Newsletter VI, March 2014
In my last Newsletter in 2012 I had indicated that the research on the Zollinger name was basically finished, and that from then on work would slow down considerably. And to some extent it has. I do get the odd inquiry, and can then add a bit of data , but the telephone campaign had come to an end, with the main reason being that I got more and more discouraged. This was largely because the remaining contacts became more and more difficult, and it just became too discouraging to try to persuade people to help me, when they were most unwilling.
And then something surprising happened: I found out that I was by no means finished . First I found GeneaNet, a genealogy website from Germany, and shortly after I came across the "Findagrave" organization, and with these two key sources, which are discussed below in more detail, a whole new chapter of research started. In addition came the new data on Military Zollingers, and this again opened up a new chapter. So a lesson was learned, which in hindsight seems far too obvious, and that any genealogist will tell you: the work is never finished.
Having said that, it is obviously slowing down, and this is reflected in the statistics that follow: actual growth in data collection and the web site visits is a thing of the past, and the present lower level will likely become the norm.
The Data Base.
In spite of my prediction that the task was completed, the new sources discussed below added a considerable number of entries to the data base, particularly on the USA side. The figures below show the number of new entries into the data base for the past two years :
|Year||USA Entries||USA Growth||Swiss Entries||Swiss Growth|
|2012||15,227||+ 199 (+1.3%)||33,831||+1,515 (+4.7%)|
|2013||16,968||+ 1,714 (+11.4%)||34,950||+1,119 (+3.3%)|
Over the years the growth figures have ranged from 1 % to 11%, just depending on the level of my activity, and through that the new sources accessed. Thus the high USA figure in 2013 is largely a reflection of the access to the Findagrave data base. But in the long term I would expect to see the activity settling down to an annual growth rate closer to the Swiss data of about 3% to 4%.
The website has now been up and running for almost ten years, and has had an average of about 3,500 visitors per year, who read an average of 14,000 pages. This should make it a prominent website, and it should then be found in a prominent position in a search. However if you type in only the word "Zollinger" into Google, you will find our website only in rank 54! Needless to say the Zollinger-Ellison Syndrom takes up the first ten spaces. But what is more disconcerting is that the businesses many of my fellow Zollingers are to be found much higher up, be it the "Zollinger Fruit and Tree Farm" in Utah, the "Zollinger Quarter Horses" in Idaho, the "Zollinger Furniture store" in Saint Louis or a seed producer in Switzerland. Most galling, even my son Martin, who opened his chiropractic clinic only a few years ago now holds position number 35!
The statistics on the website given here are unfortunately not very reliable or indicative. For some six months during 2013 there was a large number of visitors from Russia and Ukraine, who were all looking for something mysterious in a section on Gustav Zollinger. This then considerably distorted the overall numbers. And towards the end of that year, my web master changed his system, and as a result the statistics program did not work for almost two months. So the figures shown below are far from reliable and indicative.
For the years 2012 and 2013 the Unique Visitor ranged around 4,300, and the number of visits around 5,800. Both are very close to the long-term norm. The Actual Visits long-term norm was around 800, but the last two years showed a number more around 650. Finally, the pages visited were around 12,000 per year, also lower than the 14,000 average. A large percentage of these visits are random, and only last for less than one minute, but there are also specific visits, and most of those would be a result of my contacting a person, and giving out the web site address. Obviously that type of traffic is no longer active, and so all the figures are lower, as would be expected. It will be interesting to see if the new chapter on "Military Zollingers" will help to increase this traffic again.
Web Site for Sale
One final note on the web site: Ten years ago when I started this project and established the web site, the first step was to search the system in order to see which domain names were already taken, and which ones I could consider. The most obvious was "Zollinger.com". But that was taken, and as I was to find out later, it belonged to an Emilio Zollinger from the Swiss Canton Tessin. Emilio was a keen family historian himself, and had a son who was knowledgeable on the Internet, and so set up that web site several years before me.
Then, a couple of years ago, Emilio decided that as he was no longer active in family history, and as he was getting on in , to closed down his web site. I have no information if one can sell such a domain, or if it just returns to the system. However, if you type "Zollinger.com" into a search, you will come to a web site called DomainPower, and there it is: the Zollinger.com web site is for sale, asking price US $ 50,000!! Any Zollingers interested??
Shortly after the start of this family research project, I was able to get in touch with a Jacob Dennis Zollinger from Las Vegas. We were able to work together for several years, and he was of great help in pulling together all the data on the Zollingers from Providence, Utah. At that time he had mentioned that he had a particular interest in the history of those Zollingers who had served in war. And so I added a chapter to the website under the title "Military Zollinger". But over time Dennis became more and more otherwise occupied, and that slowed down his family research work. As a result that section of the web site was never written. But then, only two years ago, I received a document from a friend listing the Zollingers who were in the American Civil War, written by Jacob Dennis Zollinger. That got me quite excited, and I searched my data base for the about 50 names mentioned. I found almost all of them, and many of these entries also contained comments in the notes pertaining to their military service, as well as their life before and after the war. So I pulled that information out, and added it into the original document by Jacob Dennis. This made a handsome document, and can be made available.
This document then also became the basis for finally writing the chapter on Military Zollingers. Dennis had only covered the Civil War, and so I wanted to cover other wars as well. All I had to go by was the vague notes which had been written into the data base. After many searches of these notes for key words such as "war", "revolution" and "military", I was then able to pull out a number of additional Zollinger family members who had fought in the Revolutionary War. With the same search a number of other names were found from the Korean War, as well as from WW I and WW II. All these then became the additional parts of this new chapter in the web site.
Then last year I had an inquiry about Zollinger relatives from a Rudy Arnold, and in the course of our correspondence, I found out that he worked for the US Government as Director Intern, National Cemetery Administration, Veterans Affairs. That excited me, and I could not help but asked him if he would be able to pull out documentation on Zollinger names. In response, he sent me a whole document, which was then also converted into yet another part of the "Military Zollinger" chapter. I owe my sincere thanks to Rudy for his help.
Much further work needs to be done on this chapter, and here I am particularly looking to all those family members who are offspring of these soldiers, in the hope that they can provide additional details on these persons, and especially on their war record.
My own additional future work on this topic will be to get back to Rudy, and see what else he might be able to add to that data. Then I would also like to be in touch with those organisations which are devoted to the revolutionary war, especially DAR (Daughters of the Revolution). My hope is that they can provide more data yet on the Zollingers listed there. And those family members who spell their name differently, such as the Zullingers and the Zollers, have not yet been included either. Here it is especially interesting to note that the Zollers who had settled in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York, ended up living in a war zone, and the battles of Oriskanny and Stone Arabia were right on their doorstep. A bit earlier several of them also ended up participating in the "French and Indian War", and saw action along the border with Canada. All this needs to be further developed, but at least a start has now been made, and it is hoped that this will be of considerable interest to visitors on the web site.
I had already looked up this web site several years ago, and at that time I found that it contained little to interest me. I guess I did not look properly. Then, on a recent trip to Maryland, I took the occasion to meet with a Zullinger in Chambersburg, PA. I was early for the lunch appointment, and so ended up driving through the laneways and hamlets of the area. That is when I saw several cemeteries, and thought, these should be researched, as I was sure there were many Zollinger/Zullinger graves to be found there. As Janice Roden is the family historian for the Zullinger branch, I mentioned this to her, and she was almost offended, because, as she hastened to tell me, she had already done the bulk of that work. She is an active member of the Find-a-Grave organization under the name Jan McKee, and during the eight years as a member she has documented and registered over 13,000 graves. So with her help I went back to the web site in September 2013, and this time I worked it over in every direction. First I searched all the Zollinger graves by state, and later I also researched the names Zullinger, Zoller, and Sollinger. That search then produced several hundred new entries, in most cases of spouses, parents and children. It did not take me long to realize that the sometimes attached obituaries were another source of information, and these generated not only more names, but also gave a picture as to who the person was. Even at that point I was not satisfied with my grave research, and so by November 2013 I first ran a search checking my data base for all non-Zollingers who were born before 1930, and lacking information about a grave site. Then I painstakingly looked for almost 2000 names in the findagrave website, and found over 1000 new graves to enter. In total, between September 2013 and February 2014 I was able to enter 3300 grave sites with his exercise. This is all thanks to the findagrave organisation and it large number of tireless volunteers, to whom I would like to express my sincerest thanks.
Now the statistics on grave site entries are that I have a total of 9056 entries in my database of persons born before 1930, of which now 4642 have a grave location, i.e. 51%. If we take the Zollingers alone, there are 1731 total entires, and the 828 grave identifications here give a very similar level of 50%. Clearly the Find-a-Grave organization is far from having registered all the graves in the United States, but as more of their members continue their work, that goal will come closer over time, and with it the coverage of persons in our data base. Fortunately the findagrave website allows for searching new entries, and so I plan to keep updating this information.
Aside from Janice Roden, several other Zollinger family members have also become members of the "Findagrave" organization. Among them is Johnnie Zollinger-Williams of Carmel Point, Indiana, who has done particularly diligent work on the Zollinger side. And finally, an interesting outcome needs to be mentioned: in this work I happened to come across a branch of our family in Ohio, who now spells their name Sollinger. Then, on one grave entry I noticed that the next generation had again adjusted the spelling of their name by dropping one "L", and so the spelling was now Solinger. That then led me to a whole new search, and resulted in finding a contact in Crestland, Ohio, who was able to provide me with their own family history document. This new data helped me to add a whole new branch, with more than 150 new entires, all indirectly thanks to the findagrave search.
While I was able to add considerably to the data base in North America thanks to the findagrave website, such an organization does not (yet) exist in Europe. But I was able to find another source of family data just as valuable. The organization GeneaNet has a website, which encourages family history researchers to download their family trees into their data base. If one is a member of this organization, one can request them to scan all new submissions for a given name. And so they are now scanning for any Zollinger entries on my behalf, and about once every two weeks I receive an E-Mail indicating new finds. As the data on the Zollinger name in our file is almost complete, most of these entries are not new Zollingers, but are from families with other names, where one member had married a Zollinger. This then helps to identify the husband and children of female Zollingers, and sometimes also a wife of a male Zollinger family member. Thanks to this source a considerable number of names in Switzerland and Germany has been added, and even a few in the USA. The web site also gives the name of the submitting researcher, and has a system which allows to contact them. This then has led to several very fruitful new contacts, and helped me to establish several data exchange programs which have benefited both partners.
One interesting aspect of this GeneaNet contact is that for some reason family researchers from the Alsace region of France are particularly active. And so I have been able to enter a fair number of new Zollinger names from there, a region I had not previously researched. Unfortunately none of these fragments fit together yet, and none of them can be linked back to Switzerland. And so every time a new entry from Alsace appears, I hope that it will finally contain data that will link all these families.
Another GeneaNet contact had a link in his own family to a Zollinger from an area called Sinntal in Hesse, Germany. That caught my attention because I had already some older Zollinger data from there. I had also been able to contact present day Zollingers from that region, and had built up their family tree of them. But I had never been able to link that branch to those Zollingers further back. If I was hoping for more information here, I had no success with my GeneaNet link. But he was kind enough to refer me to a family researcher in Schluchtern, right in that area. And this Herr Schreiber then agreed to work over the church books for me as far back as they were kept. From that research he was able to produce a complete family tree (for a fee). That data then added another complete branch, with one caveat. The original immigrant form Switzerland, a Samuel Zollinger, with a birth date around 1648, can not be linked back to the overall family tree. Samuel was a very rare name in Switzerland, and of the seven persons with that name in the data base, none fit. And the local records only started after 1680, and so there is no earlier documentation. Samuel will thus continue to be a "loose end".
In the end I had to come to the conclusion that overall I was half right about the job being finished. Certainly my activity has slowed down, and once the bulk of the data had been found, the remaining information becomes harder and harder to find, and the attempts to do further work have now largely become futile and discouraging. Nevertheless I have at least another hundred names and contact points which need to be worked over again. But at the moment I just don't have the motivation.
At the same time some activities continue. For one, the web site will continue to have about the present level of visitors, and among them there will be the few who decide to get in touch with me. There are also a number of my contacts all over the world, who are always on the lookout for new information, be it obituaries or chance meetings with other Zollingers.
And so as my life takes yet another turn, I will have less time to work on my beloved hobby, and so I foresee that for the next few years this will be just the right level of activity to keep my life fulfilled and interesting.
OTTAWA, April 2014.