Bertschinger - Origin of the Name


Forming names by combining two stem-words is an old custom of the Indo-European peoples. It dates back to the time before their separation into the various language groups 4500 years ago.

Such a name is Berchtold, which consists of the German stems bercht (bright) and wold (powerful). Berchtold, or Bertold, was the favorite name of the dukes of Zahringen, who held sway over much of present-day Switzerland in the twelfth century. They increased their dominion by arranging political marriages, rather than by waging war. They did not rule the country through feudal lords that subjugated the countryside from castles. Instead, the Zahringers founded cities, fortified them, and gave them marketing rights. This persuaded a great number of country folk to live in these cities, thus becoming "citizens.' Foremost among such cities is Berne, founded by Berchtold V in 1191. For these reasons the House of Zahringen was much loved by the people, and Bertold became a favorite baptismal name in the land.

In daily use many of the two-stem names were shortened to only one of the stems, and in Alamannic they were supplied with the diminutive ending -zi. In most names the z (pronounced ts as in catsup), grew courser by becoming tsch (pronounced tch as in ketchup). In an official document of 1251 we read of a Bertholdus qui dicitur Bertschi.. Offspring of such people were provided with the common-Germanic ending -ing. The homestead where they lived became Bertschingen, or Bertschinghofen, and finally Bertschikon. There are two localities called Bertschikon in the canton of Zurich..

Individuals and families kept on migrating from country to city. The newcomer often received a surname indicating his former residence. A person from Bertschikon was likely called Bertschinger at his new residence, in this case Zurich. Gradually, by about the end of the fifteenth century, the surname became hereditary. It then was a family name.

A branch of the Bertschinger family moved to Lenzburg, where records show it was already established at the middle of the sixteenth century. The Bertschinger family of Lenzburg shares its coat of arms with that of Zurich.