Somehow or another, I was wasting time on the internet and decided to look for a better answer to the question that many people ask when they hear my last name: am I related to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben? I usually make a dumb joke or point out the slight difference in the spelling of the name. Depending on how captive my audience is, I might then continue with a discussion about the transliteration of dipthongs.
After just a few minutes of searching I discovered several articles about a trip that Big Ben took to Switzerland in 2006, and in one of them I found the name of his ancestral hometown, as well as the approximate year that his ancestors emigrated to America.
My next step was to log into my account at FamilySearch and check my own ancestry. Thanks to hard working people who have done the research and entered all the information, I found my ancestral hometown and the names of my ancestors who emigrated to the States. Then I took a trip over to swissroots and entered my last name into their lookup tool.
I discovered that Ben and I come from different towns. My ancestors lived in Langnau im Emmental and the records I checked show that they were there as far back as the early 1500s. He comes from Lauperswil, which is only a few miles away, so there might have been some connection. But the waters are muddied by this fact: the two families had different coats of arms, so they might have been entirely unrelated. I’ll need to do more research to figure out the rest of the story.
I know you might accuse me of burying the lede in that last paragraph, so let me just repeat it here: as part of my investigation, I found my family’s official coat of arms. I remember going through a heraldry-geek phase in middle school, and I must not have grow nout of it, because I think that this is unbelievably cool. Whether you agree or not, here it is:
My new goal is to find some way to use this for real. Custom stationery, perhaps?