In the middle of the Emmental Valley there is a little village called Lutzelfluh. I visited about eighteen months ago with my family. It was so wonderful to be there with my Mum and see the town that her grandfather’s family hailed from. There are no longer grave stones proclaiming the names of my ancestors. There are no known relatives still walking the village. There was no ancestral abode to visit. However, there was a church. There were fields. And I was in Switzerland which was green, beautiful and bursting with springs blossoms. There also was a strange metal version of lucifer … very weird.
I don’t feel Swiss and have little connection to the country. It was fun, though, to walk through the village, walk through the streets of Berne and to experience a little of the culture my great grandfather left behind.
His name was Hans Jean Ernst Aeschbacher but he was known as Jack. He was born in 1896 in Berne, emigrated to Australia in 1925. He married my great grandmother, Molly Miles in 1926 and died in 1943 at the age of 46. His life was short. He left behind a wife and three young daughters.
I believe that he left Switzerland due to his health. By 1925, both his parents had died and he had been living in Thün (based on information on his emigration papers). Having visited Thün, located on the banks of Lake Thün, I can only assume poor health was a reason to travel across the world where he had no family or connections. Thün is beautiful.
My Nan, his daughter, believes he moved to Australia with ‘the French bank’. One of the delights of family history is the oral snippets that give you a hint but leave you remarkably clueless. Thankfully, I managed to find his emigration papers which show that he moved to Australia with Berner Handelsbank. The Berner Handelsbank was the Bernese Merchant Bank. It was established in 1862 and was involved in the financing of railway projects. The bank was bought by the Union Bank of Switzerland in 1938.
After his marriage, Jack and Molly lived on a farm south of Morisset in the Hunter Valley. The farm was owned by Molly’s father, W H Miles, and had been purchased several years before their marriage. On their marriage certificate, Jack’s occupation is listed as farmer and his residence Morisset. Molly was residing in Katoomba.
Throughout his time in Australia he suffered from tuberculosis. My Nan was given the impression (from her Auntie Bess) that he left the bank due to poor health. The fact that he was living in Morisset as a farmer within a year of his arrival supports my theory that he left Switzerland due to poor health. The farm was fitted out with dairy cattle and equipment. I assume that Jack managed the farm and employed workers. I could be wrong. By 1935, the family was no longer living at the farm but had moved to the suburb of Cardiff. This is the same suburb that my father grew up in – it’s a small world.
Beyond his death, there is little record of Jack in the Australian records. I did manage to contact the Swiss Embassy but they no longer have records for him as they are destroyed after a certain period.
What information I do have is from his daughters. Pamela was born in 1930 in Sydney although her mother’s address is listed on her birth certificate as Morrisset. Elsa was born in 1933 at Cooranbong, near Morrisset, at the 7th Day Adventist Clinic. Between 1933 and 1935 (when Carmen was born in Cardiff, a suburb of Newcastle) the family had moved from the farm at Morrisset.
Below are the notes I received from Pamela.
Jack was an accomplished pianist and violinist and had a good tenor singing voice. Pamela recalls that he performed as a pianist at public events during this time but has no idea if he received income from his performances. Mollie had an adequate income from her father to keep the family.
About 1938-9, just before WWII broke out, Jack suffered a lung haemorrhage and was hospitalised at Wallsend Hospital, also in Newcastle. He was registered as an alien – as Swiss not as an enemy alien. Later he was transferred to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, which specialised in caring for tuberculosis sufferers, and then to Waterfall Sanitorium, Waterfall. His death certificate states that he died at the Randwick Auxiliary Hospital in Randwick on 21st June 1943. He was admitted to the hospital on 18 November 1942 with Pulmonary Tuberculosis. He was buried on 22nd June 1943 at the Church of England Cemetery, Rookwood. His occupation at time of death is listed as clerk.
Jack kept in touch with the Swiss Consulate and registered his daughters at their births. Carmen recalls that the Swiss Consul visited her father in hospital.
At the time of Jack’s death, Pamela was 12, Elsa was 10, and Carmen was 7. Their memories of their father are those of little girls. They never knew him as adults, and if they were anything like me, never asked the questions that I would like answered.
I wish we all knew him a little better.