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About ZellTree and our long research trail

RonKZ ~ 1998

Hello, I'm Ron "Klotz Zellhoefer".  The Zellhoefer part is bloodline, and the Klotz part results from unrecorded adoption about 1865.

I was born in Wisconsin in 1938 and moved to Arizona in 1964 - so a LONG time now.

As both Zellhoefer researcher and webmaster, you can blame me for everything that's wrong here!  <grin>

I was never much interested in our family history, but after "retirement" at the end of 1996, I had hoped to complete a solar home.  Well, the money just ran out, but I was too young to just sit around and twiddle my thumbs, and didn't feel that going back to "work" was a viable option.

Having been heavy with computers since the first PC, and noticing the store of genealogical information was mushrooming on the www, it seemed that a little digging into my g.g.grandparents might be a useful short-term useful pursuit.

Our family lore, as writ by my father Myron George Klotz, held that my g.g.grandfather was John Michael Zellhoefer ("Mike"), born "Germany", and first known in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. 

It took several years to track him down in Bavaria, where kirche document shows that Mike was baptised  4 August 1825 as Johann KONRAD Zellhoefer; his christened name Konrad was never seen afterward.  Mike's military records in Wisconsin list him as John Michael Zellhoefer, born 17 May 1825.  I doubt we'll ever know how or why the changes of name and date appeared, but believe me, all that certainly made the tracking most challenging!  The only thought I have on that is that 17 May was really Mike's birthdate, and for whatever reason his baptism was much delayed.

Myron's records also held a copy of an 1848 marriage between John Michael Wellhofer and Elisabeth Pfeffer, along with his insistence that this was the acutal marriage document of my g.g.grandparents, and any who objected must be ignorant of the interchangability of W and Z in der deutsch!  So of course I spent years barking up THAT wrong tree, eventually finding that there actually WAS this other couple with remarkably similar names (Elizabeth later was found to be Anna Elizabeth, which as you'll see made it all more difficult!) just six miles away in HEBRON Township.  Our Mike did not arrive in the U.S.A until 1853, and both men with their respective families are found in their respective households in the 1860 census.  As only this single lone Wellhoefer surname appears in any records in Jefferson County, this is yet another reason to speculate that Wellhoefer and Zellhoefer are the result of misspelling or misinterpretation, and actually of the same bloodline.

We eventually found just one brief obituary for from which we learn that Mike's first wife was Anna, no surname, nearby hamlet Urpher[t]shofen or Urphershofen in Bavaria.  There are no recorded documents in Wisconsin, but recordation was not required at that time.  Having searched to exhaustion in Mittelfranken, in the Church records of Obernzenn we found no Anna who fits.  On the ship passenger list on which we found Mike, we found no Anna who fits.   I now surmise that after Mike landed in New York, he might very well have stopped in Newark, New Jersey and visited brother Fredrick, and then went on to Crawford County, PA and visiting brother Jacob, and that somewhere on that path to Wisconsin Mike and Anna, (who almost certainly also attended the kirche Obernzenn), met again and wed.  One must assume some pre-arrangement - an interesting story might be found somewhere!

From family lore, now verified, twins George Martin and Catherine Sophia were born unto this marriage, but the mother died in childbirth that 9th day of September 1858.  However, in the 1860 census is found Mike's new household showing not only the twins, but also Fredrick and Annie, who could only have been of the Mike/Anna uniont.  Family lore held that the twins were adopted by Klotz in 1862, but that doesn't make much sense -- read on....

Mike soon remarried the widow Elnora Miller, said to have been twice-widowed in Germany, and to have come to Wisconsin with a daughter from each marriage, they being Annie Heilmann and Augustina Miller.  Soon enough Mike and Elnora had three more daughters together, and then...

In August 1864, Mike went off to the Civil War.  He died 6 Jan 1865 in Kentucky, was buried in Louisville and so never came home.  Now it would make more sense that the twins were adopted after his death.

The 2nd wife Elnora proved to be yet another enigma, partially solved but with some big questions unanswered.  Several variations of her given name spelling are found, along with the aka "Laura".  Her maiden name was supposedly Haverland, but no tracks are found.  She had borne but one daughter, not two.  The second child Annie Heilmann never existed.  The "real" Annie and an older brother Fredrick were found in the 1860 census as heretofore unknown spawn of Mike and Anna.  I now surmise that perhaps Elnora was born not Haverland, but Heilmann - the only known tracks for Elnora are in the marriage records for her daughters, all hugely disparate!

So it figures that the twin's adoption probably did not occur until after Mike's death in 1865.  It also triggers more search to find out what happened to Fredrick & Annie!  There are no birth nor adoption certificates of record for any of the four children in either Jefferson or Sauk Counties.

So the information from our family lore proved to be helpful, but inadequate and too often just plain WRONG!  Therefore it evolved over these years to gathering information on every Zellhoefer I could find, anytime, anywhere.   Creating ZellTree proved to be the easiest and most productive means of handling this momentous task.  

Still not finding some key information, ZellTree has since expanded to include tracking not only the children of Mike, including the offspring of but also the children's marriages to ROETHEL, LIPPERT, BOGIE, PFEIFFER, LUETSCHER and ZICK.

We're also tracking the offspring of Mike's siblings in the USA - so that now includes KRETSCH (Pennsylvania, beginnings of the ZILHAVER surname), PFEIFER, TARTSCH, DEBERINER, and the family begun by Fred ZELLHOFER in New Jersey.

In Bavaria other of Mike's siblings married SCHERZER/SHERER, WALZ and LEUPOLD.  Earlier connections include WINKLER, HOFMANN, SHUCK, FEDERLEIN, ADAM, HARTMANN, EBERLEIN, KITZMAN, HERTLEIN, OSTERREICHER, probably WELLHOEFER, and more.

In the process of all this, we have tracked our roots back thru Bavaria into Austria before 1600.  There in Austria we find also the origins of other Zellhöfer's who migrated to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and to Door County, Wisconsin (beginnings of the ZELHOFER spelling).    It appears ALL are connected, and continue to look for the common thread as research continues.


Language barriers, possible family rifts, and plain old ignorance & carelessness has come to further corrupt our surname with probably at least 20 other spelling variations, key being FELHOFER, WELLHOEFER and such as SELHAVER.  So if you see a surname that sounds something like Zellhoefer, it's probably somehow connected!

To help everyone in this endeavor, I work very long and hard to keep all this information fairly up-to-date as research continues.

melchoirfam.jpg (165866 bytes)
George Martin Zellhoefer & twin sister Catherine Sophia standing behind their adoptive parents Melchoir Klotz & wife Catherine Felix, photo c.1876/1878

The twins George & Sophie were said to have been adopted in 1862 by farmers Melchoir & Katherine Klotz of Honey Creek in Sauk County, Wisconsin.  Certainly the adoption was believable, but the year 1862 never made sense to me.  WHY THEN?

George, my "grampa with the whiskers" married Verena Luetscher and and eventually came to own the family farm.  Sophie married farmer Albert Zick, and each of the Twins spawned more children whose lines continue today.

The family lore for all those in Sauk County seemed thorough and complete enough, but the tracks for the Zellhoefer twins were pretty muddy.  The only documents for Mike were two marriage certificates (one not his!) and some military records.

So, such was the beginning of ZellTree.

KZ4generations.jpg (146399 bytes)
George Martin Zellhoefer (seated) in 4-generation photo c.1942.

Now then, living here in Arizona and with all the "happenings" back in Wisconsin, the logistics of this venture were obviously going to be a challenge!

So, I gathered together whatever was available, entered it all into some shareware genealogy application, and ventured into the vapor-world of the WorldWideWeb.  I found a few Zellhoefer's and fewer eAddies, and with those began the process of inquiry.

But from that small start, I quickly I struck GOLD!  Anne Zellhoefer of Madison Wisconsin quickly answered one of my the first eMails.  I'll never forget her words - "I have so much to tell you".  Very shortly she mailed a couple of tombstone photographs and pages 1-29 of the "Autobiography of the Zellhoefer Family", written by George G Zellhoefer, a nephew of my Mike.  I spent the rest of that day and night reading about the several Zellhoefer's who had migrated from Bavaria to Rome in Sullivan Township Wisconsin, another to Pennsylvania and yet another to New Jersey in the 1840's.  One of the  immigrants to Wisconsin was my John Michael Zellhoefer!

Mike was brother of Anne's ancestor George Leonhart.  Anne soon mailed three handwritten pages listing George's descendant tree, but knew nothing of Mike or whatever had happened to him.  The Autobiography contained some discussion of the family and their farm back in "Ahrnsbach", Bavaria.  This was wonderful, because we had never known anything about the roots in the home country.

However, after searching for many moons, I had to conclude that "Ahrnsbach" never existed, and came to accept that "home" was Ansbach, perhaps a hundred miles from the location as described by GGZ.  Years more work revealed that the real "home" was, yes near Ansbach, but actually Brachbach, a farming hamlet 17 km north of Ansbach.    

For many years I accepted as fact everything in hand both of the family lore and the Autobiography, making those the standard by which every other tidibit of information was judged.  It finally dawned on me that was a HUGE mistake, which had wasted untold months and even years of effort!  Those sources were important for providing tracks and clues, but relying on them sent me on many wrong paths and led to many dead-ends.  I finally realized that EVERYTHING one finds is subject to scrutiny and challenge!
So these were the beginnings of ZellTree, which has become a full-time all-day every-day pursuit.  It is embarrassing to admit that this research now borders on obsession.  Whatever, I hope it is worthwhile to posterity.

The names ZellTree, SolarSense Designs,  and all works within this website, are copyright 1998 thru 06 Dec 2009 by Ron Klotz Zellhoefer.   Permission is given to copy & print for private archival purposes only.  Republishing of DATA ONLY (not webpages!) to other websites is permitted IF credited to Ron Klotz Zellhoefer and ZellTree.  Please, let's verify and collaborate first!