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The Hundsperg Parchment and Seal Dated 1452

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In late July, 2006, Sylvia Hunsberger, then President of the Hunsberger Family Association, received a letter from Robert Hunsperger of Kent, England. This letter with slight edits is shown below, followed by four images referenced in the letter.

...Thank you for your invitation to the Hunsberger Family Reunion on 19th August 2006. My wife and I will not be able to attend this year but we hope to one day. I read your newsletter closely with your appeal for more input from members and I hope that this information will be of interest to the family members that do attend. At the same time it should add to the Association’s knowledge of the family history. If convenient, perhaps you will be able to put this on display.

By coincidence, my wife Maria is Swiss German and 9 of us (Maria and I, 2 daughters, son-in- law, 3 grandchildren and daughters partner) travelled from England to Switzerland to my wife’s family (Stadelmann) reunion in a place called Sorenberg, Canton (County) Luzern three weeks ago. Whilst we were there, the two of us took the opportunity to go to the capital Bern to see some records in the state archives. The following is the result of that mission!

I have enclosed two photographs of a parchment document dated 10th February 1452, which I was permitted to handle and to take images with my digital camera. I had to wear white cotton gloves to avoid damage to the parchment as it was 554 years old and predates the arrival in the States of the 3 brothers Hans, Christian and Jakob by some 270 years. To put this into perspective, 2007 is the centenary of the first English colony established in Jamestown 400 years ago. I have known of the existence of this document for 30 years so it was a great thrill to hold it and I was struck by the ‘as new’ condition. It’s the first time I have actually seen the family name in a document with a green wax seal attached.

I have annotated a photocopy each of the document and the seal so that you can see the name mentioned twice in the document and around the circumference of the seal. One word of the script is illegible because of wear and tear but the important features remain ie Hund and just visible are mountain peaks (Bergen). I think the obscure word is Sigelln (seal) but I can’t be sure.The name is Hans (Johan) Hundsperg who was a lawyer, civic dignitary (Rat- pronounced Raht) and citizen of Burgdorf (Bern) and he rose to become the Burgermeister (Mayor) of Burgdorf, an important town in the 15th century when Switzerland was not the federation we know today- many Cantons had yet to join. The document relates to a sale by a Hensli Wernis of Oeschfurt of some farmland at Alchenstorf to the monastery of Thorberg. Hans Hundsperg effectively authenticated the transaction as a leading figure of the community and his seal gave it credibility/legality. It is impossible to claim that we are direct descendants of this gentleman without further research but there is no doubt he played some part in our genealogy. Regrettably, we may never know just how important a figure he was.

A number of cousins and interested parties have asked for an e-mail copy of this document and I will try to respond as soon as possible.

There are several other references to Hans Hundsperg, another Hans with the surname Hundsberg, Jorg Hundsberg, Hundsperg-Pfrund, Verena Hundsperger, Peter Hunsperger in the Archives database, which an official very kindly printed out for us but time didn’t permit any further work on these other leads. There was mention of the Hunsperg area and hill, near Krauchtal – too small to call it a mountain. In the database comments on one document of 23rd April 1473, part of the annual ‘interest’ charge was 5 schilling pfennige, I old hen, 2 young hens and 20 eggs. In a later document of 17th March 1692 the annual charge had become 9 schillings pfennige, 2 old hens, 4 young hens and 40 eggs. So inflation existed even in those days but it took 220 years to double!

Also enclosed is a letter dated 26 August 1936 sent to Herrn J. Hunsperger, (Vice President of the Zurich Insurance Company) a distant relative in Switzerland, by a J. Kurz of the State Archive who attempts to shed some light on the origin of the name. I have enclosed a translation of the letter. You can see from the above that name changes occur over the course of the centuries and one can appreciate how the various branches of the family tree in the USA evolved.

I have a list of all 100+ bearers of the name Hunsperger who appear in the Swiss telephone directory but there is only one Hunsberger. My intention is to write to them asking if they have any information on the family tree. Who knows what this could produce, maybe a link to the 3 brothers, Hans, Christian and Jakob.

I’ll close now wishing you and all the members attending a very happy reunion and “n’ Guete” (Bon Appetit/Have a good one).

Yours Sincerely

Robert Hunsperger

- x - x - x - x -

The seal with Robert's annotation to show the name more clearly.

The 1936 letter.

[Editor's note: the American visitor referred to in the letter immediately above was Byron K. Hunsberger, the Family Association's first historian, and grandfather of your current Webmaster. See elsewhere in this Web site for references to Byron Hunsberger's visit to Switzerland]

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