Newsletter I

Ottawa, September 2005

But then I looked into the Swiss file, and it was like an avalanche!! If I had known how much data was in there from Switzerland, I would have found it too overwhelming to even start. But I just started with the names beginning with "A", and then continued one step at the time. That task started in about February 2005, and just now, in early August 2005, I finally had the task completed. To give you some statistics which will show the magnitude: All in all I looked at 11,420 entries in the Swiss part of the FamilySearch web site, and then for each one of these I had to compare the data to what I had in my own file. If I did have the information, on to the next entry, but if I did not have that specific information, I would either enter it directly, or if the information was too complicated, print it out for later entry. Time consuming to say the least!! But was it ever worth it! I have now calculated that I have added about 6,100 new Swiss entries to my file, on top of the 7,500 I already had! That was a bonanza beyond my wildest dreams.

To put this all into perspective: Leland Zollinger had started to collect data when he was in his early twenties, and he spent almost fifty years collecting Zollinger family history information. By the time I met him in 2002, he had accumulated about 6,800 Swiss names (and 7,400 USA names). That means that he took over 50 years to collect the 6,800 entries, and with this exercise of mine I was able to add about 6,100 new entries in nine month, i.e. I almost doubled the data we had! On the USA side the process was not so productive, and I added only about 500 new names. What is more, by now our group had likely found most of the actual family history documents that exist, and to find new information would have been much more difficult in the future than even the cumbersome process that Leland had worked through. And here it was all sitting, just waiting for us! With the present count at a total of 13,591 entries in the Swiss file, I estimate that we probably have on file some 70% to 80% of the total Zollingers that ever lived! For the USA the figure of entries stands right now at 9,068 persons, and that is probably nearer to 60 % of all USA Zollingers.

Which brings me to the next theme: there was no mistaking the work which Katherine Nielson-Zollinger and her ancestors had done in Switzerland. The most complete and detailed branch was her own, tracing from Idaho to Nänikon and Dübendorf , and from there back to Gossau and Bubikon. And so I have to congratulate whoever her ancestors were who put all that information together. Much of the remaining information was not up to that standard, was not very detailed, and had lots of mistakes, especially first names, maiden names and town names were often badly mis-spelled. It took somebody like me who grew up in the Zürich Highlands to understand what the proper names would be. Not so with the Idaho branch, which further attested to the quality and integrity of the data.

The original data collection effort must have been carried out around 1900, as all the names with birth dates after 1880 are missing, i.e. those who were still alive at the time were not entered. (Early worries about identity theft?). This means that the last two to three generations of Swiss Zollingers have not been captured, but I do not consider that a big hindrance. Most persons alive today would remember their grand-parents, and would thus be able to link themselves to the data base. Many of the lesser branches were also documented, and would give a considerable amount of detail back to about 1600, but at that time they would peter out. This is for example the case for family lines living in Bubikon, Männedorf and Turbenthal, where future research efforts should focus. The other important impression I gained was the number of children born who did nor reach adulthood. Much like today's Third World, a mortality rate of about 50% was not uncommon. So in order to have at least one heir, a family needed a minimum of six children (most had between six and ten).

So now that the task is completed I can turn my mind again to my other lines of work on family research, which I have neglected since last October. Among these is to get in contact again with all the people that have showed an interest in Zollinger history in the past. And since last October I have accumulated much additional material that now will be used for the first Web Site update. The section on Mormon Zollingers will finally receive text, there will be a “Newsletter” section, and a heading entitled “Military Zollingers”. There will also be a few additional “Famous Zollingers” added, and several other small updates.

Your Marcel Zollinger

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