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US ambassador to Berne finds his Swiss connection

The US ambassador, J. Richard Fredericks, and his wife Stefanie visiting Röschenz Keystone

The United States ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, J. Richard Fredericks, has taken the opportunity to find out more about his Swiss ancestors by delving into his roots in the village of Röschenz, in canton Basel.

Fredericks and his wife travelled to Röschenz where they were met by dozens of people who are all distant relatives of a paternal side of the family. The Karrer family immigrated to the United States in 1848.

He is a close friend of President Bill Clinton, since sharing a room with him at Georgetown University in Washington.

It was his first ever visit to his ancestral roots, after years of painstaking family tree research.

However, the ambassador said: “I didn’t realise that I was part Swiss until about five years ago, when my father organised a picnic with all the relatives we could find. Since then, my older brother has been the keeper of the family tree and he was able to trace our origin back to Röschenz”.

On arriving in Switzerland early this year to take up his now post as US ambassador in Berne, Fredericks was determined to pursue the amateur-genealogy a little further.

The more he looked into his family’s history, the more he realised there were “striking similarities” between his immediate family’s lifestyle in the US and the nature of his Swiss relatives.

“Röschenz derives its economic strength from quarrying and it so happens that my father’s company has also been involved with quarries. What’s more some of the popular Christian names we found in the Swiss village are shared by my close American family,” Fredericks told swissinfo.

Although his ties to Röschenz are rather loose, he says that he was profoundly touched by the reception he and his wife were given in Röschenz by its inhabitants. “It was like a long-lost son was being welcomed back,” he said.

Fredericks said he was keen to make further visits to Röschenz. He said: “Röschenz will always have a fond place in my heart. The beauty of the valley that Röschenz sits in is breathtaking”.

by Greg Morsbach

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR