A History of the Zollinger Family
The Origin of the Name
The person name "Zollo" has been found on old documents reaching back to 801, where the signature of a witness on a document reads "Zollin", while a number of similar documents during the next two centuries show a number of variations of that name, always used as a first name only. In the old Alemanic language the letter "Z" was very close to the "T", and an alternative spelling for "Zollo" would have been "Tollo". In the writings of Julius Caesar there is mention of a Germanic tribe living just north of Switzerland called the "Tulinger", and the immigration of alemanic tribes into Switzerland may well have brought that name into the region of lake Zürich. From about 1150 onwards the name it is documented frequently, mainly as the signatures of a Zollinger witness on official documents, and there the name is mostly spelled "Zolle" or "Zollo".
The Ancestral Home in Zollikon
The first mention of a farm called "Zollinc.hovun" was in 837, and actually refers to two farms close to the present location of the town of Zollikon, on the North shore of Lake Zürich, not far from the city. The German word for farm is "Hof", and so the name refers to the "Zollinc" Farm. The first mention of owners of these properties are a Niedhard and his mother Engilsind, who donated their land holdings to the monastery of St. Gallen, and then took the property back as a leasehold. The aristocratic name of "Zolling" is first documented around 1145, and the ruins of their fortified home is thought to have been located near Zollikon. From about 1265 onwards, the name then appears more frequently in tithing documents. Of particular importance within the property were the vineyards on the slope towards the lake, and one theory is that the small ladder on the family crest traces back to wine cultivation. The Germanic language used the ending "..kon" as the village (of Zollo), the ending of "..hoven" for the farm, and the ending "..inger" for the people of that farm or village. The original aristocratic family however is always documented as "von Zollikon".
A new Home in Grüningen
A conflict between the city state of Zürich and the duke of Regensberg in 1251 ended with a victory of Zürich, and as the "von Zollikon" family was supporting Regensberg, they were expelled from their land holdings, and Zürich City took ownership of the considerable estate. The duke of Regensberg then took the "von Zollikon" family into his own entourage, where they became "ministerials", i.e. senior administrators. Traces of the family name are then found in Baden and Kloten, but the name came to prominence again as administrators of the Regensberg holdings in Grüningen. A castle had been built on a promontory sometime before 1229, and castle, fortified town and the surrounding land holdings changed hands a number of times in the following century, ending up as property of the Duke of Regensberg. A Rudolf von Zollikon is first mentioned in 1332 as the senior administrator of the district of Grüningen on behalf of the Duke of Regensberg. From then on the tithing records of the monastery of Rüti carefully document the annual payments of various "von Zollikon" from the different estates of the region, among them Itzikon, Tägernau and Jungholz.
The "other" Zollingers
During the time before their expulsion from the Zollikon estate in 1251, the "von Zollikon" family was by no means one of prominence, as their name in the hierarchy of signatures was often superseded by several non-aristocratic names in Zollikon. These were a group of free land owners of some prominence around Zollikon, and many of them were opposed to becoming subjects of the City of Zürich. Instead, several of these prominent families of Zollikon, with names such as "Wetzel", "Schwager", "Murer" and "Zimmer" followed the "von Zollikon" family to Grüningen, a move that brought them back under the Duke of Regensberg. This group of landowners was commonly known around Grüningen as the "Aussiedlinge", i.e. the "Out-Settlers", and often were as a group referred to as the "Zollingers", i.e. the people from Zollikon. Both groups of the original inhabitants of Zollikon, the aristocratic "von Zollikon" and the free farmers "from Zollikon" then spread around Grüningen, and so the question of which branches today trace back to an aristocratic origin is not resolvable. But an argument about aristocratic roots is a false undertaking anyway, because the "von Zollikon" were the lowest rank of aristocracy, while many of the important free families held considerably higher positions in society.
From Estate Managers to Farmers
Over several generations the "von Zollikon", who had started out as administrators of lands on behalf of the Duke evolved to land owners in their own right. As administrators they still were using the name "von Zollikon", but the "von" was slowly dropped as they became land owners and farmers. There is also the interesting story of a "Ritter Eberhart von Zollikon", who was among a group of defenders of the castle of Grüningen in 1443. The defenders had decided to give up the castle to the enemy, rather than fight. They were then seen as traitors, and were banned. The documentation of his historical event was then used as proof that there was at that time still a branch of aristocratic Zollingers. Upon further research it is very likely that the name of this person was not "von Zollikon", but rather that he just happened to be from the town of Zollikon (von Zollikon), and that his family name was likely Eberhart. Alas, no more aristocratic Zollingers! The offspring of the administrator Zollingers were in several cases able to purchase estates, for example in Mönchaltorf, Itzikon, Hombrechtikon, and foremost in Lautikon, where the mention of a "Johannes de Zollikon de Lutikon" in 1464 proves to be the learliest mention of a direct link back. And so it is that Lautikon branch of the Zollingers which then spread out into the different branches of the Zollinger family that are so well documented today. The ancestral house still stands in Lautikon, it is a magnificent half-timbered double farm house built by Heiniman Zollinger in 1665, which was recently renovated and is now under historic monument protection. Another branch seems to have originated in nearby Hombrechtikon and in its surrounding hamlets. One line of this branches is later documented in the farms of "Landsacher", "Gstein" and "Feissi", all near Bubikon, but very little research has been done on that equally important branch.
The old custom of the farmers and landowners of the time was to provide all his sons with a share of the land led to the division of the once large properties into smaller and smaller holdings, although in some cases the father was wealthy enough to purchase a property for each one of his sons. In this way the Zollinger name spread outward from Lautikon to places such as Oetwil, Egg, Hergass, Ober-Ottikon and Wila. Several of these lines are well documented today, and their family history books are listed in the Resource section. One of these lines was called "Rytz", which is likely a nickname based on the maiden name of the wife of an early Zollinger. This prominent branch spread to the Neugut farm near Maur, and from there to Üssikon, Maur and Rällikon and further to Nänikon, Wangen, Basel and ultimately to Rexburg, Idaho, USA. The other Mormon Zollingers who settled in Providence, Utah trace their roots to Üssikon too, and further back to Lautikon. Another family branch first became lease holders of a large estate in Oetwil belonging to the monastery of Einsiedlen called "Gotteshaushof", but only two generations later the leaseholder Zollingers had become free landowners in their own right. Their Schachen Farm has been in Zollinger hands from 1596 to this day, and the latest owner is a Hanspeter Zollinger. The Ober-Ottikon branch of the family became prominent in several surrounding hamlets, among them Herschmettlen, Hanfgarten and the Bönler farm. From there a later branch ended up moving back to Hombrechtikon, and their center became the "Grütrain" farm. From several of the branches of that family came emigrants to the USA, while the earlier mentioned branches provided some of the early immigrant families to Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The reformation had a profound influence on the farmers of the Zürich Highlands, not only in a religious sense, but in the fact that the hated monasteries, which had controlled their lease holds and demanded the high rents were now being destroyed. But the euphoria was short lived, as the City of Zürich took over ownership of the monastery properties, and was just as oppressive to the rural population as the monasteries had been. No wonder that the farmers turned to Conrad Grebel, who had broken with the Zürich reformer Zwingli and wanted to carry the religious revolution to its full conclusion. The father of this Grebel had at one time been Count in Grüningen, and Conrad had grown up there. He soon had a large following in the Highlands, who went by the common name "Wiedertäufer" i.e."Anabaptists", but the movement was oppressed by the City Government. This movement was seen as a bigger danger to the reformation than was the Catholic threat, due to their zeal. And so the adherents of these groups were mercilessly persecuted, and their leaders killed, appropriately by drowning them in the Limmat river. The followers of the Anabaptist movement were then expelled from the Highlands, and most found refuge in the Palatinate, a Duchy in the German Rhine river valley. Here religiously persecuted groups from all over Europe, from Bohemia, from the Tyrol, from Zürich and from Bern congregated, and a number of Zollinger families were among them. The name is still prominent in the villages of Philippsburg, Rheinsheim and Duttweiler. The safe haven there did not last long, and when persecution started there too, it was the English Quaker William Penn, with his vision of a new land of religious freedom in North America, who recruited a large number of refugees to follow him to Pennsylvania.
The later Distribution of the Name
The farming occupation, so prominent in the Zollinger family all over the Zürich Highlands, only lost its predominance during the industrial revolution, when many of the farmer's sons found employment in the new factories that sprang up wherever water power could be tapped. The most prominent new industry was textiles, and the region became a world center for textile manufacturing. But foundries, machinery manufacture and other associated industries also became important, and the present distribution of the Zollinger name is testament to the move from the farms to these centers of new employment, among them Rüti, Wetzikon and Uster. The big city of Zürich had always been a magnet, and over the centuries a considerable number of Zollingers moved there. In fact the city then often became a springboard to facilitate later emigration to the USA.
The Swiss Zollingers Today
Not surprisingly then the predominance of the name is still in the Zürich Highlands, and the other rural areas of the Kanton Zürich. A Zollinger Telephone Book shows 514 entries for rural Zürich, and with a further 136 names in the city itself the Kanton represents over 60% of the occurrence of the name in Switzerland. But the name also drifted to some of the surrounding Kantons St. Gallen and Aarau, as well as to other Swiss cities, especially Bern and Basel. More recently the retirement Kanton Tessin has attracted a number of Zollingers too.
The USA Zollinger Families
Emigration to the USA came in several waves, with the first Zollinger settlers coming to Pennsylvania, and from there spreading west into Ohio and Illinois, where significant Zollinger branches exist today. A later immigration "wave" consisted of only two families, who had converted to the Mormon faith in Switzerland, and then made their way to Utah, one in 1862, the other in 1887. Because of the emphasis by the Mormon religion on large families the two original settlers are now the ancestors of a large number of Zollinger families Today 82 Zollinger telephone book entries can be found for Utah, and 65 more for Idaho, together making up more than a quarter of the USA Zollingers. Other more recent Zollinger immigrants put their roots down in Louisiana and Texas, while the general drift of the US population to California included a number of Zollinger families too.
Zollingers around the World
While over 95 percent of Zollingers can be found in Switzerland and the USA, some more exotic destinations count to the new countries that Zollingers have chosen to live in. Among the contacts are a Yossi Zollinger of Haifa in Israel, who traces his ancestry back to Rumania. Unfortunately there is no information as to how the ancestors of his grandparents link back to Switzerland. One possible connection is another Zollinger family who emigrated from Germany to Jabuka in the Banat (today's Eastern Croatia). That family Zollinger must have been a part of the settlement scheme by the Hapsburg dynasty into the newly opened areas conquered from the Turks in 1718. Two hundred years later he offspring of that branch were forced to return to Germany after WW II, and today they have little knowledge about two centuries of Zollinger history in Eastern Europe.
Another emigrant Zollinger settled first in Haifa in today's Israel, and later moved to Aleppo in today's Syria. The family became very prominent merchants and bankers there, and after a change to German citizenship, the head of the family was appointed German Consul in Aleppo. The family later dispersed to all parts of the Mediterranean, with traces in Greece, France and back in Germany.
And finally a Zollinger family, who is rather well documented, emigrated to Santiago de Bahia in Brazil, where the name still exists. And last, and maybe least, Marcel Zollinger emigrated to Ottawa, Canada, and who knows, his family may be the beginning of a new Canadian dynasty.
The Future of the Zollinger Name
One of the fascinating aspects of an 800 year family history contained in our data base is to observe as to how different branches of Zollingers flourished or withered. The few immigrants to the USA who today have hundreds of offspring are given prominence in family history, but there are far more Zollinger immigrants who's name has not been handed down the generations, and their branches have died out. The most obvious explanation for "success" or "failure" may be the number of children each generation produced, and, more accurately, the number of male offspring. Unfavorable economic circumstances, disease and sheer bad luck may also have played a role in the disappearance of these branches.
Population statisticians tell us that in order to maintain a given population level each family would be expected to have on average 2.1 children. That in itself however does not guarantee the survival of a family name. A fair estimate of family size which would ensure the name's survival down the generations would be at least double that figure, about an average of 4.5 children. Most farming families in past centuries, such those in Pennsylvania, Ohio or Utah invariably had more children than that minimum. But what about more recent times? In today's modern society there are few families with four or more children, and in Europe the average birthrate has in fact has slipped below the 2.1 level, so that these populations no longer even maintain themselves.
These statistics shed a pessimistic light on the survival of most names, and the Zollinger name will be part of this sociological trend. Inevitable? Maybe. Sad? Certainly. Solutions to this dilemma however may go beyond simply having more children, and would need to include instilling a pride in the Zollinger family and its history into each new generation. My own grandfather often called me "Stammhalter" the literal translation of which is "Holder of the Stem", and refers to the first born male of the next generation. He was especially proud of me because as the first born and male offspring, I was for him the promise of a continuation of his own line. And my two sons Andrew and Martin now assure the survival of the name for another generation. But beyond that, who knows?