Swiss family Zinsk

Letter Z: Last of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Crossed the finish line today! Thanks for joining me on the journey!

The Swiss family Zinsk was a late arrival on my family tree . They showed up unexpectedly while I was investigating my paternal Charbonneau ancestors — and restored Switzerland as a long-forgotten source of my family’s roots.

http://backroadstraveller.blogspot.com/search?q=Otter+Lake+Community+Church
Otter Lake Community Church (2015). My Swiss ancestors, the Zinsk family, attended services here when it was St. Trinitatis — a German Evangelical Lutheran parish in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. The church was later moved to its present location on Route 28 in Otter Lake, where it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Photo by Tom/The Backroads Traveller

I was excited about our Swiss ancestry because my family was completely unaware of this heritage  — or so I thought until I called my dad to tell him the breaking news.

“You know, I seem to remember hearing something about that,” Dad said thoughtfully, while I rolled my eyes and had a face-palm moment at the other end of the phone.

Yet in some ways it’s understandable how awareness of our Swiss heritage might have faded with each succeeding generation, given how challenging it was to find details about these elusive ancestors.

Seeking Ursula’s maiden name

My first hint of our paternal Swiss ancestry came from the 1900 U.S. Census for Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y. The record for my great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau (spelled Charbono), who emigrated from Quebec to New York’s Adirondack foothills, listed his wife Ursula — born in Switzerland.

To learn more, we needed her maiden name — always a challenge. So Dad and I added this to the list of goals for our next pre-Internet family history road trip in August 1992.

We examined Laurent’s tombstone in Beechwood Cemetery, Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y., but the inscription was no help. All it said was “Ursula, His Wife.”

Then Dad and I found Laurent’s obituary in the Irwin Library and Institute in Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — but Ursula’s name did not appear in that, either, much to Dad’s chagrin.

A census breakthrough

Clearly, we needed more to go on. So back I went to the census, where the various spellings for Charbonneau (such as Charbono, Charbonno, Sharbono and Sherbenon) slowed my microfilm research.

But one evening — while browsing door-to-door through the 1870 U.S. Census for Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — I found Nicholas Zink, 84, and Barnard Zink, 40, (both from Switzerland), living in the home of Laurence Sharbono (from Canada) and his wife Angeline [Ursula](from Switzerland). This looked like the breakthrough we needed on Ursula’s maiden name!

There were more surname variants to come — from Zink to Sink to Zingg  to Zinsk — which eventually led to records that clarified our Swiss ancestors’ family relationships and even identified the church where they worshipped, shown above.

Best of all: I found my ggg grandfather Nicholas’s naturalization papers, on which his signature confirmed Zinsk as the correct spelling of the surname — opening the door to future research into my family’s once-hidden Swiss heritage.


With this post, I have completed my first April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme Ancestors From A to Z. I made it! I’m thrilled! And I can’t wait to order my tee-shirt!

Coming soon – One-stop summary: Ancestors from A to Z Please stop back for the victory lap.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “Swiss family Zinsk”

  1. Great finale Molly and an even better discovery!! It shows what a steady door-by-door progression through a record can uncover.

    I research some Bavarians who also have Z names …and attendant spelling confusion.

    1. Thanks, Pauleen. So glad the Zinsks lived in a semi-rural area. Door to door searching is so much easier where the population is smaller. Good luck with researching your Bavarian ancestors.

  2. Congrats on finishing the challenge! I had a similar experience when I shared some information with my dad, but thankfully yours led to finding yet more information and so did mine.

  3. My hubby’s at a similar dead end in his line. He’s looking for a German family name that could be spelled a number of different ways, and it doesn’t help that vital records were lost in a fire in the early 1900’s.

    Some lines just need to rest until time and technology makes it possible to find them!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    1. Thanks for the visit, Jen. You husband may want to check online for lists of name variants. They can be helpful when searching for names with a variety of potential spellings. Good luck!

  4. Isn’t it fun to have multiple heritage lines? So many different paths to explore and stories to tell. I look forward to more adventures with Molly and Norm!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Yes, the many branches on my tree add to the joy of researching. Great having you along for the challenge!

  5. Zinsk is a cool last name! How cool that you’ve been able to do do all this research and find your swiss roots.

    Congrats and completing the 2016 A to Z Challenge!

    1. Thanks, Shelly, and congrats to you, too. Finding my Swiss roots was a unique discovery because it linked my family to a forgotten past — one of the great benefits of genealogy research!

  6. Hi Molly, I have enjoyed following your tales and have moved you to my genea-feedly feed to make future visits easy. Fran

  7. Your tenacity paid off! Both in finding your Zinsk family, and finishing the challenge!
    My family has no ancestors in Switzerland but my Dads cousin married a Swiss in 1967 and they moved there, so now I have cousins that live there. Dad’s cousin moved back to Canada but she goes to Switzerland twice a year to see the grandkids.
    I have enjoyed following your challenge posts and I will certainly check back.

    1. Thanks, Dianne! Appreciate all of your visits and comments throughout the challenge. Look forward to continuing to check back on your posts, too.

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