the neighboring village of Belp becoming the ancestors of the Belp branch of the family. In the 18th century the family, through strategic marriage alliances also gained ownership of farms in Fallenbach in the neighboring village of Niedermuhlern and a homestead named "Halten". Their primary occupation remained throughout within the farming trade.

Homestead of Daniel Guggisberg of Zimmerwald, farmer in Fallenbach, village of Niedermuhlern. The farmhouse, granary and oven-house were
constructed in 1760 and are today under the protection of the cultural authority (Berner Heimatschutz) of Bern. Photograph dated about 1940.

During the 19th century about a dozen family members emigrated to America, settling mostly in the mid western states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Texas. One family settled in the 1850's in New Ulm, Minnesota. Although they bear the surname Guggisberg and hail from Zimmerwald, they have no blood kinship to the rest of the Guggisberg family, but rather go back to an informal adoption that took place in the early 1700's. In the 1860's and 1880's some family members departed for South America, establishing the surname in Argentina and Chile where their descendants still live today. In the 1830's three brothers and two sisters Guggisberg from Belp emigrated to Ontario, Canada settling in and near the town of Preston. The oldest brother, Johann Guggisberg, opened a tavern known as the "Black Bear" - the name being reminiscent to the armorial animal of their native state, Bern. The middle brother, Samuel, a carpenter and part time farmer settled in nearby Oxford County. The youngest brother, Friedrich, started a furniture factory in Preston in 1838, which grew to become the largest employer in the area. Their sisters Magdalena (Mrs. Christian Moser) and Anna (Mrs. Johann Meyer) farmed near Preston. Samuel's grandson, Frederick Gordon Guggisberg was educated in England and became a professional soldier. He served during the 1920's as a British colonial governor and commander-in-chief of the Gold Coast and British Guiana. He was knighted in 1922 and thus became the most distinguished family member.

letterhead of the old Guggisberg furniture factory of Preston, Ontario, dated 1888

Brigadier-General Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., RE  [1917]

In 1720 Paul Guggisberg from Belp, a medical doctor, relocated to the village of Rougemont in the French speaking part of the old Republic of Bern. There he married Madeleine Mange, a local girl who gave him several children. Their name was recorded as Gouggisberg, the "ou" being pronounced as the letter "u". Paul's son, Jean Daniel Samuel Gouggisberg, a successful wine merchant acquired in 1774 municipal citizenship in the city of Vevey and his descendant henceforth spelled the name as Gougginsperg. Several descendants of this group moved across the border to neighboring France. The family is now extinct in Switzerland but continues to exist in France.

In 1725 David Guggisberg from the Belp branch of the family departed with his young wife, Magdalena Häberli for the Palatine State in Germany, finding a new home in the town of Hornbach in the Principality of Zweibrücken. The spelling of their name got changed to Gugisperg. In 1848 and 1850 their great-grandsons Daniel and Philipp Gugisperg emigrated to New York City. The family thrived there until the early 1900's. With the death of Daniel's son Henry in 1909 the family name became extinct.

Englisberg, Obermuhlern and Niedermuhlern Branch

The Guggisberg family of Englisberg are believed to be nearly as old as their cousins in neighboring Zimmerwald. The oldest documented reference dates to about the late 1400's/early 1500's in the person of Christian Guggisberg, landowner in Englisberg.
It is believed that the Guggisberg families from Oberbalm and Köniz are descended from them, both of which are now extinct in the male lineage. In the 18th century through marriage, the Englisberg branch of the Guggisberg family came into possession of farms and land in the neighboring villages of Obermuhlern and Niedermuhlern establishing the branches named after those villages.

Proprietary inscription on the upper door of the granary of the Englisberg Eck homestead belonging to
Christian Guggisberg of Englisberg.
The inscription is dated about 1780, the structure itself is dated 1726.

                      The family's ancestral homestead "Oberhaus" (upper house) in Englisberg, documented since the 16th century,
                      remains to this day in Guggisberg ownership.

Oberhaus, ancestral homestead of the Guggisberg family of Englisberg. Current structure
dates from 1851 replacing an earlier structure believed to have been built in the 1720's

Officer's Commission as a first Sub-Lieutenant of the Republic of Bern Militia, 1st Company of the
2nd Land Defense Batallion, 1st Military District, awarded to Johannes Guggisberg of Obermuhlern

, homestead of the Guggisberg family of Englisberg, residing in Obermuhlern. The structure was built
in 1723/1724 and is today under
the protection of the Bern Cultural Authority. Photograph dated about 1930.

grain sack belonging to Bendicht Guggisberg of Englisberg,
farmer in Langendorf, Canton Solothurn


Long-lost and forgotten branches of the Guggisberg family

The Kochersperger family of Rittershoffen, Alsace, France

Around 1660 Bendicht Guggisberg, believed to have hailed from the hamlet of Kühlewil in Englisberg, emigrated to the neighboring French province of Alsace to settle in the small village of Rittershoffen. There, in 1664 his son Hans Guggisberg married a local maiden, Anna Sommer and established the Alsatian branch of the family. Due to misunderstanding, their surname, spoken in their guttural Bernese-Swiss dialect was not very well understood by the local authorities and mistaken with the name of a nearby hilltop called Kochersberg. By 1673 the family was called Kochersperger and remains so to this day. Of that family group, in about 1770, Johann Martin Kochersperger and his younger sister, Maria Eva emigrated to Pennsylvania. Johann Martin Kochersperger became the ancestor of the American branch of the Kochersperger family. Several decades later, more family members departed for America settling again in Pennsylvania, but also in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Ohio becoming the ancestors of the modern American Kochersperger, Kochersberger, Kochensperger, Kochensparger, Kochenberger, Kochenspere, Kokenberger, Kokensparger, Kokensberger, Cochensparger, Coensparger and Cogansparger families. In about 1808 Lorenz Kochersperger from Rittershoffen moved to Germany becoming the ancestor of the Hessian branch of the family spelling the name as Kochensperger.

The Gugelsperger and Gugelsberger family of the village of Wasser, near Emmendingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

During or immediately after the Thirty Years War that raged in Europe from 1618 to 1638 Hans Guggisberg from the hamlet of Kühlewil, village of Englisberg left his ancestral home to find a new life in the village of Wasser, near Emmendingen, in the Duchy of Baden-Durlach. Because of linguistic differences, the surname Guggisberg got misspelled and was at times recorded as Guckisperger. Over time the spelling version of Gugelsperger had established itself. The family thrived in the new homeland for about 150 years. In 1792, the last name bearer, Johann Georg Gugelsperger followed the call of hundreds of other Suabian families and emigrated to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. By the mid 19th century, the name Gugelsperger was established in the city of Radautz in the Austro-Hungarian Duchy of Bukowina. Upon the breakup of Imperial Austria in 1918, the former Duchy of Bukowina was divided up among Poland, Ukraine and Romania. Most of the ethnic German population resettled in Austria proper and also in neighboring Germany. It is believed that the modern name-bearers Gugelsperger in Austria are descended from this family.

The Guckensperger family of Oberriexingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Christian Guggisberg from Zimmerwald, Canton Bern, Switzerland settled around 1658 briefly in the village of Wolfenweiler in the Duchy of Baden-Durlach and later moved to the neighboring Duchy of Württemberg, where he established his home in the village of Oberriexingen. Once again, the Bernese-Swiss dialect was not very well understood and the name Guggisberg was recorded as Gukensperger, Guckensperg and Guckensperger. The descendants of Christian thrived for about 150 years in and about Oberriexingen, but seemingly this branch of the family got extinct by the mid 19th century.

Genealogical details and particulars may be perused at the following website:

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