Family History Research

Are you interested in the history of your family? Depending on how far you wish to go back in time, you will have to contact either the Section for Civil Registry Matters of the Office of Municipalities or the Zurich State Archives.

Table of contents

Your contact

If your ancestors originally came from the Canton of Zurich, your first option is to check the online catalogue of the Zurich State Archives to see whether any duplicates of the birth, marriage or death registers of the Civil Registry Office are available in the State Archives for the requested period of time and whether they are older than 80 years. Please note that the duplicates of the civil status registers kept in the State Archives are not updated and are therefore not legally binding. Legally binding information from registers that are more recent than the time limits stipulated in the current Civil Registry Ordinance (births as of 1900, marriages as of 1930, deaths as of 1960) or information from family registers are exclusively provided by the respective Civil Registry Office.

If you find that the documents you need for your period of time are available in the State Archives, you may continue your research there. Please find more information below.

Office of Municipalities

If you wish to conduct research into your family which goes back less than 80 years, please note the following points.

Obtain your own personal data

As a general rule, extracts, confirmations and certificates are issued to the persons concerned. You may order the documents directly from the respective Civil Registry Office.

Obtain personal data of third parties

If you can prove a direct interest worthy of protection, you may obtain personal data of third parties. This applies if the persons directly concerned cannot obtain the data themselves or if it is unreasonable to expect them to obtain such data.

You may also obtain personal data of other individuals from the Civil Registry Office if you provide a corresponding power of attorney.

Order documents

The following civil status documents can be obtained by the relevant Civil Registry Office:

  • Documents on civil status changes (e.g. birth, death, marriage) are issued by the Civil Registry Office that originally registered the respective event.
  • Certificates on personal and civil status are issued by the Civil Registry Office of the place of origin or, if the person is not a Swiss citizen, by the Civil Registry Office of the place of residence.
  • The Civil Registry Office issues extracts from civil status registers kept in paper form of which there are no duplicates in the State Archives or which contain data not older than 80 years.

Scientific family research & genealogy

Researching persons may obtain personal status data if it is not possible for the persons concerned to obtain such data or if it is unreasonable to expect them to obtain such data. This requires the authorization from the supervisory authority. Furthermore, researchers must assert a scientific interest and must guarantee the protection of the personal data related to the persons concerned.  

  • If you wish to conduct research into your direct family line only (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.), you may directly contact the Civil Registry Office of either the Canton of Zurich or the Canton of Schwyz, depending on where your place of origin is.
  • If you are also interested in the collateral lines of your family (uncles, aunts, great-uncles, great-aunts, etc.), you will need to request the authorization to obtain personal data for your research. Please use the application form below.
  • If your research does not involve your own family, you will also need to request the authorization to obtain personal data for your research. Please find all the necessary information in the application form below.
  • If your research concerns data that originated more than 80 years ago, you have the option of searching the State Archives. Please find more details below. 

Zurich State Archives

If you are looking for family history data that originated more than 80 years ago, your first option is to check the online catalogue of the Zurich State Archives to see whether any duplicates of the birth, marriage or death registers of the Civil Registry Office are available in the State Archives for the requested period of time. Please note that the duplicates of the civil status registers kept in the State Archives are not updated and are therefore not legally binding. Legally binding information from registers that are more recent than the time limits stipulated in the current Civil Registry Ordinance (births as of 1900, marriages as of 1930, deaths as of 1960) or information from family registers are exclusively provided by the respective Civil Registry Office.

With regard to family history research going back to 1876 or earlier, the so-called church or parish registers are of central importance. They contain records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, and were kept by the responsible parish priest. They are the forerunners of today's civil status registers.

The State Archives centrally store the parish registers dating back to the Reformation up to 1876, when the Confederate Law on Civil Registers came into effect and the Civil Registry Offices were established in the municipalities. In addition to the parish registers, the State Archives also contain the so-called »Haushaltungsrodel” (family books kept by the parish priest) and family registers. Zurich and Winterthur are the only two cities that keep older civil status documents in their respective city archives.

Picture of the genealogical tree of the Bluntschli family
Genealogical table of the von Friedrich Bluntschli family, 1899 (StAZH Db B 50 RP)

Marriages from 16th to 18th century

The database contains a standardized short form of all marriages recorded in the surviving parish registers of the parishes of today's Canton of Zurich from the Reformation until 1800.

Census records as of 1633/34

Census records are a further source of great value to family history research. These records exist for numerous Zurich parishes, dating from 1633/34 until well into the 18th century.

How to conduct family research in the State Archives

  1. Is the requested data available in the State Archives?

    Check the online catalogue of the State Archives to see whether the duplicates of the civil status registers of the municipality you are looking for are available and whether they concern data that originated more than 80 years ago. If this is the case, you are welcome to visit the State Archives. If not, please contact the respective Civil Registry Office.

  2. Visit the State Archives

    If you have notice of a specific date of birth, marriage or death that occurred before 1876, you may directly access the parish records on microfilm. You are welcome to examine them on your own and without prior notice. If you are looking for more recent data, you are welcome to have the corresponding duplicates of the civil status registers brought to the reading room.

  3. Our staff will help you

    Please do not hesitate to ask our staff for help when you get started with your family research. Any further research, however, will rest with you.

  4. Specialized literature may help

    For comprehensive instructions in the field of family history research in the Canton of Zurich, please refer to the following book (available in German only):

    Mario von Moos, Familiengeschichtliche Forschungen im Kanton Zürich. Ein Wegweiser zu den Quellen, Uster 1988 (Arbeitshilfe für Familienforscher in der Schweiz Nr. 4, hg. von der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Familienforschung)

    The book is available for purchase at the State Archives (CHF 15).

  5. Mandate a genealogist

    If you do not wish to conduct the research yourself, you may mandate a professional genealogist to do the research. Please contact the State Archives for recommendations and addresses.

Surnames

Family crests

The State Archives provide comprehensive records on family crests.

This documentation contains references to family crests related to the Canton of Zurich that are mentioned or depicted in publications. It also refers to family crests kept in collections of the State Archives. The focus is on crests of families from the former rural areas of Zurich.

Use the accordion controls to toggle the visibility of each panel (below the controls).

The family crest records contain information about specific family crests mentioned in literature and in the following crest collections kept by the State Archives:

  • Monumenta Heraldica Turicensia (initiated in 1930, constantly updated) (in German)
  • Crest collection by Friedrich Hegi (StAZH W I 38), generated in about 1920, mostly contains family crests depicted on buildings or stove tiles (watercolours by Walter Naef-Bouvin) (in German)
  • Crest index by Hans Kläui (StAZH W I 80.90 -W I 80.96), generated between 1948 and 1992, incl. numerous crest adaptations and new creations for families from the rural areas of Zurich (in German)
  • Register of shapes and objects depicted in crests of families from the city and the rural areas of Zurich, by Julius Müller (»Figurenregister der Wappen Zürcherischer Geschlechter von Stadt und Landschaft”, original kept in the National Museum Zurich, Hc 104; reproduction kept in the State Archives; register: StAZH Bib. Ek 363 RP) (in German)

The cities of Zurich and Winterthur have both developed a rich heraldic tradition since the late Middle Ages. The crests of old-established families have been published in crest books since those early days. The family crest records contain information related to the following crest publications:

Only a selection of further crests of old-established families with citizenship of the cities of Winterthur and Zurich were included. As a rule, the crests of noble families of the late Middle Ages were not incorporated.

The family crest records refer to the Canton of Zurich. They generally contain crests of families who hold or held citizenship of a Zurich municipality, both of old-established families and new citizens. An exception to this rule is Hans Kläui’s crest index, which also includes crests of families of other cantons and was incorporated in the records in its entirety.

The use of a family crest is a private matter. The State Archives can only provide evidence of a family crest if it was made public. Therefore, the family crest records will never be complete. However, they are constantly amended and updated.

Passports issued 1848–1870 (to America and Australia)

Passport records constitute an important source for the tracing of emigrant flows. The records of travel passports issued by the Cantonal Chancellery are kept in the State Archives. Between 1848 and 1870, these records reveal numerous names of travellers to overseas countries, mainly to America. Most of these travellers were probably emigrants.

Contact

Staatsarchiv More information

Address

Winterthurerstrasse 170
8057 Zürich
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