ZellTree is an ongoing research website for Zellh�fer's of all spellings, including primarily Zellhoefer, Zelhofer, Zellhofer and Zilhaver, and including the many other variations which one finds, particularly in ship's passenger lists and old census records.
Our research also includes the surnames Wellhoefer and Felhofer, each with their own variations, of course. Those surnames are found in common with Zellhofer in locations within Austria, Bavaria, and finally, all three are found later, all together in sparsely populated Door County, Wisconsin, U.S.A. While not yet proven, it appears that all have common origins, and we seem to be getting closer to finding those connections.
The earliest known with the surname Zellhofer or Zellh�fer lived on farms near in Gresten, Scheibbs, Niederoesterreich, Austria in the 1500's, They were farmers, perhaps some also worked at mining in the Gresten area, and one was minister at their Evangelist church in Gresten. Their religious convictions were very strong, which has much to do with the family history.
In the early 1600's apparently the rulers of Austria were in cahoots with the Pope of Rome, and return to Catholicism became the order of the day. The edicts were sudden and severe - those who refused to abide were subject to prosecution, jail, torture and even death. Therefore from 1636-1671 several of those families, refusing to renounce their Evangelishe/Lutheran beliefs, were forced from their homeland, called "Exulanten". In the great haste and urgency, they abandoned farms and property, departing virtually overnight. The Exulanten escaped to Mittelfranken, settling on farms around Deitenhofen which had been decimated by the "30 Years War" of 1618-1648. Over time, their homesteads gradually spread to many places within the kreis' Ansbach and Neustadt an der Aisch-Bad Windsheim in Bavaria.
Sometime afterward the exulanten to Bavaria, we must note that Zellh�fer's are also found in the Austrian districts Hollabrun, Zwettl and scattered elsewhere. Again not proven as yet, but it appears that these also left Gresten sometime before, and are almost certainly related.
Beginning about 1838, we find Bavarian Zellh�fer descendants migrating to the USA, settling first in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. The descendants of Johann Jacob Zellh�fer in Crawford County Pennsylvania came to spell the surname ZILHAVER. The descendants of his brother Johann Fredrick in New Jersey use the spelling ZELLHOFER, and the several who settled in Jefferson County Wisconsin use the spelling ZELLHOEFER.
About the last decade of the 800's we find several family migrations from kreis Zwettl, Austria to the USA. The first of those appears around Pittsburgh & Allegheny County Pennsylvania, where several deaths soon occurred in mining accidents in the coal mines.
Not long afterward we find settlement in Door County Wisconsin (that's the peninsula extending into Lake Michigan). It appears some had migrated there directly from Zwettl and were joined by others who had settled first around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. That branch uses the spelling ZELHOFER. Another re-settlement appears in Kane County Illinois, these also use the spelling ZELLHOFER, tracking back to Austria.
Of course our research is not limited to these surnames. This research would be impossible without also researching the many surnames in our tree which joined our tree through marriage. For my own branch, the early surnames of old Pommern/Pomerania include MUELLER, PETZKE, KLIPSTEIN, FENSKE and ZICK. From Switzerland came KLOTZ and LUETSCHER. From England came STARKWEATHER and AMES, joining then with GORSKE from Germany.
Comments, corrections and additions are always most welcome and hugely appreciated. The research continues, altho I'm about worn out with all this and would like to pass all this on to ?you?