Project

Family name atlas of
German-speaking
Switzerland.

With perspectives on the

Swiss Romance-language

regions

Giovanni Segantini, Ave Maria bei der Überfahrt, 1886
At the University of Bern, we are currently implementing the largest project to date for the research of Swiss surnames. Names from before 1800 until the present day are examined from a linguistic point of view, with results to be published in a digital, open-access atlas. On this website, you will find samples of our work, impressions, information on events and much more.
Surnames are contemporary witnesses from the Middle Ages. In some cases, they were already used in Switzerland in the 13th century – earlier than in other German-speaking regions. As a result, they tell us a lot about the historical state of the language – about pronunciation or word formation, for example – but also about life and work in medieval times, for example regarding skilled trades or social interactions. Names also bear witness to the migratory movements of their bearers, i.e. to immigration and internal migration.

Surnames (systematic)

The atlas is divided into three parts: 1. Grammar: names by phonetics and formation. 2. Lexis: names according to naming motifs such as occupation or place of residence. 3. Swiss history reflected in surnames, e.g. migration history. On this subpage, we offer insights into the structure of the atlas.

chart pie

News and updates

Here you will find all the news – for example regarding events and press releases. We also showcase short portraits of exciting phenomena here, in the section «Name Topic of the Month» (in German or Italian). This month the theme is: «Sprachhistorische Relikte im Schweizer Familiennamenbestand – Herkunftsnamen auf von».

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Mapping

How are names mapped in the atlas project? What presentation options are there and what makes a map visually appealing? On this subpage we illustrate this using examples.