from Unterseen (Interlaken), Switzerland

Ancestors & descendants of the American immigrant,

Jakob von Allmen (b 1810, Unterseen)

who settled and died in Richland County, Illinois

On the map at right Unterseen/Interlaken is located at the red dot between the two lakes. 

The Lauterbrunnen Valley runs SE from Interlaken.

The Von Allmen family originated in Switzerland, a small mountainous country nearly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. 

The Romans took over the area of Interlaken in 58 B.C. and Switzerland saw 150 peaceful years under Roman rule. 

In 260 A.D. they began to be over-run by a Germanic tribe called the Alemanni, though the Romans kept some control until 400 A.D.  The Alemanni brought with them their German language and most of the Swiss people today are descendants of this ancient Alemanni tribe—a name closely resembling "Allmen."  

There have been von Allmens in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (in the Canton of Bern) since at least 1295, and they may have arrived in the valley from the neighboring canton to the south, Valais, in the second part of the 13th century, migrating over the mountains under the pressure of overpopulation. During the 1200's many groups left the Upper Valais in southwest Switzerland for other areas to cultivate. The valley of Lauterbrunnen was only thinly settled at this time, and several of its villages were founded by the new arrivals. 


An old vonAllmen crest

"Alm" (pl. "Almen") means an alpine pasture 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 by another name before arriving from Valais. 

My VonAllmen ancestors were from the village of Unterseen, right beside Interlaken between the two lakes.  Unterseen was first built in 1280.

Swiss history:

* 58 B.C.  Romans conquer the area of Switzerland.

* 400 A.D.  The Romans withdraw from Switzerland; pushed out by the invading Alemanni tribe.

* 600’s:  Christianity is brought to the Alemanni by wandering Irish monks, including Gallus in the early 600’s.

* 1133: An Augustianian monastery was founded at Interlaken.  By 1350 they controlled the whole Lauterbrunnen Valley.

* 1280: The town of Unterseen was built.

* 1291: The Old Swiss Confederacy was founded.  Central Switzerland fights Austria for freedom.

* 1353: The Canton of Bern became a member of the Swiss Federation.

* 1522-36: The Protestant Reformation in Switzerland 

  1. *1528:  After a bloody battle, the monks at Interlaken were forced to give up Catholicism and their control of the area.  The villagers from Unterseen were rewarded for their part in the fight by a gift to the town of "mountain rights on the Sefinen Alp".

* 1536-1798: Ancient Regime. 13 cities; a few families controlling the government put down several rebellions.

* 1648: Declaration of Independence - Switzerland becomes an independent Nation 

* 1669: the last outbreak of the plague raged through the canton of Berne. It struck the valley of Lauterbrunnen with devastating results. About 360 of the estimated 580 inhabitants died in the epidemic, and 21 families disappeared completely. Many Von Allmens died, but the family name remained and is common in the area today.

* 1798-1802: Helvetic Republic. Napoleon, after conquering northern Italy, invaded Switzerland and occupied Bern on March 5, 1798.  April 12, 1798 they proclaimed the Helvetic Republic. During the reign of Napoleon, many Swiss men were drafted into his army and perished in the Napoleonic Wars. The Helvetic Republic saw at least four coups d'état between 1800 and 1802.

* 1803-1815: Mediation. Napoleon enforces a constitution written under his mediation.

* In 1812 the Swiss Federation declares its neutrality.  

* 1815-1830: Restoration. Confederacy re-established with 22 cantons.

* In 1815, after Napoleon's fall, the Congress of Vienna recognized the perpetual neutrality of the Swiss confederation. Also in 1815 Valais, Neuchâtel and Genéve join the Swiss Federation—Switzerland gets its final boundaries.

* The “hard times’’ in 1816/17 brought hard winters and wet summers causing serious famine, so that people were forced to search for other sources of income. There were people traveling through the area and also a few tourists and so woodcarving, though a skill often practiced much earlier, became more developed in the 19th century.

* 1830-1848: Regeneration. The conservative Catholic cantons struggle with the liberal cantons, ending in a short war.

* 1847: Switzerland exploded in the short Sonderbund War.  A one-month war between Catholics and Protestants.

* 1848: Federal constitution.

     It is only since comparatively recently that Switzerland has been able to feed all its inhabitants, and this inevitably led to a continual stream of emigration over the years. The last major waves of emigration were after the great famine of 1816/1817, between 1845-1855, and between 1880-1885. My VonAllmen ancestors emigrated to the United States (Illinois) in 1850.

    During the 19th century, many Swiss left to start a new life in America. Work was very hard to find in Switzerland, and America seemed like a paradise where men could grow rich and acquire their own land. In some places, the local council gave them a financial incentive to do so (typically 400 Swiss francs, or 6 months wages for a working man), in order to have one less mouth to feed during a period of economic recession. The money was given to the emigrants on the condition that they never returned to Europe. If they ever returned to their native land, they would be obliged to reimburse the money. Sometimes the Swiss authorities took advantage of the situation to get rid of the local undesirables--the indigent poor and the work-shy--by placing them on a boat with the emigration subsidy in their pocket. It is doubtful whether this cheap and effective method of reducing population pressure on the local councils was appreciated at the unwilling emigrants' port of destination! Many local councils in Aargau (Argovia) adopted this strategy in the middle of the last century.

Advertisements appeared regularly in local newspapers, placed by travel agencies based at Basle, Bern, or Belfort, in neighboring France. These agencies offered organized crossings of the Atlantic from Le Havre for 80-100 Swiss francs, depending on the number of passengers. Food on board cost 40 Swiss francs, and consisted of biscuits, flour, butter, ham, salt, potatoes and vinegar. With this the emigrants prepared their own meals. In addition, there was the cost of transport to Le Havre (about 60 Swiss francs) and food for the 4 or 5 days spent in the diligence. Clippers such as the "Savanah" and the "Sirius" crossed the Atlantic in less than 20 days. In 1857, the agency of André Zwilchenbart at Basle advertised regular packetboat sailings for New York, and 3-mast American ships sailing to New Orléans.  [My ancestor, Jakob von Allmen, came through the port of New Orleans.]

The majority of emigrants came from the agricultural cantons, and mostly preferred to continue a rural existence in their new homeland, rather than accept a subordinate place in the national industries. 

It was not until 1971 that the Swiss people voted to give their women the right to vote.

The map at right looks south into the Lauterbrunnen Valley off to the right.

Unterseen in located at the bottom right of the map between the lakes.

The map above looks north at Unterseen/Interlaken, which is across the first lake. Unterseen is on the left, below the mountain. 

Interlaken is the large city between the mountains and between the lakes.

Johannes (Hans) Caspar von Allmen

2nd generation

Johannes “Hans” von Allmen (son of Johann von Allmen & Magdalena Gafner) was born Feb 7, 1740 in Unterseen, Switzerland. Johann and Magdalena are the earliest von Allmen ancestor we have been able to identify.

Hans married 1st to Elisabeth Haster in Apr 1763 (2 children).

He married 2nd Feb 24, 1780 to Magdalena Schmoker. Magdalena was born Nov 3, 1760 in Beatenburg, Switzerland (daughter of Peter Schmoker & Maria B. Maerlingen). 

Hans was 58 years old when Napoleon occupied Bern, Switzerland in 1798. He was probably too old & his sons too young to serve in Napoleon's army.

He died Feb 2, 1808 in Unterseen.

Magdalena died May 11, 1833 also in Unterseen. 

Elisabeth Hasler’s Children:

1.    Elisabeth von Allmen, b 1763

2.    Kaspar von Allmen, b 1765

Magdalena Schmoker’s Children:

3.     Christian von Allmen, christened Dec 24, 1780 (witness: Anna Schmoker Tallenbach)

4.    Magdalena von Allmen, chr Apr 14, 1782 (witness: Anna Blank Schmoker, Maria Schmoker)

5.    Johannes von Allmen, chr Oct 12, 1783; died 1786  

6.    Margaritha von Allmen, chr Feb. 6, 1785 (witness: Christian Schmoker, mother’s brother); died 1786 

7.    Johannes von Allmen, chr Sept 17, 1786; d 1866 (see next generation)

  1. 8.   Maria von Allmen, chr Dec 23, 1787

9.    Anna von Allmen, chr Sept 19, 1790; died May 1804

10.   Anna Margarita von Allmen, chr June 22, 1794 (witness: Hans Schmoker, Anna von Allmen)

11.   Abraham von Allmen, chr May 20, 1798

Johannes von Allmen

3rd generation

Johannes vonAllmen was the son of Johannes Caspar von Allmen & Magdalena Schmoker).

His grandparents were Johann vonAllmen & Magdalena Gafner, and Peter Schmoker & Maria B. Maerlingen.

Johannes was born in 1786, christened Sept 17, 1786 in Unterseen.

He married Oct 29, 1807 to Barbara Brunner from Iseltwald (she was chr July 25, 1784/6 in Gsteig, the daughter of Christian Brunner from Iseltwald and Maria Wiss from Boenigen). Perhaps she was christened at the St. Yoder Chapel in Gsteig (pictured at right.)

Johannes was a shoemaker in Spielmatte (an island in the river between Unterseen and Interlaken). They had been married just 9 years when the "hard times" of 1816-17 brought serious famine to the area, they also lived through another famine of 1845-55 during which 2-3 of their 5 sons moved to America. Their son, Christian moved to America in 1844, and son Jakob moved to the US in 1850. (Son Johannes' death certificate was not found in Unterseen, so possible he also moved to America. Sons Peter and Abraham probably stayed and died in Unterseen.)

Barbara died Feb. 22, 1855 in Unterseen, Johannes died Aug 27, 1866 also in Unterseen. There is a cemetery called “Friedhof” in Unterseen, but the Swiss do not keep old graves; they reuse them.

Children (all born in Unterseen):

1.  Johannes vonAllmen, christened June 19, 1808 (witnessed by Jakob Brunner & Luzia Brunner, both from Iseltwald, so probably relatives of the mother). He did not have a death certificate in Unterseen, so he may have moved to America.

2.  Jakob vonAllmen, b Mar 19, 1810 (see below). Came to America in 1850. Unknown when he died or where exactly he was buried. Children: Margarita, Jacob, Elisabeth, John, Susanna, Maria

3.  Barbara vonAlmen, b Apr 24, 1812, chr May 3; d Aug 10, 1881, Unterseen; m Gabriel Beuggert, 27 Sep 1839.

4.  Christian vonAllmen, b Nov 10, 1814, chr Nov 20 (witnessed by Maria vonAllmen); m Barbara Steiner; emigrated to Illinois in 1844, then moved to Evansville, Ind. abt. 1860. He died in 1887 in Evansville. See his tombstone. He changed his name to "Allmen" and his children went by Allmen and Allman. Barbara was a witness at nephew John’s 1840 christening. Children: Maria, Margaret, SusannaIsaacAbrahamJoseph

5.  Petrus/Peter vonAllmen, b July 14, 1821, chr July 21 (witnessed by Christian vonAllmen & Magdalena Brunner Seiler); d Sept 25, 1889.

6.  Margarita vonAllmen, b Nov 10, 1823, chr Nov 23; d July 22, 1830, Unterseen. Age 6.

7.  Elisabeth vonAllmen, chr June 10, 1827; d Aug 25. 1870 (America?)

8.  Abraham vonAllmen, b July 24, 1828, chr Aug 3; d June 19, 1882.

Jakob von Allmen, Sr.

4th generation - 1st American generation

Jakob von Allmen was born Mar 19, 1810 in Unterseen, Switzerland; christened Mar 25. 

Jakob married in Gsteig, Switzerland (a nearby village--see church above right) July 13, 1832 to Margarita von Allmen (probably distantly related). Maybe they were married in the St. Yoder Chapel pictured above. Banns proclaimed June 17, June 24, and July 1. 

Historical note on  “The Publication of Banns”:  In order to place a check upon clandestine marriages, to discover any impediments which may exist, to prevent deceptions and surprises, to afford parents and others interested an opportunity to interpose if needful, and to procure the prayers of the faithful that God may give

grace and prosperity to the contracting parties, the Council of Trent (1545-63) decreed that the promise of marriage be published on three successive Sundays or holidays at the principal Mass by the parish priest of the parties. 

Margarita von Allmen was  the daughter of Jakob von Allmen from Interlaken & Anna Brunner from Habkern. So, both Jakob and Margarita has a vonAllmen father and a Brunner mother. She was christened May 31, 1807 (a few days after her birth) in Unterseen, Switzerland.  Witnessing her christening was Hans Brunner from Habkern (perhaps her grandfather). Margarita’s siblings were: Anna (1804, m Johannes Wyler from Grindelwald), Jacob (1809), Johannes (1812, d 1813), Elisabeth (b 1815, was a witness in chr record as “from the village”). Margarita had several Jacobs in her family: her father, a brother, her husband, and a son.

Historical note: With 4 official languages, 2 religions, and a strong sense of cantonal identity, Switzerland had various conflicts to deal with from the 1500’s on. And in 1847 Switzerland exploded in the short Sonderbund War, a one-month civil war of German-spreaking Protestants fighting French-speaking Catholics. For a very short period, Switzerland was the Ulster of 19th century Europe. 

All the vonAlmen families who came to Illinois seem to have taken the Le Havre, France to New Orleans, Louisiana route. 

Jacob & Margarita had 6 children in Switzerland before emigrating to the United States in 1850. [I didn't find daughter Elizabeth listed on the ship's registry, but she was with the family on the 1860 census of Richland Co, IL.]  They traveled first to Havre, France where they boarded the ship, Lemuel Dyer and arrived at the port of New Orleans Dec. 5, 1850.  Then they probably took a steamboat up to St. Louis, where they surely disembarked and traveled east to Richland County, Illinois.  [Two of Jakob’s brothers, Johannes & Christian, did not have death records listed in Unterseen. Christian moved to Illinois in 1844, so it's possible that Johannes did also.]

Passenger list of VonAllmens from:

Ship's Name: Lemuel Dyer  

Date of Arrival: Dec 5, 1850

Final Destination: United States

Port of Embarkation: Havre

Port of Debarkation: New Orleans

Passenger's Name: Jacob Vonalmann, Age: 40, Occupation: Farmer, Last Residence: France in Switzerland

Passenger's Name: Margarite Vonalmann, Age: 43

Passenger's Name: Margarite Vonalmann, Age: 14

Passenger's Name: Jacob Vonalmann, Age: 9

Passenger's Name: Johann Vonalmann, Age: 5  [this is great-grandpa, John VonAllmen, but he was 10]

Passenger's Name: Suzanne Vonalmann, Age: 4

Passenger's Name: Marianne Vonalmann, Age: 3

Passenger's Name: Johann Vonalmann, Age: 23  [don't know his relationship]

They settled in Richland County, Illinois near many other Swiss immigrants, many by the name of VonAllmen. In fact, all the VonAllmen marriages listed in the Illinois State Index before 1900 were only in Richland County. However, after a thorough search, though there were many VonAllmens in Richland county, none of them were closely related to Jakob other than his brother Christian, who moved away to Ind.

1860 IL census - Richland Co, Olney twp, p 44:

Jac VanAlman - 51, b Switz, farmer, 1200/300

. . . . Marg't - 54, b Sw

. . . . Jac - 24, b Sw, laborer

. . . . Eliz't - 19, b Sw

. . . . Jno - 18, b Sw

. . . . Susan - 16, b Sw

. . . . Mary - 13, b Sw

Jacob VonAllmen bought land in Olney, IL, Jan. 25, 1861.  Margarita seems to have sometimes gone by the name of Mary after coming to the US. 

I have not been able to locate Jacob or any of his children in 1870.  He must have died in Richland Co, IL, but I don't know when or where he was buried. I'm guessing that it was in Haven Hill Cemetery in Richland County, IL. He probably died before 1877 when the county began keeping death records.


1. Margarita vonAllmen

Margarita was born Feb 24, 1833, christened Mar. 3 in Unterseen, Switzerland. She arrived with her parents in New Orleans in Dec 1850. She was not on the 1860 Illinois census with the family possibly because she had married by then. There are no family stories or pictures of her handed down in John's family, as there were of other siblings (Jacob and Mary). This marriage in Richland Co, IL was the only Margaret Vonallmen marriage between 1850 & 1860, so it was probably hers:  Ulrich Feitz & Margaret Vonallman, Aug 19, 1856.

There is a William Ulrich, 1870-1953, buried in Haven Hill Cem, Olney, IL, who might possibly be a son.

  1. 2.Jacob VonAllmen, Jr. 

JACOB, Jr. was born Nov. 15, 1834 in Unterseen, Switzerland and christened Nov. 23. He emigrated with his parents in 1850 at age of 17 [The ship's registry says he was 9]. 

He served in the Civil War with his brother John in Co. I, 63rd Ill. Inf.

He married 1st, July 22, 1966 to Susan Abbeull. Susan died in 1868.

He married 2nd April 11, 1869 to Mrs. Anna (Balmer) Lewis (b 4-1-1832, Switz).  Anna was a widow with 3 girls. She had 2 children with Jacob and died Oct. 10, 1902. 

He married 3rd to Mrs. Eva Whittaker, Jan. 1, 1903 in Richland Co, IL  (he was 69, she was 42).  They were divorced 7 months later (July, 1903).

That same year, Nov. 19, 1903, Jacob married 4th to Mrs. Elizabeth Bushong (age 63, of Olney). 

He raised his step-granddaughter Isa W. Robert (she was with him in 1900 and 1910, age 7 & 17).

Jacob died April 30, 1919. Both he and Anna were buried in Linden Lawn Cemetery, Richland County, IL. 

He was buried with Anna in Lindenlawn Cem, Richland Co, IL


1a) John VonAllmen, b Feb 1870 IL, d bef 1880

1d) Minnie Von Allmen, b 1871, IL. (adopted)

3. Elisabeth VonAllmen

ELISABETH was born March 15, 1838, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened Mar. 25. I didn't find her listed on the ship's registry in 1850, but she was on the 1860 census with her family. She could be the Elizabeth VonAllmen who married Frederick Miller, Feb 11, 1855 in Richland Co, IL. She would have been 17 years old. No stories or pictures of her survived in the John VonAllmen family.

I wonder if she and Margarita were the same person. Margarita was with the family in 1850, Elisabeth was with the family in 1860.

4. John VonAllmen

JOHN was born Dec 10, 1840, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened Dec. 20 (witnessed by his aunt Barbara Steiner Vonallmen); He married Mary Elizabeth Heral, Nov. 1, 1866, Richland Co, IL.  Moved to Missouri, 1896.  Died 1913, buried in Missouri.  [They must have been very creative with their children's names. None of them are named for their grandparents, and only Wesley was named for an uncle.]  

(See link to next generation)

4a)    Edward Von Allmen, 1867-98; m Etta ?

4b)    Wesley O. Von Allmen, 1870-79 [his mother had a brother & and uncle named Wesley]

4c)    Mary Ellen Von Allmen, 1872-74  [named for her mother]

4d)    Alfred Riley Von Allmen, 1876-96

4e)    Millie Von Allmen, 1879-1969; m George Spencer

4f)     Elmer Franklin Von Allmen, 1880-1967; m Nora Bell Jolliff

4g)    David A. Von Allmen, 1883-84

4h)    Charley Orey Von Allmen, 1885-1968; m Ollie May Sparks

4i)     Harlin Albert Von Allmen, 1888-1972; m Ethel Judd

4j)     Lillie Rosetta Von Allmen, 1891-1920; m Elijah Jolliff

5. Susanna von Allmen

SUSAN was born July 30, 1843, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened Aug. 6. She emigrated with her parents in 1850 and was on the 1860 Illinois census with her parents. No stories or pictures of her survived in the John VonAllmen family.  Here are 2 marriages in Richland Co, IL, one might have been hers:

    Susan Vonalman & John W. Day - Sept 7, 1871 {there’s no John Day in Richland Co, IL in 1880)

    Susanna Vonallmen & Frederick Senfton - Apr 22, 1884

6. Maria VonAllmen

 (pictured at right)

MARY was  born Apr 26, 1846, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened May 3.  She married March 5, 1871, Richland Co., IL to William Steward (Stuart).  He was born June 22, 1833; the son of Cornelius Steward & Sarah Bullard. This picture (at right) of Mary’s family was passed down in her brother’s John’s family.

William gave testimony for John VonAllmen on his pension application papers in 1894-5 and signed his name with an X.  Mary died Nov. 4, 1897 in Richland Co, IL.  William was alone with his 2 youngest sons on the 1900 census.  He married 2nd Rebecca A. Spausler, May 14, 1900. He died April 16, 1919. 

Mary and William were both buried at Haven Hill cemetery in Richland Co., IL.  Children:

6a)     William A. Steward, b 1873 (notice William's striking similarity to his cousin Alfred in the picture of John’s family)

6b)     Rogenia Steward, b Jan 12, 1874, Richland Co, Ill; m Oct 17, 1896, Richland Co. to Edward Teitsort.  Died March 9, 1966, Richland Co.

6c)     Ralph Steward, b 1879

6d)     John O. Steward, b Feb., 1881

6e)     ?(son) Steward, b 1883

[I have copies of Swiss birth records for all of Jacob’s children.]


In 1847, previous to their immigration, the VonAllmen  family had lived through a short religious civil war in Switzerland. Perhaps they emigrated partly to escape the civil unrest, perhaps because of economic difficulties. However, 10 years after moving to America, John & Jacob both joined the Union Army in the Civil War. Since they would have still been familiar with their native language perhaps they knew this Civil War song, which came out of the German immigrant population of St. Louis:

I Goes to Fight Mit Sigel

I’ve come shust now to tells you how, I goes mit regimentals,

To schlauch dem voes of Liberty, like dem old Continentals,

Vot fights mit England long ago, to save der Yankee Eagle;

Und now I gets my sojer clothes; I’m going to fight mit Sigel.

Ven I comes from der Deutsche Countree, I vorks somedimes at baking;

Den I keeps a lager beer saloon, und den I goes shoe-making;

But now I was a sojer been to save der Yankee Eagle,

To schlauch dem tam secession volks, I goes to fight mit Sigel.

I gets ein tam big rifle gun, und puts him to mine shoulder,

Den march so bold like a big jackhorse, und may been someding bolder;

I goes off mit der volulnteers to save der Yankee Eagle;

To give dem Rebel vellers fits, I goes to fight mit Sigel.

Dem Deutschen mens mit Sigel’s band at fighting have not rival;

Und ven Cheff Davis mens ve meet, ve schlauch em like de tuyvil.

Dere’s only von ting vot I fear, ven pattling for der Eagle,

I vont get not no lager beer, ven I goes to fight mit Sigel.

For rations dey gives us salty pork, I dinks dat was a great seell;

I petter likes der saurkraut, der Schvitzer-kase und bretzel.

If Fighting Joe will give us dem, ve’ll save der Yankee Eagle,

Und I’ll put mine frau in breech-a-loons to go and fight mit Sigle.

Franz Sigel was a Union General who organized 2 regiments of Germans from St. Louis and fought in Missouri.

[words by F. Poole, abt 1864, from Songs of the Civil War, Irwin Silber, ed]

Hear a 1-minute demo of the song.


The information for this family came from numerous sources. Here are just a couple:

1.    Illinois State Marriages at

2.    Mormon FHL Film 2,005,784, Unterseen Parish Register

Chapel in Gsteig

Christian's daughter Susanna on her wedding day (1866 Indiana)

The 2 pictures above are either end of one continuous row of buildings (notice the tower in both pictures). The section at left is called Unterseen "Little City." The section at right is the Unterseen church. Below is a drawing of the same scene in 1822.

The Lemuel Dyer pictured above made many runs back and forth across the Atlantic for many years.

Jacob VonAllmen family

soon after he married Anna with her daughters:

Margaret, Sarah, Lizzie

John VonAllmen family

Children (back) Elmer, Edward, Riley, Millie

(front) Harlan, Lillie, Charlie

William and Mary Steward family

Children (back) Elmer, Edward, Riley, Millie

(front) Harlan, Lillie, Charlie

If you would like to check my database to see if the information on your family is correct, go to my ancestor file then search for the name of one of your ancestors. (Only those born before 1930 or no longer living are listed by name. I have names of the living, but they are not displayed in the online database.)  Please email me if there are any corrections or additions.