Two of my ancestors left two different part of Germany in the 1870s (Baden and Wurttemberg, which were at the time separate). They went first to Switzerland (La Chaux de Fonds) in 1874 where they met and funded a family. My grandmother told me they left Germany because of the Franco-German war, however I cannot by any extant imagine why they "fled" : Germany had won the war so there was absolutely no reason to flee, especially not 3 years after peace was established again.

They were probably still in phase with the German government as they had a legal foreign status, and information about their wedding in Switzerland was transmitted to German authorities (or at least it is written that it was).

I cannot really imagine that they left Germany for a reason other than economical, or maybe emotional. Or maybe they disliked Prussia or the new German Empire's government so much they'd rather leave their countries rather than having them overthrow by Prussia ? I really am puzzled about their reasons for leaving.

Their occupations were tailor and cutter respectively, the dad was catholic and the mom protestant.

  • 1
    What was your ancestor's occupation? How sure are you that they left Baden and Wurttemberg "just" before they married? Were there other family members (parents or siblings) also in Switzerland? What was their religion? (Many splinter churches arose around this time, both as new movements and as reaction to changes in established churches).
    – bgwiehle
    Sep 22, 2015 at 17:15
  • @bgwiehle I do not know when they left, I just know when they arrived, and they married less than one year after arrival. My great-great grandmother was born only one month after their arrival (yep, before they wed - I have no idea if the dad is the real dad). I do not have any proof of any other family members in Switzerland, however their wedding witnesses were both German too and both also working in the clothes industry. The mom was protestant and the dad catholic (although I do not know how faithful they were).
    – Bregalad
    Sep 22, 2015 at 18:58
  • Actually I do not know their actual arrival dates, just when they were recorded as foreigners by the authorities of the Canton of Neuchâtel. We could imagine that they arrived before.
    – Bregalad
    Sep 22, 2015 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


Germany unified in 1871 after the Franco-German war. But for some Germans, the definition of nation did not include pluralism, and Catholics in particular came under scrutiny; some Germans, and especially Bismarck, feared that the Catholics' connection to the papacy might make them less loyal to the nation. Several laws were passed from 1871-1876 putting the government in charge of choosing and educating priests, and how Catholic children were to be educated.


  • Yeah but my catholic great-great-grandfather left to a protestant country and married a protestant woman, so I can conclude he did probably not fled because he was so proud to be catholic that he left the country - He'd went to France or Austria or a catholic Swiss Canton if that was the case.
    – Bregalad
    Oct 6, 2015 at 8:33
  • He didn't need to be a "proud" Catholic to be treated unjustly. Oct 7, 2015 at 4:06
  • What do you mean exactly by "treated unjustly" ? The majority of southern germans were catholic, and the majority of them didn't leave, or else the area would have become only ghost town and villages :) If being catholic was such an issue it would have been simpler to convert to protestantism without moving rather than move to a protestant country, marry a protestant woman and rise protestant children.
    – Bregalad
    Oct 7, 2015 at 7:54

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