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Emigration to Australia

Werbung Auswanderung 1913
Schiesser David 1877 Family
1908 Marburg Queensland

After the "discovery" and exploration of the fifth continent by Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, the settlement of Australia began at the end of the 18th century, especially by the British, first by convicts, later by settlers. In 1851, gold discoveries triggered a great wave of immigration. 


Only a few years after the foundation of the first settlement in 1788, the first Swiss settlers arrived in the Sydney region. What is certain is that from the 1830s onwards an unknown number of milkers and cheese-makers, presumably from the canton of Bern, as well as merchants and educators, mainly from western Switzerland, lived in Sydney and the surrounding area. The earliest significant emigration of Swiss began in 1839 with the appointment of Charles Joseph La Trobe as Superintendent and later Governor of Victoria. La Trobe was a private tutor to the de Pourtalès family of Neuchâtel. Their information, based on personal contacts, probably influenced the decision to emigrate, first of the La Trobe family and subsequently of numerous winegrowers from the Neuchâtel region and the Bernese Seeland. Western Swiss established important wine-growing areas in Victoria (Geelong, Yarra-Valley, Rutherglen). They played a major role in shaping the 19th century wine industry in Australia. Among the greatest promoters of emigration in the early days were David Louis Pettavel and James Dardel, who returned to Switzerland several times to recruit young winegrowers for their vineyards located in the Geelong region (southwest of Melbourne). However, economic difficulties and a lack of young talent, combined with the appearance of phylloxera, introduced from Europe in 1877 (presumably by a Swiss), led to the demise of the wine industry, which only managed to recover after World War II. In the Yarra Valley east of Melbourne, Hubert de Castella and Guillaume de Pury were among the most active promoters of French-Swiss emigration. De Castella's project to produce Gruyere cheese in the Yarra Valley failed despite the commissioning of a cheese maker from the Canton of Fribourg. Gruyere, however, has remained as the only Swiss place name introduced by Swiss people.


The exodus of the Ticino gold miners (mainly from the Maggia and Verzasca valleys) between 1854 and 1856, numbering about 2000 persons, was the most important Swiss emigration to Australia. In the goldfields of Daylsford and Ballarat (both in Victoria), the mostly unskilled immigrants had only a very local influence. In contrast to the Ticinese, the estimated 200 to 300 Puschlavers emigrated in a chain migration that lasted from the 1850s until World War I and preferably to the goldfields of the Bendigo region.


At the end of the 19th century, Australia became more attractive for tradesmen and craftsmen from German-speaking Switzerland. At the same time, New South Wales (with Sydney) and, for a short time in the 1880s, Queensland began to displace Victoria and Melbourne as the most important destinations. Despite some active advertising, including in Switzerland, no large groups of Swiss immigrants settled in Australia's other colonies. After World War II, Queensland and Western Australia gained in importance. Around 1950, a larger group of Swiss-German women arrived in Victoria, having lost their Swiss citizenship by marrying internees from Poland and other Eastern European countries. Like their husbands, they were pressured by the Swiss authorities to emigrate. In the second half of the 20th century, Swiss emigration took on a strongly individualized character, with residence often planned as temporary and a correspondingly high rate of return migration. The majority settled in the capitals of the member states and especially in Sydney and Melbourne. Crafts and commercial professions were in the majority. 

Source: Wegmann, Susanne: "Australien", in: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz (HLS), version of 13.07.2021. Online:, consulted on 11.12.2021.


To date I have been able to identify the following families who emigrated from Glarus to faraway Australia. Descendants of both tribes still live in Australia today.

Glarner Pioneer Settlers in Australia

Kaspar Iselin (1820-1882) from Glarus emigrated to Scotland in the mid-1840s and married Ann Ronald (1825-188) in Glasgow. The couple had five children: Johann Heinrich (1848-1901), George Ronald (1750-1921), Kaspar Ronald (1852-1948), Rosina (1857-1858) and William (1859-1929). George Ronald and Kaspar Ronald emigrated from there to Australia in the early 1870s.


George married Catherine Henderson Johnstone in Victoria in 1905. The couple had three children: George Ernest Ronald (1876-1944), Lionel Newton Ronald (1877-1956), and Lena Constance (1881-).


Kaspar married Mary Sheehan (1853-1892) in Warwick, Queensland in 1873, with whom he had a total of 9 children between 1874-1891. After the death of his first wife, he married Fanny Agnes Locke (1869-1931) in Queensland in 1893, with whom he had another 6 children between 1894 and 1908. Numerous descendants of this family still live in Australia today.

Kaspar Schiesser (1810-1881) from Schwändi emigrated to Australia after the death of his wife Elsbeth Schiesser-Schieser (1815-1870) together with his two sons David (1840-1888) and Kaspar (Casper) (1842-1908) around 1873. Father Kaspar died in Tarampa, Queensland on November 24, 1881. 


Son David married still in Schwanden Agatha Zimmermann (1847-1937), also from Schwändi, with whom he emigrated together with his children Kaspar (1867-1961) and Sara (1871-1953) born in Schwändi and his father and brother to Queensland in 1873. Son Kaspar married in 1893 in Ipswich, Queensland Emma Schadwell (1870-1949) with whom he had 8 children. Daughter Sara Schiesser married in 1891 Albert Frech (1869-1946) who immigrated from Germany and with whom she had six sons. David and Agatha had two more daughters in Queensland: Elizabeth (1876-1895) and Rosina (1884-1957). There are still many descendants of David and Agatha's family living in Australia today.


Their son Kaspar married Susanna Störi (1841-1903) from Hätzingen in 1865. Together with his children Niklaus (1869-1931) and Kaspar (1871-1906), who were born in Hätzingen, and his father and brother, they emigrated to Queensland in 1873. In Queensland they had another son David (1877-1946). Son Niklaus remained single and died after a fatal injury he received from a cow. Son Kaspar also remained single and probably died by suicide in Brisbane in 1906. Son David, born in Australia, became a butcher and married Mary Helena Reese (1876-1948) in 1900, with whom he had a total of nine children between 1901 and 1917. David changed his family name from Schiesser to Schasser. Numerous descendants of this family still live in Australia today.

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