About the spelling of the family name

In earlier times, “Stehelin” and “Stähelin” were both used, interchangeably and inconsistently, with “Stähelin” and then “Stehelin” later prevailing. However, until late in the 19th century there was no rhyme or reason about which spelling was used. It has only been since about 1870, after the introduction of official forms of spelling, that one spelling or the other has been consistently used in the various branches of the family.

At first, ‘ae’ appears instead of ‘ä’ on very rare occasions and only in the Latin form of the name. § 9 “Joh. Henricus Staehelius” (1706) is one example of this; so is Johann Jakob (§ 230), who otherwise always wrote “Stähelin”, and only used the form “Staehelin” on one occasion, on the title page of his Latin graduate dissertation (1827). Elsewhere the spelling with ‘e’ appears in Latin, for example the botanist Benedict (§ 10), who signed his prints as “Benedictus Stehelius”, later also “Stehelinus”. The form “Stehelinus” was also used in the 18th century by Johannes the physician (§ 251), who otherwise oscillated between “Stehelin” and “Stähelin”, and Johann Rudolf (§ 258, 8), who also wrote “Stehelin” in German.

Whilst the spelling “Stehelin” was particularly preferred by those branches of the family living temporarily or permanently in French-speaking countries, in Basel up until the start of the 19th century the form “Stähelin” was generally kept unchanged 3. That was the way the family name was written consistently by the two founders of the Poor Fund, Balthasar St.-Ryhiner (§ 61) and Benedict St.-Sarasin or -Merian (§ 177) and also by their descendants in the “Streitgasse” (Balthasar St.-Respinger § 62) and “vom Graben” lines of the family. Where the spelling did deviate, it was the “Stehelin” form that appeared. For example, Hieronymus St.-Passavant (§ 175); also for a period Peter (§ 64) and his wife Sara née Bischoff, and also their son Balthasar St.-Merian (§ 65); his brother Peter (§ 101) described this in a letter dated 3rd August 1821 as “not a laudable habit”.

The earliest evidence of “Staehelin”, the form that deviates from the official spelling in the German linguistic setting, is probably the marriage contract signed on 8 July 1812 between Balthasar “Staehelin” and Maria Merian (§ 65), which is also signed by the father Peter “Stæhelin” (a and e ligated), next to the grandmother “Stähelin née Gemuseus” (§ 63) and the two uncles “Hieronymuß Stähelin” (§ 117) and “Christoff Stähelin” (§ 163). The brothers and the sons of Balthasar St.-Merian (§ 65) adopted the written form “Staehelin”, as did the representatives of the Streitgaße line in the narrower sense. It is interesting that Rudolf (§ 66) wrote his own name as “Staehelin-Staehelin”, but always gave the signature of his firm in the officially correct way “Gebrüder Stähelin” [Stähelin Brothers]. Among the members of the older line the sons of the above-mentioned “Christoph”, Christoph the physics professor (§ 164) and August Stähelin-Brunner councillor and member of the Council of States (§ 165), remained faithful to the spelling “Stähelin”.

In contrast to the Streitgasse line, the Graben line clung much longer to the old form. This was true of the three sons of the founder of the second Poor Fund:  Balthasar St.-Burckhardt  (§ 178),  Philipp St.-Keller (§ 248) and the triumvir Joh. Rudolf St.-Werthemann (§ 249). And also of his grandsons Philipp St.-Reber (§ 179), Benedict St.-Reber (§ 180) and Balthasar St.-Christ (§ 229). And Benedict St.-Reber‘s son Benedict St.-Bischoff (§ 181) and his two sons Benedict St.-Linder (§ 182) and Theophil St.-Merian (§ 206) never wrote anything but “Stähelin”, and this example was also followed by Theophil‘s sons, but only by some of his grandsons.

Similarly the descendants of Balthasar Stähelin-Christ (§ 229) generally followed the usage of their ancestors for much longer; here we will mention only the pastor and doctor of theology Ernst St.-Hagenbach (§ 233), who on the title pages of his numerous publications always wrote “Stähelin”. His brothers Carl St.-Bucknor (§ 231) and Dr. med. Alfred St. (§ 246) however later went over to the ‘ae’.

Among those family members alive today who are not bound by tradition to use the spelling “Stehelin”, “Staehelin” is nowadays much preferred to “Stähelin” because ‘ä’ is seldom used outside German-speaking areas and had caused confusion or misunderstanding. However even among siblings, no one spelling has been agreed by all. At present, it is a matter of personal choice whether to use ‘ä’ or ‘ae’. In 1984, one member of the family living in Geneva managed to obtain a change of name from "Stähelin" to "Staehelin" by official decree.