Newsletter V Ottawa, April 2012

A Revision of the Web Site

It has now been three years since I wrote the last newsletter, and so this one is long overdue. But there were several good reasons for the delay, which I will address below. First of all I need to explain that aside from adding this newsletter, a major revision of the web site has also taken place. And so I want to start this newsletter with what is "New". Here I just want to give a brief outline, and the actual text can be found under the headings which I show in bold letters. Foremost I have added the following headings:

"Project Complete", which I strongly recommend you read. It outlines the work done in the past six years, and especially the endeavour to contact all Zollingers worldwide, where I could find a telephone number. That task was basically completed in 2011, and so it was worthwhile recording the process, the challenges and the results. You can find a detailed report in that section of the web site.

"Different Spellings:" As I started to come to the end of the telephone list, I realized that I had entirely focussed on the name Zollinger. Yet in several branches of the family tree, the spelling of the name had been changed. But persons with these variations could not simply be called by telephone as I had done, because the vast majority of persons with these names would trace their name to other sources. That is particularly the case with the names Zoller and Sollinger, many of which have their roots in Germany. So the approach had to be different. For Zoller I found that historically the offspring of one generation of our family had changed to Zoller, and so I was able to expand the search from there. While several branches in the USA adjusted the spelling of their name to a new culture, two different spellings also exist in Switzerland. One group had followed the same principle, and in that case a Zollinger moved to the eastern mountains of the country, where he integrated into the local culture speaking Romansch. The spelling Zolliker on the other hand is of ancient origine, and some very small branches have kept the original spelling, and some few offspring can be found today. The future of my research will now increasingly follow these different spellings, but I am quite aware of the new challenges that will bring. The stories of the various Zollinger Branches which changed the spelling is also new to the web site, and makes interesting reading.

"Zollingers in Eastern Europe:" Here were touch on some of the enigmas of my research, and few branches have required so much effort, but the results are also among the most fascinating stories of the Zollinger name. Three different branches are covered here, and the first one was through a contact very early on with a Yossi Zur form Haifa, Israel. It turns out that his family immigrated to Israel from Bukovina Province in North-Eastern Roumania, and his name was adjusted to the new environment, but was actually Josef Zollinger. Over the past ten years, Yossi and I have periodically been in touch, and Yossi has written a family history book about the fascinating and also tragic history of his family.

The second family goes back to several random searches which provided fragments that would not fit anywhere. Most puzzling were their first names, such as Ferencz, Lorencz, Antal and Benedict. They pointed to a Catholic background, as well as the Hungarian language. Over time I was able to pull more information together, and realize that a Zollinger family had resettled at the south-eastern frontier of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. I was then fortunate to find one of the very few survivors of that branch in Germany, and alter a coincidental find by a German genealogist, who was able to trace the family back to Rheinsheim. Finally I was able to find an "Ortssippen Buch" of the town of Blauschütz (Ploschitz), where the Zollingers lived. You can find the details about this family below as well.

The history of these two branches shows nothing but hardships, persecution and misery, but the third family is the opposite: a Zollinger emigrated to Aleppo in Syria, where he built up a substantial and lucrative trading and commercial enterprise, including a "Zollinger Bank". He later also became German Honorary Consul, and so his family must have belonged to the highest social circles of the Near East. Not surprising then that his five daughters married into these circles, and among the sons-in-law were a German Consul, a British High Commissioner, a Greek ship owner and a French trader. The only son never married, and all traces of the daughters were lost at the time. But through some sleuthing, and much luck, the families of four of the daughters could be traced to the present day, and are found scattered in Brasil, England, France and Greece. Each branch now can be proud to be able to count among them some very successful and prominent members.

Finally a number of mistakes, to which I had been made aware of, have been corrected, and several new Famous Zollingers have been added.

Considering the stage that this Zollinger research has reached, it is my feeling that this will be the last Newsletter, and that this web site will very likely not be expanded again in the future.

In my own Cause

In my last newsletter I felt the need to outline my own family situation, as it impacted my work on the Zollinger research. At the time my wife Diane was battling breast cancer, and although we thought of it as "Cancer Light", we had to learn the hard way that such a thing does not exist. The chemotherapy and radiation did indeed beat the cancer, but they left Diane in a much weakened state. The weight she lost during her treatment was never regained, and while she seemed back to normal, enjoying her life and appreciating every day, she never really regained her earlier state of health. In July 2012 we were heading to a conference in Columbus, Ohio, where I had been asked to give a presentation. Diane saw no reason why she should not accompany me, and make a bit of a holiday out of the trip. But she did not feel well during the trip there, and after the conference she seemed to deteriorate further. So we cut short our holidays, and returned to Ottawa the very next day, where she went straight to hospital. There she was diagnosed with several small areas of bleeding in the brain, but tests then showed that there were a multitude of other problems, foremost that her body overproduced blood platelets, which then can cause blood clots. She was in intensive care for two weeks, and during that time she continued to deteriorate. On the 12th of September 2012 I then had to say good bye to my beloved wife.

Needless to say, that loss then changed every aspect of my life. I had to learn to function on my own, and to set up a new life from scratch. And while I am coping well enough with my every day tasks, and can draw on the support of many friends, the house is still empty, and the days are long. Part of my loss was also a loss of all the plans we had made. Just as we were ready to travel, and already had several trips planned, Diane's passing put an end to these plans. And now I am at a loss as to what the future will bring, but I have little interest to do all these things on my own. But as the Swiss say: "Kommt Zeit, Kommt Rat" or "As time passes, good advice appears".

And so from August 2012 onwards my work on family history had come to a standstill. Although I had lots of time on hand, I simply did not have the mind-set to take on the work again. But the Christmas holidays spent with my son in Calgary, and with the grandchildren, caused a turn-around for me, when I had to decide that I needed to tackle the rest of my life. The first big task to undertake was an update and a thorough revision of the Zollinger web site, and you see the results here. At the same time I needed to take stock as to where the project was at, and what still needed to be done. I outline that topic below.

Three Years of Statistics

One of the costs of delaying the writing of the newsletter is that now I have to report not just on the year that passed, but on several years, or to be precise, for the calendar years 2009, 2010 and 2011. That will make things complicated, but I will try, and hope to still be able to present the results in an understandable way. I thought it would be best to present the three years of data in table form.

The Data Base

As I have reported the actual (almost) completion of the project, one would have had to assume that the data base of Zollinger names would no longer show much growth. But just when I had completed my telephone call project, I was lucky to receive a new family tree, that of the related Zoller family, considerably expanded the USA data base. At the same time, but to a lesser extent, many Swiss contacts continued to provide new information.

Table 1: Data Base Growth
Year USA Entries USA Growth Swiss Entries Swiss Growth
2009 12,302 + 1,121 (+10.0%) 27,532 + 2,683 (+10.8%)
2010 12,967 + 665 (+5.4%) 30,485 +2,953 (+10.7%)
2011 15,028 + 2,061 (+15.9%) 32,316 +1,831 (+5.9%)
Averages 1,282 (+10.4%) + 2,489 (+9.1%)

The Table shows a fairly constant growth of around ten percent each year for the past three years. The expected "law of diminishing returns" therefore has not set in yet. However, since August 2011 I have not made any phone calls, and as the phone list has been completed, few are expected to be made in the future. Without that personal and ongoing initiative by me, the provision of new data will become much diminished in the future. The next section of this newsletter outlines the future work to be done, and it is from these areas that new information will come, but I would estimate at a rate of no more than three percent a year. That is another way of showing that the project is indeed almost complete, and the vast majority of Zollingers worldwide has been documented.

Telephone Records

Both the Swiss and the USA telephone lists have now been exhausted. In Switzerland I even had a helper in Monika Meier who mailed out letters to those I could not reach, and she had substantial success. On the international front I was never able to cover England, because their phone books are not publicly accessible. But with the help of a professional genealogist from the UK I was able to receive a list of names. It turns out that list is small indeed, containing hardly a dozen names. Of these several had already been covered. So the only major country that has not been worked over is France, due to language problems.

The telephone coverage statistics as of the end of 2011 are:

Table 2. Telephone Records

USA Switzerland International Total
Entries 776 1,131 118 2,095
Disconnected 33 31 21 85
Refusals 24 18 5 27
Actual Contacts 719 (92.7%) 1,081 (95.6%) 162 (86.1%) 1,963 (93.7%)
Identified 719 (100.0%) 1,081 (100.0%) 110 (67.9%) 1910 (97.3%)

The table clearly shows that the telephone call work is finished. There will always be persons who refuse to answer, and especially in the USA with its mobile population, a number of phones will be found to be disconnected. Internationally a bit of work still needs to be done, and I need to try to upgrade my vocabulary in order to call France. The table also can give a summary of the Zollingers living at the present time, and where they are. Over the whole world there are just under 2,000 Zollingers listed in the phone books. This is a very small number, compared with other names, and it is that fact that has allowed me to actually achieve the goal of reaching all of them.

Web Site Visits

For years I have been fretting as to why our web site is not ranked among the first few entries in an Internet search, considering the number of visitors and the years it has been functioning. Now, after seven years of our web site address being in operation, it should be among the top ten, except for the "Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome". If only the name Zollinger is searched, all one finds is medical information. But if the name Zollinger is combined with "family", "genealogy" or "Marcel", then our web site comes up in first rank. That means that access is now much easier, and anybody interested in the name or the family history will now be able to link right away into our web site. That however is not to say that the majority of searchers will fall into the web site looking for medical information, and so a large percentage of visitors only remain a few seconds, before they realize that the web site is of no use to them. Therefore, to obtain useful data on ‘real" visitors, these quick "in-and-out" visits need to be discarded.

That still leaves a substantial number of persons who find the web site because they are interested in genealogy, and they then spend a considerable time reading it, or to copying some of the material. But my old complaint still stands: hardly any of the visitors end up contacting me, which was one of the key purposes of the web site. I estimate that less than 2% of visitors actually make contact, and that is unfortunate.

Table 3: Web Site Visits

Year Unique Visitors Number Visits Actual Visits * Pages Visited Pages per Visitor
2009 2,699 3,914 118 13,983 17.3
2010 4,002 5,988 960 16,584 17.3
2011 4,131 5,510 741 13.907 18.8
Averages 3,611 5,137 837 14,825 17.7

* These are visits of over two minutes, assuming that any less time spent was because it was found to be the wrong web site.

The main conclusion from the table is that the visiting of the web site has reached a plateau. The number of pages read, as the most important indicator, has hardly changed. One could assume that this is the level of interest, except for the fact that much of the interest, and thus the web site contacts, were triggered by the phone calls. As these have now almost ceased, I would not be surprised if in the next years the use of the web site would diminish by at least 25 percent. But of these I would estimate that a higher percentage would actually make contact. This may be counter balanced with the fact that in this revision I cover the different spellings of the name, and this may bring in a pool of new visitors.

The Future of my Work

Now that all the Zollingers have been contacted, as outlined in the section "Project Complete", where do we go now? It is an old truth that family history work is never complete, and there is always more to do. So I want to outline what new direction my work will take, and what new challenges that may entail.

Mopping Up

It has been my experience that most of my contacts were enthusiastic about their family tree and our work, and keen to provide the data. But while many took on the task with "Zollinger Exactness", others quite quickly lost interest. As a result the data on their branches was never completed. With yet others I did not get further than promises. So it should be an important new task to go back, and seek out the gaps in information, and then take a second run at completing those branches. In the past, several contacts have been grateful that I prodded them, and then gladly finished the task. But with most others I am a bit apprehensive to go back, and to pester people again, with the high probability that I will have the same unsatisfactory experience. That is nowhere more the case than with the many members of the large Zollinger clan from Providence, Utah. For whatever reason they have been most reluctant to work with me, and most of the contacts did not lead anywhere. And so I am hesitant to try again. But I would very much appreciate it if members of that family would contact me, and offer their help. In the meantime I have to rely on the web site, where I once a month search for Zollinger obituaries. They tend to contain all the names of the offspring of the deceased, and this way I am able to fill in some of the gaps.

Different Spellings

This topic is also covered elsewhere, but it is here that I intend to focus my future work. Most prominent in my plans are Swiss persons with the name "Zolliker", and I have a list of some 120 phone numbers which need to be followed up. Then there are Zollers and Sollingers in the USA that will need to have the small existing data expanded. And who knows, maybe there could be other branches with different spellings who trace back to the name Zollinger. The difficulty with these names is that is not productive to call them, because only a small percentage of persons withed these names actually do trace back to our name. So I have no choice but to put the onus on them, to please contact me.

New Contacts

One of the great hopes was that the web site would generate a lot of contacts. The statistics show that a considerable number of interested persons visit the web site, but unfortunately very few indeed ever make contact. Nevertheless I have had most interesting inquiries from places like Denmark and Greece, which have led to whole new branches being built up. And so the hope is that in the future I will continue to get such inquiries, and with their help then be able to further expand the data base.


This is a task that has been pending for a long time, and with zero progress. A specific German web site address has been taken possession of, and several times I had offers to translate the English text. Alas, it is a large job, and the promises did not lead anywhere. Although my mother tongue is obviously Swiss German, I have spent all my adult life in an English environment, to the extent that I do not feel confident to write proper German. It is my belief that I need a German speaking person to undertake that job. Maybe I will get an offer in the future, so that we will have parallel websites in German and English.

Dead Ends

This is maybe the most frustrating part of the whole research project, where a specific branch can not be linked to the overall tree, because only one or two generations are missing. With many of them I have exhausted all possibilities, and we may never know. That is especially the case where children were orphaned, or marriages broke apart, or family feuds and conflicts prevent further inquiries. Others may yet, with perseverance and patience, yield that crucial bit of missing data.


In spite of all these possibilities, there is no doubt that the intensity and effort of the past years will continue to diminish. At the same time, I am now basically on my own doing the research. Leland Zollinger is now at an age where he can no longer be of help. And Paul Zollinger, with children, job and community, can not spare the time to be of help beyond forwarding inquiries to me, which he diligently does. Although I have outlined the work that still can be done, there is no doubt that the Zollinger family tree is in my estimate over 90% complete, and while the outlined future work may produce another 5%, the remaining 5% will never be found. And so it is clear that the future work will not only be limited, but will show a diminishing return for the effort made, and so will end up producing meagre results with much frustration.


Marcel Zollinger
OTTAWA, April 2012.
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