The Swiss Family Holliker: Journey to America, Certificate of Baptism

This is a copy of Johannes Holliger’s Certificate of Baptism.


(My cousin Neil Holliker) has the original today.

The first thing to notice are the fold marks.  It looks like it just came out of his pocket!

The Header is: “Certificate of Baptism.”  Then is goes on to say:

“On the 27th of a winter month (in German this is either November, December or January) 1803, a legitimate child was baptized in the county parish church.”  It is significant to note that the actual birth date is not recorded, only the date of the baptismal.

As was the practice in those days, in Switzerland, newborns were baptized on the first Sunday following their birth.  So, when exactly was Johannes born?  His tombstone gave me the clue here:


A couple things here first.  This marker reflects ‘John’ Holliker, vs. Johannes Holliger.  However, they are one in the same.  His name ‘morphed’ over the years, primarily through inept census takers.  Bureaucrats.

Okay… so here I have his recorded date of death.  Subtracting 78 years from 1881 gives me 1803, which coincides with his Certificate of Baptism.

If we subtract 4 days from December 30, 1881, we can deduce his actual birthday was December 26, 1803.  Then looking at my handy Mac calender, I see where 26 Dec. 1803 fell on a Monday.  So, with children in those days being baptized on the first Sunday after their births, it is probable he was born on 26 December 1803.

The certificate then gives us his parents, Johannes Holliger of Rein, and Maria Hirt of Lauffohr.  Lauffohr is very near Rein, just over the hill actually.

Next on the certificate are his God Parents, Johannes Mueller of Rein, and Verena Lauchli of Remigen.

The certificate then concludes with: “This is certified from the baptismal register of the country parish church with signature and seal, in Rein on the 23rd of April 1833.  Johann(es) Mark, Pastor”

Perplexing.  Why would this document be dated 1833, when Johannes was born in 1803?  That escaped me for many years until it finally dawned on me.  He wouldn’t have needed such a document until he was ready to leave!  Besides being a Certificate of Baptism, this document also served as a ‘Birth Certificate,” and a Passport!   And so, all this information was pulled off the parish church register often held in the basements of Swiss churches.

For the most part, these registers are still held in the parish churches, with copies now in the ‘county’ archives.  And (photo)copies are also available to us through the Mormon church.

So, I think Johannes probably left Rein not long after 23 April 1833 for America.  I asked Max how long the trip to Amsterdam would have taken, and he thought perhaps 3 or 4 weeks – traveling North on the Aare River to the Rhine River, then to Amsterdam.  Then it would have taken some time to procure transport to America, maybe a week or so?  And then, the crossing would have been approximately 6 weeks or so.

So, ballpark figuring (although they didn’t have ballparks in those days) I reckon he arrived in America sometime around the first of August 1833.  It would sure be interesting to find his actual Port of Entry, and the date he arrived!  I’ll keep looking…

Oh, the inscription at the base?

I will [both] lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”  ~ Psalms 4:8  (Thanx to my good friend, Doug…)


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