von Allmen Family
von Allmen crest
The von Allmen family has its legal origin ("Heimat") in the valley of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland. The Lauterbrunnen administrative district is made up of the villages of Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg, Mürren and Wengen.
There have been von Allmens at Lauterbrunnen since at least 1295, and they probably arrived in the valley from the neighbouring canton of Valais in the second part of the 13th century, migrating over the mountains under the pressure of overpopulation. The valley of Lauterbrunnen was only thinly settled at this time, and several of its villages were founded by the new arrivals.
"Allmen" or "Allmend" means "common pastureland" in German, and the earliest von Allmens seem to have lived in the mountains above Lauterbrunnen. It is possible, therefore, that they acquired their name at this point, and were known otherwise before arriving from Valais.
Among the earliest references to the family:
In 1295, Willelm von Almen is one of those who receive a fief at Sévinnen, near Gimmelwald.
In 1333, Peter von Allmen is witness to a sale at Isenfluh.
In 1335, Walter von Almon sells some land at Mürren.
In 1337, Ulrich von Allmen and his wife, Katharina, of Lauterbrunnen sell some land at Mürren.
In 1398, Joh. von Allmen sells some land at Mürren.
In 1444, Hans von Allmen sells some land at Schilt, near Gimmelwald.
Construction of the church at Lauterbrunnen began in 1486, and the "Jahrseitsbuch von Lauterbrunnen" lists several von Allmens who made gifts for this work. Most gave money, but Hans von Alman gave a cow, and Addala, wife of Cristan von Almon gave a sheep!
In 1669 plague struck the valley of Lauterbrunnen with devastating results. About 360 people died in the epidemic, representing 60% of its inhabitants, and 21 families disappeared completely. According to the "Pestbuch von Lauterbrunnen" kept by pastors Lutz and Küng, the first death due to plague was recorded on 17 July. The epidemic spread upwards throughout the valley, reaching Mürren (15 September), Gimmelwald (29 September) and Stechelberg (8 October). The last death recorded by pastor Küng is that of Christen von Allmen’s child on 8 October, but the epidemic continued for nearly a month after this date, and pastor Küng was one of its victims. Thirty von Allmen deaths are recorded, but no records were kept during the last month of the plague, and as the plague only reached the upper valley shortly before this point, the true number is probably far higher.
During the war with France in 1798, several von Allmens fell at Fraubrunnen and Grauholz defending the Republic of Bern and the old Confederation. Their names are recorded on marble tablets in Bern cathedral.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the family entered the new tourist industry, and we find mountain guides and hoteliers.
Although the family has spread throughout Switzerland today, there are still many von Allmens in the Lauterbrunnen area. In all, there are currently 1,587 entries for "von Allmen" in the Swiss telephone directory.
In the earliest written records, several forms of the name are found, including "von Allmen", "von Almen", "von Alman" and "von Almon". Both "von Allmen" and "von Almen" are found at different times in the original parish registers (now in the state archives at Bern), but "von Allmen" is the version normally used in Switzerland today.
von Allmen branches
One branch of the von Allmen family apparently changed their name to Allmer around 1700, but we have no further information about this line at present.
Peter von Allmen of Lauterbrunnen was an early German-speaking arrival in the canton of Neuchâtel. Either he or the local pastor translated his name roughly into French, and he is recorded in the parish registers as "Pierre Ducommun". However, the name Ducommun was already widespread in the area, and in order to distinguish his family from the others, a nickname was added which became established as the official family name: Ducommun-dit-l'Allemand. Peter/Pierre became a naturalised citizen of Neuchâtel (then a part of the Prussian Empire) on 22 September 1724.
A French-speaking branch of the family in Canada changed their name to d’Allmen during the First World War.
Our von Allmen family
Our branch of the family lived mainly in and around the village of Gimmelwald high above Lauterbrunnen. We have traced this line back to the 17th century.
Among Jean-Marc's ancestors is Hans von Allmen (born about 1675), "Statthalter" (= mayor) of Lauterbrunnen, who was forced to resign when the church authorities discovered that he was unable to read or write! The pastor of the church at Lauterbrunnen went on horseback to Interlaken to appeal against the decision, but the provincial governor was inflexible: "Der Statthalter Hans von Allmen seye ihme keineswegs anstendig und habe ihm gutwillig die Demission ertheilt, weil er nicht schreiben und lesen könne, wolle absolut keinen solchen Statthalter leiden." Hans’ successor in office was another of Jean-Marc's ancestors, Hans Linder (1683-1753).
The former family home at Gimmelwald
From 1789 to 1799, the schoolmaster at Gimmelwald was Christen von Allmen (1743-1810), husband of Hans von Allmen’s granddaughter Elsbeth von Allmen, and doubtless a cousin of some kind. According to a 1799 report on schools in the canton of Bern, Gimmelwald had a population of 137, including 20 schoolchildren. Attendance at Gimmelwald was "good", whereas at Lauterbrunnen it was "poor", and at Isenfluh, Wengen and Mürren "very poor". Like all local schoolmasters, Christian gave the children their lessons in his own home: there was no school building. In 1799, he earned 44 francs 40, half of which was paid by the canton "Oberland" and half by Gimmelwald. The following year, Christian was no longer the village schoolmaster, and the pastor Samuel Zimmerlin wrote in a letter dated 21 December 1800: "Ein Jahr vorher erntete die Gimmelwaldschule noch Lob, mit dem Schulmeisterweschsel aber verblaste es." ("Last year, the school at Gimmelwald still had a good reputation, but since the schoolmaster changed, all that is finished")
Two of Christen's sons, Peter and Heinrich, married sisters Anna and Margaritha Kammer, and strangely both brothers died young a few days apart, although no cause of death is given in the burial register. Peter von Allmen was born in Gimmelwald and christened in Lauterbrunnen on 8 October 1775. He married Anna Kammer on 22 June 1801, and died on 4 August 1806, leaving his widow with three sons under the age of 4. Anna subsequently married Ulrich Gertsch.
The youngest of Peter and Anna's sons, Ulrich von Allmen, was born in Gimmelwald on 5 October 1805 and married Margritha Wyss in Gündlischwand on 28 September 1834. They had three chldren before Margritha's death in about 1843, and Ulrich then married Barbara Winterberger in Lauterbrunnen on 1 August 1845.
Ulrich and Barbara migrated from the valley of Lauterbrunnnen to the canton of Neuchâtel in about 1846, and settled near Boudeviliers, where most of their eleven children were born. This was a time of economic recession, when many Swiss emigrated to seek a better life, particularly those from badly-hit rural areas, while others looked for easier conditions elsewhere in Switzerland. Ulrich may also have wanted to make a fresh start after the death of his first wife.
The youngest child from Ulrich's first marriage, Marianna von Allmen, was born in Lauterbrunnen on 9 July 1843 and lived with her maternal grandmother for some time after her mother's death, only joining her father and stepmother in Boudevilliers some years later. She went into service with a tailor in Le Locle and had a son, Hermann von Allmen, in Bern on 31 July 1877, returning to work for the same tailor after the baby was born.
Hermann married Anna-Louise Lörtscher in Bern on 17 June 1907. She was born in Bern on 4 August 1882, and her Lörtscher ancestors came from the village of Spiez. Hermann was a hairdresser, and later a gardener at the institute where his oldest son taught. After leaving the institute, he worked in a watchmaking factory in Neuchâtel. Hermann died in Neuchâtel in 1950, and Anna-Louise in Lausanne in 1968.
Hermann von Allmen
Hermann and Anna-Louise had four children, the oldest of whom, Paul Herman von Allmen, was born in Bern on 3 May 1908. By the time he was 3, the family had settled permanently in the canton of Neuchâtel, and all his schooling was consequently in French, although he learned to speak both German and Swiss German dialect well. Paul became a secondary school teacher and during the economic depression of the 1930s spent a year in Turkey, teaching at a school in Tarsus. When he returned to Switzerland, he learned of an opening for a married couple to take charge of a college at Bevaix, and this gave him the impetus to propose to his childhood friend Cécile Mathilde Roulet, who was at that time working as a governess in Germany. Cécile was born in Bevaix on 18 June 1904 and was the daughter of Paul-Emile Roulet and Rose-Adèle Grandjean.
Paul and Cécile were married in Neuchâtel on 30 July 1932 and after some years in Bevaix, moved to Neuchâtel where both taught in secondary schools. They had five children and later returned to Bevaix where Cécile died in 1987, the evening after attending the baptism of two of her grandchildren. Paul later lodged with an old family friend, herself a widow, which allowed both of them to remain independent into their 90s. Following a deterioration in their health, they moved to a home in Fleurier, and Paul celebrated his centenary with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in 2008, before dying peacefully in his sleep a few weeks later.