The USA Spelling Zullinger

One of the most dedicated, thorough and hardworking family historians that I have had the pleasure to work with is Janice Roden of Dallas, Texas. In 2003 she self-published her family history called "Zullinger Genealogy". She could then have rested on her laurels of having produced a solid and wide reaching family history. But once the book was in her hands, she only saw the shortcomings, and so decided to do further research. The result of that labour of love was her second version: "The Zullinger Book", published in 2010. If proof was needed to show the amount of work that has gone into producing the second volume, one has to go no further than to look at the number of pages written. Her first book ran to 204 pages, the second an amazing 680 pages!

But the story of Janice Roden has another angle: many years ago when she first became interested in tracing her roots, she was not able to find any family records at all. She was born Janice Aretha McKee, and however hard she searched, she could not find any McKee ancestors. Her father John McKee died in 1981, but a few years earlier she sat him down and asked him about the McKee family. It was a very difficult moment for James, because the secret he had kept all his life he didn't want to be revealed. Her father never told her that when he was in the US Navy, he decided to, for whatever reason, desert. He went underground, settled far from home and created a new identity, with the name John McKee. So when Janice told her father that she could not trace the McKee family, her father first only vaguely related the name ZULLINGER, to which Janice replied "Why"? Well, he proceeded to tell her that some grandfather had changed the name from ZULLINGER to MCKEE and some of the children still went under the name of ZULLINGER. Of course this was NOT the truth. He didn't want his secret learned.

However, when Janice because researching the name ZULLINGER, she found all the answers she had been looking for.

This became the starting point of research for Janice, and while she never found any McKees, she had no trouble finding Zullingers, and so her family tree became established. But then Janice ran into another complication. The beginning of her family tree was an immigrant Johann Jakob Zullinger * 1706, but his name was spelled "Zollinger". Janice assumed that he came from Germany, but did not have any further information. So she assumed that in the early days the name was mis-spelled "Zollinger", and from then on, in her first book, she exclusively used the spelling "Zullinger". I was fortunate to be able to receive her first book, but was unhappy that she had not been able to find the facts on her earliest USA ancestors. That then initiated an intensive correspondence, and I was able to provide Janice with the data that she had been missing. I on the other hand had just fragments of the Zullinger family, and so was happy to add her data to my family tree. And my new information helped Janice to establish that her roots were Swiss, and she expanded the early part of her family tree to reflect this. And to honour that heritage, her second book shows the Zollinger family crest on the title page.

The historical fact is that a Johann Jakob Zollinger was born on the 6th of January 1706 in the small hamlet Üssikon, near Maur, on the shores of the Greifensee lake in the Zürich Highlands. His family can be traced some six generations further back in Switzerland, to about 1500, when a Hans Rytz Zollinger left Lautikon, and built a mill in Üssikon. Johann Jakob Zollinger then married an Anna Barbara Lauer from the Saar region of Germany. It is not clear if they met in Switzerland, or if he emigrated to Germany, and worked there for some years. The were married in 1737, and then only in 1749 left Germany for the USA with their five children on the ship "Phoenix". The family settled in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and from then on Johann Jakob's life is very well documented, and includes his own will.

The original immigrant's grandson, Frederick Zollinger, settled in Upper Strassburg, where he was a farmer, and later moved to Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA. His birth is recorded as Zollinger, but his death as Zullinger. Sometime during his lifetime he must have changed the spelling, and all his offspring then used that spelling of the name. But it is also well documented that neither his older brothers George and Johann Jakob, nor his uncles changed the spelling. So while the family tree of Janice Roden documents the Zullinger family, there exist several other branches originating from the same Johann Jakob, who retained the name Zollinger.

The Zullinger family never moved far from their roots, and Harrisburg PA is still the centre of where the name occurs most commonly. And the history of Harrisburg is closely linked to the Zullingers, who were prominent citizens, active church supporters, and involved in commerce and industry. Surrounding towns and villages, among them Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Orrstown and Upper Strassburg also show the presence and influence of various Zollingers. The nearby large US Army Depot of Letterkenny employed many a Zullinger. And south of Chambersburg, just outside Waynesboro is a hamlet called Zullinger. The entire area is full of Zullinger history, its farms, churches and graveyards tell the story of a family that was true to their heritage, and stayed close to the soil. Janice Roden has captured that most impressive history very ably, and through that she has honoured her ancestors like no other could.


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