Introduction by René Urs Meyer
The above letter, hand written and decorated with a delicate straw Christmas star in the upper left hand corner, accompanied a copy of the book of the Genealogy of the Messikommer Families. It was sent by Elsa Messikommer-Bietenhader from Uster, Switzerland, to her niece, Myrtha Meyer-Messikommer in Hauppauge, New York, and was dated the 17th of December, 1982.
You are finally getting mail from me and, in fact, a small package. Actually, your Godfather is sending it to you. He is awaiting an eye operation and can not write very well at the moment. This will naturally improve after the operation. So, your godfather is sending you his copy of the Messikommer genealogy. He could not locate another one like it anywhere. Naturally, after the death of Uncle Ernst I gave our copy to Erich. He has become very interested in it now that he is also getting older. Your Godfather and his family send heartfelt greetings to you and George, with best wishes for a blessed 1983.
In the name of your dear Godfather who sends you extra special greetings.
Kind greetings as well. Aunt Elsa
Myrtha and her Godfather (1980's)
Myrtha, who died in 2011, was of the fifteenth generation tracing her roots back to the year 1493. She was my mother and the daughter of Walter Messikommer [number 197 in the genealogy] who is shown on the cover of this book. Myrtha’s godfather, referred to in the letter above, was her uncle Fritz Messikommer of Uster [number 200].
This book of the Messikommer genealogy was researched and privately published by Alfred Messikommer in 1955. Some thirty-seven members of the Messikommer family had offered to pay for its publication by way of subscription, that is, purchasing copies in advance. Apparently the cost was 15 Swiss Francs at the time. We might assume that some members may have ordered more than one copy, that Alfred himself would have printed extra copies for sale or as gifts, and that some copies would have been made available to libraries or other repositories for research of this kind. We can guess that perhaps 50 to 100 copies were printed in all. But how many remain in 2015? There may be just a couple. Perhaps this is the only one still in existence that anyone knows of.
A year after the publication, on May 6, 1956, Alfred Messikommer invited the clan for a day’s outing. This first “reunion” was apparently quite successful in that “everyone was in good spirits and the weather was most pleasant.”
The entire day was spent in genuine camaraderie (“Messikommergeist”), quite amicably and without ostentation. The highlight on this singular Spring day was, of course, the excursion through the beautiful Zürich Oberland. Everyone was enchanted by the idyllic setting of Seegräben which, fortunately, still retained the character of a quiet farming village. Naturally, he later wrote, the inhabitants no longer lived the sedate and withdrawn lives of their forebears. In earlier days an impoverished farmer and his wife would not have undertaken an excursion to America, for example.
Unfortunately they did not have the time to listen to the melodious tones of the chapel organ. Alfred bemoaned the fact that everyone is pressed for time in today’s world.
Nevertheless, they spent many hours together in pleasant company and exchanged all sorts of family news and tales. It was enlightening to hear these offspring of Emil  and Elisa acknowledge their father’s struggle to provide for his large, poor family, and how much the mother of these 10 children was cherished. That a “barfly” belonged to the family was to be taken for granted and was part and parcel of a genuine Oberland character, as long as he stayed in good standing with the local constable.
Following a vote (including the women!) it was determined that in three years, on the first Sunday of May, there would be another such get-together. It would again be organized by Edwin , Hans , Robert  and Alfred.
Eighteen days later, on the 24th of May, Alfred sent everyone a list of participants of this first “reunion” so that they would remain informed. He also included the addresses of those who possessed a copy of this Genealogy. He relied on Civil Registries to supply the correct first names of those he was not familiar with. Naturally he would not include informal names such as “Schnägg” (snail) since these are “much too private!”
Alfred also included an amendment of printing errors that had occurred in the Genealogy, for which he “could not fault the typesetter,” he wrote. He asked for forgiveness of everyone affected and left it to each reader to decide if 13 corrections were very many considering that the book contained approximately 5,000 dates. Alfred was particularly concerned over the two “Katharinas” on page 29 and 32 whose dates of marriage and passing were reversed. Only through the recent discovery of an inheritance document did he realize that he had married Kathry to the wrong person. Who knows, he added, if he would not discover more such errors as his research continued.
On the same page, he included the additions of “the Americans” all of whom now wrote their names with a singular “m” (Messikomer); information which he apparently received after the book had been published.
Alfred concluded with a sales pitch since he still had “a number of” copies of the Genealogy at hand. These were offered for 15 Swiss Francs (about $3.50 at the time). Additionally, he gave credit for typing and reproductions to his private secretary, Annemarie Messikommer, daughter of Robert [number 199].
The Messikommer family reunion became a tradition which has continued to this day. I had the pleasure of attending one of these reunions in 1989. It was held at the Schloss Restaurant in Uster which commanded a magnificent view of the distant Alps. There I met my mother’s aunt Elsa—the very same who wrote the letter—as well as Fritz and several of my Great Uncles and many distant cousins to whom I was newly introduced. It was a unique and memorable experience because they included me in their family circle with open arms and great affection.
Herein lies the main reason for publishing this current book: so that Alfred’s careful study is not lost and forgotten. As you will see, the Messikommer name had its origins in Switzerland making Alfred’s research rather finite. A great many more Messikommer families are now found in other parts of Europe and America. We can hope that this English translation will be of interest to them as well.
I can not claim to be a scholarly translator. Far from it. I have had to make extensive use of the internet to decipher not only current German terms but also to attempt to make sense of the Old High German which often times has numerous spelling anomalies. Fortunately I can understand the Swiss-German dialect and this makes translation of certain words and phrases easier: Words and phrases which do not exist in German. Even so, when a word had me stumped, I will have left it in the original German as written.
Above all, I wanted Alfred’s book to be easily read and understood. With this in mind, it is better to describe my translation as a paraphrase.
It is interesting and amusing to think that we are related, by name, to all of these characters from this history! The one who drowned in a manure trough, the one who fell to his death from a cherry tree, the poor woman who lost child after child due to the plague or pox or measles. It is often sad and poignant to contemplate their hardships. The Messikommer men were church clerics right from the start. They progressed to offices in their municipalities, were land owners, vassals, farmers, tradesmen and professionals in academia and medicine. One or two served as mercenaries in European conflicts of their time. A careful examination of dates, of localities, of causes of death will reveal much. If you can study a history of Switzerland at the same time, it will be even more enlightening.
Essentially, this is the story of people sharing the same name. That is the one thing they have in common. But what about relationships? True, I have 50% of my mother’s genes and that would make me 50% Messikommer. But, I am also 50% Meyer. My mother herself was only 50% Messikommer since her mother was Homberg. Thus, every generation is one-half of each parent. I am, in fact more accurately Meyer-Köng-Messikommer-Homberg. If we kept adding the names of all our ancestors to show our true lineage, I should have some 65,536 names to print and that is more than twice as many words as there are in this book.
If we appoint Heinrich of 1493 as 100% Messikommer, then this would make my generation a mere .003% Messikommer. We have virtually nothing in common with Heinrich of 1493. In 2014 it was estimated that the human genome consisted of 19,000 genes. If we are direct descendants of Heinrich, and each generation halves the number of genes of the generation before, then my mother only had 1.14 gene in common with that great-to-the-nth-degree grandfather. And myself? I would not have a single function gene.
From the standpoint of a genealogist, wouldn’t it be ideal if there were no infidelity in marriages along the way? In fact, any number of Messikommer may not be related at all, and the Messikommer fathers might not even be aware of it. On the other hand, there could be an equal number who don’t know that they are related. Adoptions and name changes also occur quite regularly. In my own case, the Meyer name is an adopted name. I have no genetic claim to be a Meyer.
Now that we live in less dogmatic times when many children are from single parent families, when many are adopted from foreign countries, when many are born of surrogate parents, when the surname is no longer universally that of the father, when two parents may be of the same gender… well, the face of genealogy has changed drastically. The 1950’s may very well have been the end of a verifiable lineage for many people of European origin.
All the more reason to make sure Alfred’s impressive oeuvre does not vanish.
NB. If you wish to get in touch with me concerning any aspect of this undertaking, please contact me through the following email: click here
Alfred Messikommer's German language publication included a color-coded family tree (Stammbaum). Here we present a color facsimile of the original two pages. The colors represent the place of citizenship (burghership) of each male offspring. For full explanations refer to our current publication.
Videos made on location in Switzerland of several memorial gravesites of Messikommer family members can be found at YouTube by visiting the JWGrum channel. It is customary in Switzerland that gravesites are removed after 25 years. Only more recent memorials can still be found.
A collection of photographs of Myrtha, Elsbeth and Hedwig Messikommer and related families from 1890 to 2011 can be found at: