Newsletter IV Ottawa, January 2009
In my own Cause "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley."
Robert Burns was so correct with that quote, and that is why I start this newsletter with myself. In my last newsletter I was full of plans for the coming year 2008, where I told you about some big changes that were about to take place in my life. Our son Nikolai was going away to college in the fall of 2008, and the "empty nest" was to be a great opportunity for us to follow some of our dreams which had between put on hold for far too long. As I had spent my life and my career in Third World Development, I very much wanted to revisit some of the places where I had worked, places that I grew very fond of, and where I still have friends. Alas it was not to be.
It was about at the time when I wrote my last newsletter that my wife Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily the growth was small, and was detected early, and so the long-term prognosis was good. But there is no "Cancer Light". So she had to undergo two operations to remove the malignant tissue, and then she had to follow the usual protocol of chemotherapy and radiation. Those treatments took up the biggest part of last year, and the treatment was only finished in August 2008, just in time to take Nikolai to college in Nova Scotia. But instead of taking off on our first trip, we had to focus on Diane's convalescence, and it is only now that her health is almost back to normal. Not quite though, as the medication that she has to take for the next five years has some serious debilitating side effects. So travel is on hold, and we instead focus on our home in Ottawa, and especially on the cottage on the lake, and feel fortunate that it did not turn out much worse.
The positive aspect of all these events is that instead of substantially cutting back on my family history research, it has actually accelerated. Over the past year, and even now, I find myself with a lot of free time on hand, and so I am able to devote a good part of it to new research, and new contacts. This is likely to continue for some time, and as a result I can again report considerable progress in expanding the family tree data base, as you will see in the following section.
Data Base Statistics
The statistics that follow are a direct result of the amount of time that I was able to spend on my genealogy research:
By the end of 2008, the USA data base contained 11,181 actual entries, and had increased during that year by 927 names, or 9.1%. The Swiss data base also grew, and stands now at 24,849 actual entries. It grew by 1,862 names, or 8.1%. Overall I was able to add some 2,790 names to our data base. Clearly all this progress was only possible with the Internet and with E-Mail, as well as with my new telephone deal, where for a flat fee I can make unlimited calls (and believe me, I have used that!). The growth of the data base is even more a reflection on the numerous Zollinger contacts, who went out of their way to provide the information to me. My modest task was only to record the hard work which so many of my contacts have carried out on my behalf. To all those who helped me in the past year, I want to extend my sincere thanks. They can be proud of the fact that they have significantly contributed to the ever growing Zollinger family tree data bank.
Now that we are covering more and more of the Zollingers who are alive today, and as we continue to contact more and more of them, I decided to add another statistic, a true measure of our progress. Several years ago I made a telephone book search on the internet for all Zollingers, worldwide, and compiled a "Zollinger Phonebook". Alongside the names of those that I have contacted, and those who are contained in our data base, I then have marked their PAF number. In my North America Zollinger phone book I have a total record of 767 names. As females tend to change their name at marriage, or are separated or widowed, I concentrate mainly on the male entries, of which there are 650. Of these we have already identified 447, or 68.8%. Similarly, in the Swiss Zollinger phone book I have a total of 1072 entries, of which there are 756 males. Here I have identified 316, or 41.8%.
With the free telephone calling system, I now have the opportunity to call more and more of the remaining Zollingers. This is not always easy. The time difference to Switzerland is six hours, and so I have a narrow window of between 1 pm and 3 pm local time to call there. And for the USA it is difficult to reach the Western half of the continent in the evening, as a time difference of two or three hours means that by the time they have finished their dinner there I am asleep here in Ottawa . But I also find that it is great fun to talk to new people, and I have by now refined my introduction so as not to scare contacts off. But not all calls are well received, and some contacts either refuse to give information, or indicate that they are not interested in that "old sh-t". But assuming that I will be able to continue at this pace, I have no doubt that I will be able to add at least another 2000 names in 2009, and maybe I will also be able to contact another 10% of my Swiss and USA Zollinger Phonebook. Clearly, the overall (and unattainable) goal would be to cover all the Zollingers listed in the phone book. But here, as in economics, the law of diminishing return applies, and progress will no doubt slow down over time.
Web Site Visits
The next bit of statistics concerns the web site, which is now in its fourth full year of operation. Things have not changed during the last year, in that the majority of visits are looking for the "Zollinger-Ellison Syndrom". These are usually of less than one minute of duration, but amount to about 75 % of all visits. However, the remaining 23.6 % are persons who are indeed keen on the Zollinger name, and interested in Zollinger history. Many of those visitors read the bulk of the text, and then earmark the web site on their computer. Unfortunately, what also has not changed is the fact that in spite of this large, and increasing number of serious visitors, almost none of them decide to contact me. I have now had to accept the fact that the web site will not fulfill the main purpose it was designed for, namely to make contact with new Zollingers.
In the year 2008 the web site had a total of 2,390 actual visits, up by 58% from the 1506 visitors in 2007. Then, what I call actual visits, i.e. those longer than 2 minutes, also increased at a similar rate from 438 to 638 visits. But the most important parameter is the actual pages read, which increased from 7,931 to an amazing 12,526 pages, an increase of 61%. And finally the number of visitors who book-marked our web site address has jumped form 433 last year to 810 this year.
We also frequently get very positive comments, and so the web site admirably serves the purpose of legitimizing our working group, and in disseminating information on our family. And every year we make a revision. We are now adding some more information again, although the size of the overall web site is probably as big as it should be. Among the new text added to the web site is an update on the family crest story, and additional information on the "Schröder-Zollinger" family. Both topics are also covered later on in this newsletter.
In the near future new changes are being considered. One astute reader remarked that it was odd that the front page of the web site presents two versions of the Zollinger Family Crest with the ladder, when it is made clear t in the text that those crests are used inappropriately. In line with this thinking, I would like to now try to replace one of the ladder crests with the new Üssikon crest. Another opportunity may present itself in fulfilling our long held plan to create a parallel website in German. I have a tentative offer by a very generous family historian to translate the whole web site into German, and we would then use the same address as for the present web site, but spell it in German, i.e. instead of "Genealogy.com" we then would use "Genealogie.com". That would allow us to do away with the section "German Overview", and instead we can then simply direct the reader to one language or the other.
Bringing Families Together
One of the most rewarding and unexpected aspects of our family history work has turned out to be the several instances, where we were able to re-connect relatives who had lost contact with each other. Many such instances could be mentioned, but two of them stand out, and warrant telling the story, while for privacy reasons we need to be careful not to mention names:
Some eight years ago I was in touch with a Zollinger in Zürich, and when I asked for a family tree he sent me a most detailed and meticulous document going back several hundred years. That detailed research had its reason: this branch of the family had emigrated to Germany in the early 1800s, but living through the hardships of two world wars, the offspring of that family had enough, and after 1945 they started to take steps to return to Switzerland. This was not simple, and required careful legal documentation showing the exact origin of the family, as proof to their claim for Swiss citizenship. This ended up being successful, and so the Swiss authorities allowed that person and his family to return to Switzerland. Several years later I talked to a different Zollinger who, to my surprise, told me that his grandparents came from the same town in Germany. I was then able to link the two branches of that family. Then, last year I had a further inquiry, this time from Germany, and here again I was told that his family traced to that German town. It turned out that one of the siblings had decided not to return to Switzerland, but instead to remain in Germany. Now we also had a link between a German and a Swiss branch of the same family. But not enough, a further branch showed up recently, where none was expected. Here the ancestor of this latest contact was female, and she had not been married in Germany. So her son ended up carrying the name Zollinger, and from him descended another branch who also ended up back in Switzerland. I was only too pleased to send each of the four branches a family tree, and, with their permission, provided addresses and phone numbers of each of the four contacts to the others.
The other story of connecting families concerns of our mysterious Jewish Zollinger family in Haifa. Yossi Zollinger had been in touch with us for years, and had provided a detailed family tree. But the traces of that family disappear somewhere in northern Rumania, and the ever present persecution of Jews, and then the second World War, scattered that family. Yossi's grandparents were able to escape this persecution, and finally settled in Israel. The rest of the family was never heard of again. Then, one day last year, I received an inquiry from a Zollinger in California, and as we talked about his family tree, he indicated that he had recently immigrated to the USA from Brazil. It turns out that his grandfather had also escaped Rumania, and had emigrated to Brasil, where that branch of the family had settled. With a bit of further questioning it was easy to establish that this Brazil-California Zollinger was a relative of Yossi in Haifa. I was so excited that I just had to call Yossi by telephone right then, but I caught him at a most inopportune moment. He was just then attending the fireworks for Israel's independence celebrations, and his cell phone worked poorly with all the explosions in the background. But I knew that Yossi would be pleased, and since then the two sons of the California-brazil Zollingers have had a chance to visit Israel, and have been generously and lovingly welcomed into Yossi's house for a reunion.
The Year of the Latinos!
2008 could be called indeed the year of the Latinos. The first contact was with a lost relative of the German Air Force Commander Otto Schröder-Zollinger (see also Famous Zollingers). His could easily be called the most illustrious of all Zollinger families. Their Zollinger ancestor moved to Haifa (today Israel), and then to Aleppo, Syria, and finally to Beirut (today Lebanon). He built up a substantial trading and banking business in the region, and later became German Consul there. He had one son who never married, and five daughters. These married in turn a British diplomat, a Greek ship owner from Trieste, Italy, a German consul (Schröder), a French trader from Marseilles and a Greek ship captain from Piräus. So the five daughters were scattered around the Mediterranean and beyond, and all traces of them were lost.
Then comes a contact from Brazil, from a person who's mother was a sister to Otto Schröder-Zollinger. This relative was in possession of an extensive family tree of the Schröder family, which also covered the sisters and brother of his Zollinger grandmother. He, in fact, met Otto Schröder as a child in Hamburg, and had many stories to tell about many of his Zollinger family members.
Not only could I in this way substantially extend the family tree of that branch, but my correspondent, although not a Zollinger, was kind enough to send letters (in Portuguese) on my behalf to other Zollingers in Brazil. One branch of my own family, who had moved to Berne, had provided me with much information about one of their members who had emigrated to Bahia in Brazil. I even have a newspaper clipping of their 16 year old daughter who gave a concert in Bahia as a young pianist. But unfortunately, from then on there had been no further contact with this Brazilian branch. Thanks to the contact person mentioned, I was then able to link up to that Bahia family, and they too were able to provide me with their family tree.
As if this was not enough, I was contacted by a Mexican Zollinger, who wanted to find his family roots. That project is unfortunately stalled for the moment. And finally there was a strange coincidence: I used the family-search website to look for some Zollinger or other, but I forgot to specify the country. So the search was carried out worldwide, and out jumped a Zollinger in Uruguay! Further research in the Familysearch web site allowed me to find their whole family in Uruguay up to about 1900, and on that basis I was able to make the connection to Switzerland. Unfortunately several of my attempts to link up with one of about 10 Zollingers in the Uruguay phonebook has not yet born fruit. So if you speak Spanish, or know something about this family, could you please try to get in touch, and ask them to contact me.
Family Crests Progress
The story of the Zollinger family crests was written last year, and is documented under its own heading on this web site. Here I would only like to give an update on what has happened since then, while the details can be found under the Family Crest title. After successfully completing the Üssikon Crest project, including its submission and acceptance by the "Staatsarchiv" in Zürich, my interest turned to other potential crests. One further crest design came from Lautikon, the ancestral home of most Zollingers. That crest was also well documented, and here too my heraldry specialist was able to carry out enough research to allow him to design this crest and submit it. In that part of the family there are several branches that either kept the original name "Zolliker", or, at a later date, changed back to that form, but the majority of offspring are Zollingers. So that crest can be used by both names, if they can trace their line back to the original ancestor in Lautikon.
In further discussions with my heraldic specialist Rolf Kälin, he indicated that it is also possible to design a new family crest if it can be built on historically accurate information. This gave me the impetus to find a family crest for my own branch, the Zollingers of Oetwil. After much historical and artistic discussions, Rolf has now created a family crest for this branch, and both these additional crest have now been accepted by the "Staats Archiv". So we now have the original "Ladder" crest which remains the generic crest to all Zollingers, and then the specific crests for the large branches originating in Üssikon, Lautikon and Oetwil.
One large and prominent branch of the family unfortunately does not have a crest, that of Ober-Ottikon. It is my hope that one day we may find historical evidence for such a crest, and then I may be able to pick up the topic of heraldry again.
Rexburg Zollingers Project
The two LDS (Mormon) Zollinger families have been researched in considerable detail, and their story can be found in separate title "Mormon Zollingers" within this web site. Over the years many members of the two clans, one in Providence/Logan in Cache County, Utah, the other in Rexburg, Madison County, Idaho, have been in touch with us. And with their help we have been able to expand the family tree considerably, building on the extensive original work of Katherine Nielsen-Zollinger of Orem, Utah. Some six month ago I was contacted by a Stephen Lewis, who was also working on the Zollinger family tree, and in comparing our data, we both were able to considerably expand our respective Rexburg family trees. As Stephen lives in Rexburg, he is in an excellent position to carry out further research, and so we decided to set up a specific project to complete the Rexburg Zollinger Family Tree. There is still work to be done, but I have now been able to call every one of these Idaho Zollingers who are listed in the phone book, but who were not yet in the data base. This calling campaign again added a considerable number of new names. Stephen lives in Arizona during the winter, but when he returns to Rexburg in the spring, he will be able to put the finishing touches on the project. At that point I will then be able to provide Family Tree Booklets to all those Zollingers who helped us, and any others who have an interest in the history of the Rexburg Zollingers. If you are a member of that branch, and you read this, send me an e-Mail, and we can then add your name to the list for sending out booklets.
Once that tree of the Idaho Zollingers is complete, I would love to do the same with the Providence Zollingers, and I am looking for members of that clan who have an interest in family history, and would be willing to help us to work on such a new project.
The year 2009 has started very well, as I have been able to call numerous Zollingers in Switzerland, thanks to my cheap calling rate. I have also been able to refine my sales talk, and so the majority of calls results in a new branch being added to the data base. In the future I hope to call again across the USA, in order to expand that information as well. What lies beyond that is an open question. Diane is recovering well, and barring any more "Mice and Men" stories, maybe our plans did not "Gang aft a-gley", but were just postponed.
OTTAWA, 24 February 2009.