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The American TV icon with the great-grandfather from Glarus retires

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Cecily Strong starred on the US comedy show "Saturday Night Live" for ten years. Time for a look at her Glarus roots.

What connection does the beloved American live comedy TV program “Saturday Night Live” have with both Glarus, Switzerland and New Glarus, Wisconsin? On this previous weekend’s season finale of “SNL”, the longest-serving woman comedian in the show’s history was given a heartfelt sendoff by her cast mates on her final episode. Her name: Cecily Strong, also known as Cecily Legler Strong.

Strong grew up in the midwestern USA central Illinois city of Springfield, whose residents are proud to claim the 16th President Abraham Lincoln as its most famous former resident. Springfield is about 330 km due south of New Glarus, Wisconsin, where her maternal side’s Swiss family emigrated in the year 1869. Just 24 years prior, the village was founded in the hilly wilderness of the Territory of Wisconsin by emigrants from the Kanton of Glarus, primarily from Glarus Süd.

Her Legler family roots can be traced back almost a half millennium in Glarus Süd to her 11th great grandfather, Gabriel Legler, who was born in the year 1572 in Diesbach. As documented by the genealogy expert Patrick Wild, her ancestors in Glarus Süd naturally have connections to many other Glarner families: Dürst, Figi, Heer, Hefti, Hösli, Knobel, Kundert, Störi, Vögeli and more. Patrick Wild, whose website Glarus Family Tree is a great resource for people from all over the world seeking genealogical connections to this Kanton, describes the Legler family prior to their journey across the big pond, “Indeed, Cecily Legler Strong has Glarner roots through her mother's lineage. Her 4th great grandfather Johannes Legler was born in Diesbach. I assume he was a merchant and did business in Sicily, where he lived with his wife Raphaela Maria Massina and their five children.” Surely having found out about New Glarus from those Swiss emigrants who had already arrived there, Johannes and his family made their way to America on the ship “Harmonia”. One of their children was Henry Eduard Legler, who was born less than a month after the Brand von Glarus in 1861. By the time the family arrived in New Glarus, he was 8 years old. Reaping the benefits of growing up as a young immigrant in the so-called Land of Opportunity, “Strong’s 3rd great grandfather Henry went on to have a career as a journalist, a politician in the Wisconsin State Assembly, and as the chief librarian of Chicago Public Library from 1909 until his death in 1917”, said Wild.

In more recent times, Cecily Legler Strong was fascinated by the raucous comedy of Saturday Night Live while growing up. After studying at California Institute of the Arts, she moved back closer to home and joined the Second City improvisational theater group in Chicago. Second City has long been a gateway for many comedians who go on to audition for SNL and are hired as cast members. That’s just what Strong did in 2012. Since then, she has worked hard and lived out her dream to grace the stage in countless comedic sketches alongside SNL’s famous guest hosts. She has also appeared in movies such as the remake of “Ghostbusters” in 2016.

Further reading about Henry Eduard Legler (1861-1917) and his son Henry Legler (1897-1979) in Robert A. Elmer, Glarners in America, 2015, pp 118-119 and 125 and about Cecily Legler Strong in Bob Elmer's Family History Notes Summer 2016 issue

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