Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about archiving and using our records.
The State Archive preserves the archival materials from the old Bernese city state, the Helvetian cantons of Bern and Oberland, and the Bernese cantonal administration from 1803 to the present day. In addition to these state holdings, there are records of private origin as well as a comprehensive specialised library. A diverse assortment of archival materials is available: paper documents, public deeds and charters, maps and plans, photographs and negatives, and digital documents.
You should remember that the State Archive is primarily a government archive that is responsible for preserving records from the cantonal authorities. The online inventory provides an index of archive holdings and archive units – not of persons, events or topics. Normally, you will only find information on a specific person in our archive if you know when and how the person you are researching had any contact with the cantonal authorities. Focus as precisely as possible on the information you need and find out which authority was involved. When conducting your research, do not simply use the full-text search, but also use an archive plan search to conduct a search based on the structure of the archive (the archival tectonics).
It is up to you to do your own research, i.e. to collect the sources and literature about the topic you are interested in. Our online inventory contains a full index of all the documents that you can find in our archive. This means that finding the documents that appear to be relevant to your topic is something that you can do yourself. Provided no closure periods apply, you can order the documents and examine them in our reading room. Conducting research in our holdings normally requires a certain amount of advance knowledge. We therefore recommend, as an introduction to working in the archive, that you do your own research into possible sources, first of all by consulting the relevant reference books and literature before embarking on a search of our archive.
For more information, see «Source records and research topics».
The available holdings are registered in our online inventory and can be searched here. The database contains around half a million entries. Only the most recent donations that have not yet been processed are not registered in the online inventory. Please note that the business process records (Geschäftskontrollen/Geschäftsverzeichnisse, available in paper form) often help as finding aids for documents. You can order the business process record for the period you are researching via the online inventory in order to examine it in the reading room.
We make a priority of digitising the images, maps and plans that are most commonly requested by users. The digital images in the online inventory may be viewed as compressed JPG files. The State Archive, as the conservation institution, is not necessarily the legal proprietor of copyrights and rights of use. Where rights of use are held by third parties, you will have to get permission to use the materials from the rights holder. Users are personally responsible for ensuring compliance with copyright provisions in each individual case.
For further information, see «Reproductions and copyright».
When publishing archival or photographic material, you must cite where it was obtained (State Archive of the Canton of Bern). In addition, published archival materials must be cited using the abbreviation «StABE» followed by the precise reference number.
For more information and examples, see «Citation rules».
The audio-visual archives contain photograph bequests, albums, postcards and individual images of places and people. In addition, company archives, club or association archives, personal bequests and administrative records may also contain visual material. The online inventory can be searched for specific visual material. Where hits relate to images that have not been digitised, you can view these images in the reading room, where you can photograph them with your own camera, or order reproductions if you wish.
For further information, see «Audio-visual holdings».
Official publications, in particular official publications from the Canton of Bern, are not listed in the archive catalogue, but can be found in the research portal «swisscovery Bern special libraries» under the reference «StAB AD.BE». It is not possible to reserve library materials. Please order them when you visit the Archive reading room. Commonly requested works are available in the open access library in the reading room.
It is up to the users of the State Archive to find, read and understand the archival materials. Documents from before 1900, for example, are almost always handwritten in old German script (Kurrentschrift, Spitzschrift). If you are relying on such documents for your research, you will have to be able to read this script. The reading room staff can give you information and tips. We recommend that you regularly practise reading old script and that you make a transcript of any sections of text that you cannot understand. This can help to make documents understandable, even if they appear at first to be «unreadable». You will find an introduction to dealing with historical sources and reading old manuscripts in the «Ad fontes» programme provided by the University of Zurich: www.adfontes.uzh.ch
Any research into a family should begin with its most recent members. You should try to obtain as much information as possible on the family members from the relevant civil register office. If you have this information dating back to around 1870, you can continue your research using the digitally accessible parish records from the relevant commune of origin. Researching family histories / genealogy on the basis of the Bernese parish records is only possible if the family’s place of origin is located in the Canton of Bern.
For further information, see «Researching family histories / genealogy».
We offer no guarantee for the authenticity of the family coats of arms in the Bern State Archive sample collection. Coats of arms are not officially registered and are not legally protected. As the canton does not recognise any family coats of arms and family coats of arms are not regulated, there are no «correct» or «wrong» coats of arms.
The incomplete collection of family coats of arms in the State Archive has grown over several decades. Many of these coats of arms were designed in the period from the 1930s to the 1980s. Often a coat of arms was modified to make it similar to an existing one. There are families for which there is no coat of arms in our collection, while there are other families from the same place of origin which have several.
For more information, see «Family coats of arms».
The archive is accessible to wheelchair users and there is free parking for people with disabilities.
For more information, see «Location».
The State Archive is close to the railway station in Bern. From the station’s underground concourse, take the lift to the Grosse Schanze and we are a two-minute walk away.
For more information see «Location».