Monday, December 9, 2019

Rudolf Jenta 1771 - 1822

Rudolf Jenta was born on the 19th of May 1771 to Kaspar Jenta and Anna Wolfensberger. His father was second generation Swiss from Germany. His mother Anna was sixth generation in Ettenhausen going all the way back to at least 1554. Kaspar was a school teacher in Ettenhausen where Rudolf was born. Rudolf was the first of four children. All made it past childhood which was unusual. 

Rudolf Jenta married Elisabeth Frei on October 7, 1792 in St. Peter's in Zurich. The first massive three-story tower for St. Peter's was built in early 13th century AD. The church clock of St. Peter has the largest tower clock face in Europe, the outer diameter of each of the four church clocks measures 8.64 meters (28.3 ft), the minute hand 5.73 meters (18.8 ft), the hour hand 5.07 meters (16.6 ft), and the minute crack of the large pointer measures 0.455 meters (1.5 ft). They traveled 17 miles to marry. However that pales to 36 miles Ettenhausen is from Birr, Elisabeth's village. It was rare for couples to wed outside their village or at least within walking distance of their community. This wasn't a problem for Rudolf and Elisabetha. (Wikipedia see photo below.)

Municipal Government
Susanna's father Rudolf Jenta was a municipal councillor on the local council of Ettenhausen. Ettenhausen was politically a small separate community near Kempten that only in 1928 merged with Wetzikon. Therefore they needed a little Government Municipal council (some 4 or five representatives of the local families). Jenta family is not from here, they came from Germany. Susanna's great grandfather Conrad Jenta born 2 May 1698 came from Schmidmüllen, Oberpfalz, Bavaria. Schmiedmüllen  means a "mill for a black smith" and is located in the upper palatinate  which today is Bavaria. He was a Gerber or tanner of cowhides. Conrad married Elisabeth Landis 11 December 1732 who was from Wengi, near Aegust am Albis near Affoltern am Albis, Canton of Zurich in the Church of Aeugst in 1732. The church was built in 1667, after the Reformation and during the Renaissance and  is five miles from Ottenbach. Susanna would later go back to the same area and marry Johannes. Most people in the 18th and 19 centuries married people from their community. Not Conrad and Elisabeth. From Schmidmüllen to Aeugst am Albis is 321 miles which is a long way back then when people traveled by walking or riding horses. How they met is also mystery.

The Jenta family first lived in Untermedikon on the west of the river. Untermedikon and Robank are part of Wetzikon in the West of a little river called Aa-Bach. This area early attracted industrial activities along this river.  So it is easy to imagine the first Jenta's coming there to tan cowhides into leather. The couple had two children Kaspar, Susanna's grandfather, in 1741 and Anna 1748. In Germany the name is also spelled as Jentha. Susanna was definitely of German heritage.(Peter Bertschinger)

When Susanna's grandfather Kaspar was 10 years old  in 1751 the family became Swiss citizens in Ettenhausen. To do so they had to pay for it (buy-in). It normally takes some years after moving to a community that you can become citizen and you had to buy a house. The Jentas lived in one of the few houses west of the main cantonal street, probably a street today called Winkelstrasse. Susanna's grandfather Kaspar Jenta, became a Schulmeister or schoolmaster to teach the "dumb" farmer children in Ettenhausen. Ettenhausen is a village southeast above Wetzikon on the road from Kempten to Hinwil. The area south of the Pfäffikersee has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. In the village of Ettenhausen artifacts from the Middle Bronze Age and a middle age Cemetery were found. The village belonged in the middle ages high court to rule Kyburg and came with this in 1424 and 1452 to Zurich. Kaspar and his wife Anna Wolfensberger had 4 children in this hamlet. ( , and Peter Bertschinger)

Civic Leader
In 1804 the civil community of Ettenhausen was formed with Rudolf on the council and Susanna was born, The same year the Municipality of Wetzikon asked some of the various village leaders to form a committee to provide services for local people in need. For the last few years services had not been provided. Included in the group of leaders from local village councils were Ulrich Kunz from Linkenberg, Jakob Grimm from Kempten and Rudolf Jenta, from Ettenhausen.  When Susanna was born her father Rudolf was 33 and her mother Elisabeth 30.  (History of Wetzikon,  Zurich Archives Wetzikon E lll 139.21 p 1734 and Wetzikon E lll 139.13 p 533)

The Jenta's go to Church
Susanna's parents Rudolf Jenta and Lisabeth Frei married in St. Peter's Church in Zurich. It is an unusual church. The church's steeple was and is owned by the city of Zürich, while the nave is owned by the St. Peter parish of the Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of Zürich. For many years the steeple was used as a fire lookout. The spot it is located on goes back to Roman times. It also has the largest clock face in Europe. It was out of the ordinary to be married 31 miles from home but that is what Rudolf and Lisabeth did. (Zuirch Archives E III 139.3, EDB 833, S. 479)

Because Ettenhausen was small they went to church in Wetzikon which is a mile and a half away. To get to the church Rudolf, Lisabeth and their children walked along a path today called Ettenhausweg or Kirchweg von Ettenhausen which means church path, south of the Lendenbach (Ländenbach). The Jenta's went to the Reformed Church of Wetzikon.

When Susanna reached 18 she was confirmed into the Reformed Church.  That was the only church in 1822 in the Canton of Zurich. The parish priest entered information on her confirmation partly with Latin abbreviations. He wrote: Susanna Jenta, nata (born) 11. November 1804, ex. Weihe 1822, obit (died) 18. März 1858. Weihe means the confirmation procedure happened in the church with all members and parents, godparents present. This allowed Susanna to join the Abendmahl for the first time (symbol of the evening meal of Jesus Christ with his followers, or Last Supper), and  become full member of the church.

When she become 16 she probably went to Kinederlehre (Sunday lecture), which was after the normal sermon when the adults left the church. This was compulsory. She may have gone to Sonntagsschule (Sunday school) on Sunday mornings. In modern times there was a Konfirmationsessen (confirmation meal) in a nearby restaurant with your family and godfather and godmother. In Wetzikon that was normally the Löwen inn. From that point on the godparents are released from their function to support the child if they are orphaned. You would also receive a substantial gift at this event. For example I received my first wrist-watch from your god parents. Additionally, they would not give any more Christmas presents to you. We also had a Konfirmationslager (confirmation camp), in my case one week in the Canton of Ticino, a kind  of vacations with sports, walking, and touring and religious events. The pastor (reverend) came along as well - quite informal. (Peter Bertschinger)

Wetzikon belonged to the Canton of Zurcher Oberland. Zürcher Oberland ("Zurich highlands") in Switzerland, is the hilly south-eastern part of the canton of Zurich. In recent times Kempten, Ettenhausen and Wetzikon merged into Wetzikon. To become a city in Switzerland you need to have more than 10,000 inhabitants and Wetzikon has 25,000 today. This is the same canton Ottenbach is in. A new church building was built in 1897 which still stands today. Like most village churches in Switzerland the previous church had an entry, central hall, altar and clock tower and bells to give the time to the Jenta's as they went about their day. Today, as in years past, on the side of the church facing the entrance, is the Restaurant Löwen (lion) where the people go after the sermon, baptisms, marriages and when they bury their dead. Some things never change. (Peter Bertschinger, photo of the older Wetzikon church and Restaurant Löwen at end of this post

Each family had a little garden in front of the house for vegetables. It had a fence around it to protect it from cows, animals etc. They called it Krautgarten. They also had some trees, normally walnut, apples and pears which they often made into cider. They were planted in the Baumgarten, or Bungert. They also had fields for potatoes. In the region everybody had a vinyard called a Weingarten or Wingart; also the wine was not so great, so sugar and sulphur was added to make it stable so you didn’t get head aches. There were also wheat fields for bread and straw was used for the stables.

The farms were mostly small, a few cows for milk and cream and butter. They often included a pig stable, some chicken for egg and meat etc. The meadows needed grass cuts, the first was Heu (hay) and the second in late summer called Emd. The hay was needed to feed the cows through winter. As said there were only few horses in a village, often the owners made transportation services (e.g. coach, wagons, to pull logs from the forest) etc. The oxen were used to draw the wagons and the plow. In Ettenausen there was a swamp with frogs. The swamp material was used for the stables. They also cut Torf, or rotten earth, dried it, and used it to warm the oven. The forest provided the heating materials and building materials.

Two Interesting Men
Two of the most interesting people on this family tree or any tree are Susanna’s father and father-in-law. First of all they had the same name: Rudolf. The name is of Ancient Germanic origin meaning “fame”, “glory” and olf meaning “wolf.”  Both men were civic leaders, Jenta on a village council, Sidler as a village policeman.  In 1900 Jenta lived in a village of 434 inhabitants with 119 households. Sidler lived in a village of about 900 people and 200 households. Both grew up and lived out their lives in small Swiss villages. Jenta lived to 51.5, Sidler lived to 58 and 9 mo. (Our World Data, Wikipedia Ottenbach)

Childhood Mortality
Susanna's in-laws Rudolf Sidler and Elisabetha Sidler had 15 children. Nine lived to adulthood and married. Susanna’s parents Rudolf Jenta and Lisabeth Frei had twelve children and one more with Mary Huber making thirteen. Seven lived to adulthood and married. Rudolf Jenta died 1 year 4 months after his last child was born leaving 30 year old Mary Huber with 7 children from 20 years old to 1 year four months to raise. Strange as it may seem, even though Rudolf Jenta married at 21 and had a large family he died two years before any of them married so he never saw any of his children marry and never saw a grandchild. The reason for this is because his first child, Barbara, died at 20.5 and his next three died in infancy. Rudolf Sidler also never saw any of his three girls marry or saw any grandchildren. The reason is because didn't begin  having his family until he was 48 and only lived to 57. Even his illegitimate son Jakob didn't start to have grandchildren until five years after Johannes' death. Compared to today, life was difficult for these strong Swiss. They were aquatinted with a lot of death.

We often see that from the age 20 years on, when marriage was allowed by the church, the parents had least one child every year, often stillborn. The rule for naming was that the godparents gave their first name to the child,. For example if a child named Barbara died, they continued the name until one survived the first years. From this Julius Billeter concluded that a child died young and noted a "dy" by their name. On average these big farmer families had about two boys and two girls that made it to adulthood and most of them got married. (Peter Bertschinger,)

If a woman died after the birth of a child (this was a dangerous process because of infections), her younger sister stepped in as new wife, or replacement. The husband (here farmer in the country) absolutely needed a wife to look after the children and farm house (cooking etc.). So he normally got remarried a second, or third time within a few months; later a one year period was recommended. Often these wives were widows themselves. So there was constant giving births and dying on the farms, similar to what happened in the stable with the animals. Death was seen as natural. Only medicine and hygienic measures lowered the infant and childhood mortality rate. However, there were very bad pestulenza waves in the 17th century in our regions. Many villages lost 30 to 40% of the population. (Peter Bertschinger)

Just before and during Susanna's lifetime
During the French Revolutionary Wars, the French army invaded Switzerland and turned it into an ally known as the "Helvetic Republic" (1798–1803). It had a central government with little role for cantons. The interference with localism and traditional liberties was deeply resented, although some modernizing reforms took place. (Wikipedia.)

Napoleon and his enemies fought numerous campaigns in Switzerland that ruined many localities. It proclaimed the equality of citizens before the law, equality of languages, freedom of thought and faith; it created a Swiss citizenship, basis of our modern nationality, and the separation of powers, of which the old regime had no conception; it suppressed internal tariffs and other economic restraints; it unified weights and measures, reformed civil and penal law, authorized mixed marriages (between Catholics and Protestants), suppressed torture and improved justice; it developed education and public works (William Martin)

Ettenhausen Census
Two years after Susanna was born, in 1806, they took a census and found 434 inhabitants or 119 households in Ettenhausen.  At least they had a primary school where three Jenta's taught. Susanna was the sixth of 13 children. Her mother, Elisabeth Frei, died when Susanna was 12. About 9 months later her father married Margaretha Huber and together they added the 13th child. Susanna Jenta was born in 1804, 14 years after her schoolteacher grandfather Kaspar died. (Peter  Bertschinger and Zurich Archives Wetzikon E lll 139.21 p 1734 and Wetzikon E lll 139.13 p 533)

Susanna had a brother named Heinrich born 1808 who was a silk weaver. Before the Industrial Revolution, the creation of a patterned silk textile required a skilled weaver and a considerable investment in equipment and raw materials. The warp was threaded on the loom according to the design of the textile, after which two people were required to weave the textile—a weaver who inserted the wefts and a “drawboy” who controlled the pattern mechanism. (MET Museum Website)

During Rudolf’s lifetime
1798 French army under the command of Napoleon invaded Switzerland. Switzerland was completely overrun by the French and was renamed the Helvetic Republic. The Helvetic Republic encountered severe economic and political problems. In 1798 the country became a battlefield of the Revolutionary Wars, culminating in the Battles of Zürich in 1799. The Second Battle of Zurich (25–26 September 1799) was a key victory by the Republican French army in Switzerland led by André Masséna over an Austrian and Russian force commanded by Alexander Korsakov near Zürich. (Wikipedia)

1801 The Helvetic Government grants Ottenbach the license to carry out any transport with the Reuss ferry. Previously, the ferry was only approved for its own use.

1802 Swiss revolt forced French army to leave Switzerland. (Ottenbach Municipality Website)

Napoleon and his enemies fought numerous campaigns in Switzerland that ruined many localities. It proclaimed the equality of citizens before the law, equality of languages, freedom of thought and faith; it created a Swiss citizenship, basis of our modern nationality, and the separation of powers, of which the old regime had no conception; it suppressed internal tariffs and other economic restraints; it unified weights and measures, reformed civil and penal law, authorized mixed marriages (between Catholics and Protestants), suppressed torture and improved justice; it developed education and public works. (William Martin)


Rudolf died 17 January 1801. This was the time when Napoleon took over the country. It must have been worry some for Rudolf when his way of life is threatened and when so many changes took place. We assume he was buried in the Wetzikon Reformed Church grounds. Those surviving him were his second wife Margarete 30, Anna Jenta  20, Susanna 18, Heinrich 14, Anna Elisabetha 6, and Elisabetha 1 year 4 months old. It left a lot for Margarete to raise his children which she did.

Documents relating to Rudolf Jenta

Rudolf Jenta Family from Jenta Temple Record by Julius Billeter pages 1 and 2

Rudolf Jenta Family

FamilySearch online Microfilm 008191940 page 354

Rudolf in Government:

Since Heinrich Jungholz of Ettenhausen / is moving away from Hanseatic League under the 2nd Apric and one is in doubt / whether not perhaps current debts would like to rest on the same / so the E. Gemeindrath finds it necessary to announce it publicly at everyone's behavior / and to invite through all those who have to demand eüvas of him / to announce themselves before their demands at the latest by the end of the month with the finally announced one; otherwise later no right would be held against them for this reason any more. Also at the same time, registered young wood will be "uninvited / to turn himself in to the authorities until the next Mayday of the month with the final report / otherwise one would order what will be right with regard to his inheritance. Mezikon/ April 9, 1805, in the name of the municipal council. Jenta / Secretary. (Zürcherische Freitagszeitung, Number 16, 19 April 1805)

Rudolf in Government:

Above: The revolutionary time for the disengagement of the church weaving fine way. As a result of the state overthrow of 1798 not only the Ehgaum Institute was abolished forever, but also the standstill was dissolved. The article says that the Municipality of Wetzikon is forming a committee to provide services. They list various people including: Ulrich Kunz to Linkenberg, Hs. Jakob Grimm to Kempten and Rudolf Jenta to Ettenhausen. They began service in 1804. 

Where were Rudolf and Elisabetha married?

Rudolf Jenta married Elisabetha Frei on October 7, 1792 in St. Peter's in Zurich. 
The church clock of St. Peter has the largest tower clock face in Europe, the outer diameter of each of the four church clocks measures 8.64 metres (28.3 ft),[1] the minute hand 5.73 metres (18.8 ft), the hour hand 5.07 metres (16.6 ft), and the minute crack of the large pointer measures 0.455 metres (1.5 ft).