Our branch of the family lived mainly in and around the village of Gimmelwald high above Lauterbrunnen. We have traced this line back to the 17th century.
Among our ancestors is Hans von Allmen (born about 1675), "Statthalter" (=“mayor”) of Lauterbrunnen, who was forced to resign when the church authorities discovered that he was unable to read or write! The pastor of the church at Lauterbrunnen went on horseback to Interlaken to appeal against the decision, but the provincial governor was inflexible: "Der Statthalter Hans von Allmen seye ihme keineswegs anstendig und habe ihm gutwillig die Demission ertheilt, weil er nicht schreiben und lesen könne, wolle absolut keinen solchen Statthalter leiden." Hans’ successor in office was another of our ancestors, Hans Linder (1683-1753).
From 1789 to 1799, the schoolmaster at Gimmelwald was Christen von Allmen (1743-1810), husband of Hans von Allmen’s granddaughter Elsbeth von Allmen, and doubtless a cousin of some kind . According to a 1799 report on schools in the canton of Bern, Gimmelwald had a population of 137, including 20 schoolchildren. Attendance at Gimmelwald was "good", whereas at Lauterbrunnen it was "poor", and at Isenfluh, Wengen and Mürren "very poor". Like all local schoolmasters, Christian gave the children their lessons in his own home: their was no school building. In 1799, he earned 44 francs 40, half of which was paid by the canton "Oberland" and half by Gimmelwald. The following year, Christian was no longer the village schoolmaster, and the pastor Samuel Zimmerlin wrote in a letter dated 21 December 1800: "Ein Jahr vorher erntete die Gimmelwaldschule noch Lob, mit dem Schulmeisterweschsel aber verblaste es." ("Last year, the school at Gimmelwald still had a good reputation, but since the schoolmaster changed, all that is finished")
Two of Christen's sons, Peter and Heinrich, married sisters Anna and Margaritha Kammer, and strangely both brothers died young a few days apart, although no cause of death is given in the burial register. Peter von Allmen was born in Gimmelwald and christened in Lauterbrunnen on 8 October 1775. He married Anna Kammer on 22 June 1801, and died on 4 August 1806, leaving his widow with three sons under the age of 4. Anna subsequently married Ulrich Gertsch.
The youngest of Peter and Anna's sons, Ulrich von Allmen, was born in Gimmelwald on 5 October 1805 and married Margritha Wyss in Gündlischwand on 28 September 1834. They had three chldren before Margritha's death in about 1843, and Ulrich then married Barbara Winterberger in Lauterbrunnen on 1 August 1845.
Ulrich and Barbara migrated from the valley of Lauterbrunnnen to the canton of Neuchâtel in about 1846, and settled near Boudeviliers, where most of their eleven children were born. This was a time of economic recession, when many Swiss emigrated to seek a better life, particularly those from badly-hit rural areas, while others looked for easier conditions elsewhere in Switzerland. Ulrich may also have wanted to make a fresh start after the death of his first wife.
The youngest child from Ulrich's first marriage, Marianna von Allmen, was born in Lauterbrunnen on 9 July 1843, and lived with her maternal grandmother for some time after her mother's death, only joining her father and stepmother in Boudevilliers some years later. She went into service with a tailor in Le Locle, and had a son, Hermann von Allmen, in Bern on 31 July 1877, returning to work for the same tailor after the baby was born.
Hermann married Anna-Louise Lörtscher in Bern on 17 June 1907. She was born in Bern on 4 August 1882, and her Lörtscher ancestors came from the village of Spiez. Hermann was a hairdresser, and later a gardener at the institute where his oldest son taught. After leaving the institute, he worked in a watchmaking factory in Neuchâtel. Hermann died in Neuchâtel in 1950, and Anna-Louise in Lausanne in 1968.
Hermann and Anna-Louise had four children, and the oldest, Paul Herman von Allmen, was born in Bern on 3 May 1908. By the time he was 3, the family had settled permanently in the canton of Neuchâtel, and all his schooling was consequently in French, although he learned to speak both German and Swiss German dialect well. Paul became a secondary school teacher, and during the economic depression of the 1930s spent a year in Turkey, teaching at a school in Tarsus. When he returned to Switzerland, he learned of an opening for a married couple to take charge of a college at Bevaix, and this gave him the impetus to propose to his childhood friend Cécile Mathilde Roulet, who was at that time working as a governess in Germany.
Paul and Cécile were married in Neuchâtel on 30 July 1932, and after some years in Bevaix, moved to Neuchâtel where both taught in secondary schools. They had five children, and later returned to Bevaix where Cécile died in 1987, the evening after attending the baptism of two of her grandchildren. Paul later lodged with an old family friend, herself a widow, which allowed both of them to remain independent into their 90s. Following a deterioration in their health, they moved to a home in Fleurier, and Paul celebrated his centenary with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in 2008, before dying peacefully in his sleep a few weeks later.
Paul Hermann von Allmen and Cécile Mathilde Roulet are Jean-Marc's paternal grandparents.