Rickenbacher Surname DNA Study

About the Project

The purpose of this study is to identify the links between the many variants of the Rickenbacher surname. The initial focus is on the descendants of Heinrich Rickenbacher and Anna Burgi who immigrated to South Carolina in 1735 and the descendants of Heinrich Rickenbacher and Barbara Thommen who immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1740, however the study is open to all Rickenbacher and variant surnames with a known or suspected Rickenbacher ancestor from Switzerland or Germany.

Surnames In This Project

Rickabaugh, Rickenbach, Rickenbacher, Rickenbacker, Rickenbaker, Riggenbach, Riggenbacher

Requirements for Participation

A Surname Project traces members of a family that share a common surname. Since surnames are passed down from father to son like the Y-chromosome, this test is for males taking a Y-DNA test. Females do not carry their father's Y-DNA and acquire a new surname by way of marriage, so the tested individual must be a male that wants to check his direct paternal line (father's father's father's...) with a Y-DNA12, Y-DNA37, or Y-DNA67 marker test. Females who would like to check their direct paternal line can have a male relative with this surname order a Y-DNA test.

For More Information or to Participate

Contact Jim Rickenbacker, the Projrct Coordinator, or visit the Rickenbacher Project Page at FamilyTreeDNA.


The initial focus of this project is on two immigrant families:

The ancestors of these two immigrants have been documented by Werner Hug1 and verified by church records. The two Heinrich's were second cousins once removed with a common ancestor in Michel Rickenbach, born about 1550 in Zeglingen. Both families worshiped in the church in the nearby village of Kilchberg.

The South Carolina Family

Heinrich Rickenbacher, along with his wife Anna Burgi and their son Heini were among the initial settlers of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Heinrich died in 1739 and his widow remarried. The son Heini, married Anna Till and they had seven children, five sons (Hans Heinrich, Nicholas, Johannes, Samuel and Jacob) and two daughters (Elizabeth and Ann Catharina). The preceeding nine Rickenbachers account for every Rickenbacher record that I have been able to find to about 1790. Unfortunately, there are only a few extant records between 1790 and 1850. Thus there are now several probable descendent Rickenbacher families in the Orangeburg area with only a speculative connection to the known Rickenbacher immigrant.

Many variant spellings of the family name are found in Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century records but family spelling (from signatures) was Rickenbacher with an occasional Rickenbaker. By 1830 or so the spelling seems to have stabalized on Rickenbacker with Rickenbaker becoming more popular after 1860. Rickenbacker and Rickenbaker are the only surviving variants of the Surname in the Orangeburg area. Rickenbacher, the original spelling, has died out.

Timeline 1 puts on one page everything we can prove about Heinrich Rickenbacher and his descendants. The only present day families that we can document as descending from the known immigrant are the descendants of Nicholas, Jr. Census records indicate that there were probably other sons but we have no idea who they were. One line has been tested for 67 markers. Testing of additional lines may allow us to infer the DNA signature of Nicholas Jr..

Of course there are other present day Rickenba(c)ker families in the Orangeburg area that are likely descendants of the immigrant Heinrich. Timeline 2 identifies the three families that I know of. All of these families are likely descendants of the immigrant, Heinrich, but there has been no way to document that connection. DNA analysis may help us to determine those connectiions.

The Pennsylvania Family

We have one participant from the Pennsylvania family. The match between the Pennsylvania family and the Orangeburg Nicholas, Jr. family is consistent with the common anestor being Michel Rickenbach, b. abt 1550.

Detailed information on the Pennsylvania family can be found on Tom Rickenbach's web site:


  1. Hug, Werner. "Stammtafeln Rickenbacher Rickenbach Riggenbach von Zeglingen Runenberg Oltingen Basel", Privately Published, Limited Editions 1992 and 2003.

Copyright © by J. E. Rickenbacker. All rights reserved.