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Posted by transfer on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 10:52 AM
All evidence indicates that the Iseli Family originated as Swiss peasants, many of whom were farmers. The various Iseli Shields are not related the Coat-of-Arms of any noble family. They are, for the most part, a product of a "shield fad" that took place during the 1700's. The Shields were simply the invention of specific individuals. Their descendants could use the same shield, or modified it to represent their own generation, or invent one of their own. Therefore it is important not to consider the shields as being "family shields" but rather shields of individuals.
In Switzerland, non-noble families like the Iseli's don't have one dedicated family shield, not even a specific branch. This is because there is absolutely no rule about family shields. Actually, anyone can take an existing shield, or create a new one which he will consider as his own. The shields you can see below are only examples of shields that are historically attested to have been used by an Iseli family member. So if you like a shield who was used by an individual which is not part of your branch, nothing and nobody will prevent you from using it. Similarly, if you have a better idea for a shield, just feel free to use it.
Some of the shields illustrated below can be found in an index kept by the Staatsarchiv (the State archieves of Canton Bern) in the city of Bern. However, there may be many other shields created in the past that have not yet found their way into the index. If you are aware of an Iseli Shield, we would appreciate hearing about it.
Many of the original shields can be found in various Swiss museums or private collections. The originals were designed in stained glass mounted in iron frames, referred to as "glass shields". Where known, the locations of the original shield is also provided. Some of the shields are only described (with no picture) in some books, like the one of the Swiss Heraldrist, Dr. A. Staehelin-Paravicini (referred to as Staehelin).
The basic element of many shields, the plough, is very commonly used on Emmental shields, because of the predominant farming activity in this area. The book Emmentaler Geschlechter- und Wappenbuch by Hans Rudolf Christen shows that around 10% of all "family shields" of the Emmental have this symbol on it.
Iseli von Lützelflüh: This Shield appeared on the cover of the Ralph Gnagi's 1942 genealogy of the Wisconsin Isely/Esely branch and it has certainly been adopted as the definitive shield of that branch. Regretfully, Gnagi never indicated where he found the shield. Also, Gnagi's design (on the left) may have been based only on a description. The alternative design on the right is based on a modification of the Iseli von Grafenried shield which would also fit the basic description.
Iseli von Hasle bei Burgdorf: This shield is listed in the Shields-book of Brülhart, published about 1940. The shield was also used on the label of a brand of beer brewed in Wynigen, until the 1920's.
Iseli von Biembach: This Shield was described by Mrs. Iseli-Gruber of the Tal as being, "the same as the Hasle Shield but with only half a mill wheel.". She was not sure which half of the wheel is correct.
Iseli von Jegenstorf: This shield was created by Johannes Iseli of Jegenstorf in 1779. He was the landlord of an inn called The Lion (Löwen). Johannes was also a court official and a corporal in the cavalry. The original glass shield is in the Landesmuseum Zurich (the National Museum of Switzerland in Zurich) and was recorded by Staehelin on number 847. The Shield was also mentioned in records in 1775, 1788, and 1779.
This shield was created by Jakob Iseli from Jegenstorf in 1768. The original glass shield is in the Musée Historique, Neuchâtel - the historical museum of the Canton of Neuchatel - (Staehelin number 45)
This is obviously another variant of the Jegenstorf shield that was found by the grandfather of Robert Iseli of Kentucky on his last visit to Bern. Unfortunately we have no details on the source used, the age of the shields its creator.
Iseli von Affoltern: This shield was created by Caspar Iseli, an innkeeper in Affoltern in 1752. It is a very interesting example of the complexity of popular heraldry. In Staehelin (number 20), it was described in a very unprecise way so that it has been interpreted like the image on the left. Fassbind, another heraldrist, has drawn his own interpretation like the image on the right, except from the yellow part which was also white on his drawing. What you see on that image is another variation that has been found at Mr. Arnold Iseli, in Schafhausen, Hasle bei Burgdorf. But when the original shield has been discovered in the Greisler collection, Burgdorf, it appeared that the shield also contained two stars like shown on the third shield (the right most one).
Iseli von Rüegsau: This was a seal used by Ulrich Iseli, community leader in 1835 on paper documents. A copy was located at the Staatsarchiv. An additional paper seal (right) shows a variant of the first one, including the initials of Ulrich Iseli.
Iseli von Täuffelen: This is the most recent of the Family shields. It was adopted at the Iseli von Täuffelen Family Reunion on May 23, 1982 as the official family shield of the branch - although it has no official character. However it was already in use much before this date.
Iseli von Uetendorf: This shield was provided by Hans-Peter Iseli of Germany. He has it painted on a wooden plate citing the year 1752. However, there is no proof that this year is exact, as many "artists" made up stories about shields.
Iseli von Glarus: This shield has been found in the Wappenbuch des Landes Glarus mentioning that it belonged to Caspar Iseli (1662) and Fridli Iselli (1678). The original can be found in the castel Werdenberg.
Iseli von Walkringen: This shield (1962) can be found in the Heraldrical Institute Cambin in Lugano and is cited in Christen. Also mentioned in the Staatsarchiv, but like the second one of Hasle, probably in another document than the index we used.