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The male ancestors of participant 73277 in the y-dna study (a Swiss man living near Bern) have been traced back to an Ulrich Wälti born before 1544 in Rüderswil, Canton Bern, in the Emmental valley of Switzerland.  American descendants of Niklaus Wälti b.1764, Ulrich Wälti b.1750, and Peter Welty b.~1695 have all been shown to have y-dna in common with the descendant of this Ulrich.  The Emmental valley during the 16th and 17th centuries was one of the hotbeds of the anabaptist (wiedertäufer or re-baptizer) movement [1], which was a fringe element of the Protestant Reformation that erupted when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a catholic church in Germany in 1517.  The reformation was led in Switzerland by Zwingili in Zürich and Calvin in Geneva.  The anabaptists, including the followers of Menno Simons (the Mennonites), were severely persecuted by both the Catholics and the mainstream Protestants (followers of Luther, Zwingili, and Calvin) over a long period of time. 

The Mennonite book Martyr's Mirror lists thousands of people who were persecuted (driven from their homes, scourged, branded, sold into slavery, etc.) and executed (e.g. by drowning, or "re-re-baptizing") for their anabaptist beliefs between 1525 and 1660. Among the Seven Hundred Persons Opressed and Persecuted at Berne  was a Bernhard Wälti of Rüderswil, who was "executed for the faith" on 7 July, 1537 (bottom of page).  The anabaptists were unpopular with not only the religious authorities, but also with the civil authorities because the anabaptists found no grounds in the Bible for submission to the state (i.e. paying taxes to the burghers of Berne and serving in their militia), and resisted doing so.[2]  There was no question of separation between church and state - each cooperated in enforcing the authority of the other.  Some Swiss cantons were catholic, however, and some were protestant, and they fought with each other as in other European countries during the numerous military conflicts of the protestant reformation.  Unbelievably to Americans, church taxes are still to this day collected by the government and given to the churches in Switzerland, Germany, and other European countries unless one specifically declares non-membership in the official church (protestant or catholic depending on region). 

According to the above-referenced section of the Martyr's Mirror, "In the year 1671 there arose again a severe persecution against the Anabaptists, in said dominion of Berne; which persecution was so rigorous and long-continued, that it seemed that the authorities would not desist, until they should have utterly driven that people out of their dominion, or exterminate them. In consequence of this it also happened, that about seven hundred persons, small and great, found themselves compelled to leave their abode, forsake their property, and, many of them, also their kindred, together with their earthly fatherland, and betake themselves with the others to the Palatinate [southern Germany just north of Basel] , in hope that the Lord should so order it, that they might find a place of abode there. We were eyewitnesses, as to how it went when they arrived there, and we inspected place after place whither they had come to find abodes."  It could be possible that Peter Welty, born ~1695 in Germany, was the son of anabaptists who fled their home during these times.  This Peter immigrated to America (not yet the USA) in 1727, and is the ancestor of living Welty families descending from at least three of his sons.  He has a common forefather with the Rüderswil/Lauperswil Wältis according to the y-dna evidence, and is purported to have had an older brother Christian who was born in Lauperswil.

The earliest known ancestor of Niklaus Wälti b.1764 was a Peter Wälti who was probably born about 1645 in Lützelflüh (near Lauperswil).  Switzerland gained formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire around this tme (1648), having gained de facto independence some 150 years earlier (1499 ), and was a militarily-strong confederation of 13 independent cantons.  This Peter lived at Blindenbach (an area in the Lauperswil borough) and owned several other properties in the area according to purchase, sales, and indebtedness documents found in the land records at Trachselwald (see references ).  Tax was doubtless due on the produce of these farms to the city council of the city/state Bern, which controlled the surrounding territory of Canton Bern.  The city (in principle) provided military protection from outside invasion in return for taxes.

 The Emmental valley in Canton Bern was also a hotbed in the Swiss peasant war of 1653, in which the "peasants" of the countryside demanded tax relief from the authorities in the capital cities of Bern, Lucerne, and other cantons to which the revolt spread.  There is a monument in Rüderswil  commemorating the 250th anniversary of the death of Niklaus Leuenberger , a leader of the revolt [3] who was beheaded, drawn and quartered, and then put on public display (in 5 different places) in Bern on 27 August 1653.  The wife of Peter Wälti was Magdalena Leuenberger b.1645, according to their wedding record and her death record.  She was likely a relative (although not the daughter) of Niklaus Leuenberger.  There is a probable discrepancy, however, in the mother's maiden name listed in the birth record of Peter and Magdalena's son Peter b.1679 (the grandfather of Niklaus).  The mother's name is listed as Magdalena Schönholzer, rather than Leuenberger, although no marriage record has been found for a Magdalena Schönholzer.  The death registration of Magdalena Leuenberger mentions that she had one son, but no (other) son has been found.  The Leuenberger family was prevelant in the Schönholz area of Rüderswil, so it is likely that the name Magdalena Schönholzer refers to Magdalena Leuenberger.

Peter Wälti b.1679 married an Elsbeth Lüthi from Rüderswil in 1705, and had 5 children with her including Peter b.1707 (the father of Niklaus) and a sister Elsbeth b.1723.  This Elsbeth Wälti married Hans Oberli, who preceeded her in death without children.  In 1794 she made a will in which she left her (Oberli) farm to 2 sons of her brother Peter, namely Niklaus and Hans, who had fulfilled their obligations at another family farm to her satisfaction.  This reference provides an important piece of evidence that Peter b.1679 has been correctly identified as the father of Peter b.1707 (for whom good documentation exists).  Other evidence of relationships between Niklaus and Hans and other probable family members is discussed here.  

 Peter Wälti b.1707  had 10 children of whom Niklaus b.1764 was the ninth, and the fourth with his second wife Anna Kähr.  His first wife Christina Brechbühl died in 1754, possibly from complications in the birth of their 5th child Peter, who died 2 weeks later at the age of 2.5 months.  According to church and municipal documents, Peter b.1707 was between 17xx and 17xx the Spital  Lehenman (leaseholder or tenant farmer) for the village of Burgdorf, according to numerous references linked above.  The Spital (hospital) had probably been granted some land for its support, which the village leased for a specified rent.  

Niklaus Wälti was born in Vechigen, near Lauperswil, in 1764. 

Niklaus and his brother Hans inherited a farm in 1794 from their aunt Elsbeth Wälti-Oberli, who became a widow without having children. 


[1]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_history_of_Switzerland


[3] In the 1838 book "The History of Switzerland" by John Wilson it says that "In the cantons of Soleure and Basel also, many country people rose and avowed their adhesion to the men of Lucerne, Emmenthal, and Aargau.  In the Sumiswald [near Lauperswil] they held land-assemblies, and elected Niklaus Leuenberger, a countryman of Schönholz [part of Rüderswil], to preside over the league of the four cantons of Lucerne, Berne, Basle, and Soleure."