Marcel Zollinger

Marcel is fortunate to be able to have one foot on each continent. He grew up in Wetzikon, Zürich, but emigrated to Canada as a young man, and has built up his life there. He still retains an intimate knowledge of Swiss German as well as the customs, history and geography of the Zürich Highlands. This background makes him useful to the working group in communicating with members of Zollinger branches in Germany and Switzerland.

Marcel came to Canada in 1967, and was fortunate to be able to further his education there, and receive a B.Sc. in Agriculture from McGill University in Montreal. He saw his life-calling as helping newly independent developing countries, and started his career by teaching agriculture at a highschool in Botswana in Africa, where he worked for four years. He then continued his education in Reading, England, and with his M.Sc. in Tropical Development found work with the Provincial Government in Manus Island, Papua New Guinea as an agricultural planner.

After some ten years of living overseas Marcel returned to Canada in 1984, and made Ottawa his home. From this base he worked as an independent consultant, receiving contracts from the Canadian Government and a number of NGOs, to design and evaluate development projects. These short term contracts took him to over thirty countries all over the world. He retired in 1998, and since then devotes his time to his family, his house and garden, his cottage, a stamp collection and naturally genealogy. Marcel was a latecomer to the field of genealogy, but he has impeccable roots. It was his uncle Gustav Emil Zollinger who wrote a family history of his own branch, and it was largely due to an obligation towards his uncle that Marcel decided to continue that work.

Many years earlier, during a visit to Switzerland, Leland had been in touch with Marcel's parents, but the spark came only much later, when Marcel decided to visit Leland in Hendersonville in 1999, and acquainted himself firsthand with his enormous achievements. Since then Marcel and Leland have worked closely together in expanding the data base on the Zollinger family. Marcel has also taken a specific interest in searching out and reproducing family history documents, and his little library has now grown to eight volumes.

In the past four years, thanks to new computer technology, the internet and the web, Marcel has been able to much more efficiently do what Leland had done in painstaking manual labor: to access databases, make Zollinger contacts and search for information. An eighteen month labor of love made him work through the enormous Mormon database, and on the basis of that information Marcel was able to expand the number of entries in the Zollinger database from around 12'000 to 25,000. This now represents about 80% of all Zollingers who ever lived before 1800.

Because Leland had never been able to trace his own line back to Switzerland, and because this had close links to the expulsion of Anabaptists from Switzerland after the Reformation, Marcel has become particularly interested in this aspect of history. The Anabaptist movement which swept the Zürich Highlands also had substantial repercussions on the Zollinger families, who were either forced to abandon that new faith, or be forced to leave their home. The common destination of these religious persecuted refugees was the Palatinate in Germany, where many Zollinger families settled, only to be uprooted again when they followed the English Quaker William Penn to his religious Utopia in Pennsylvania. Marcel has widely read on this topic, and has some twenty books on the Reformation, the Anabaptists and William Penn. But alas, all this study did not get him any closer to help Leland trace his family back to Switzerland.

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