From Morschheim, Germany to Monroe, Michigan:
The Story of John and Mary Elizabeth Zink
By Peter Bush

This is the story of John Zink (1807-1889) and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Klingenschmitt (1808-1887).  It is an odyssey of sorts, leading from southwest Germany to western New York to southeast Michigan, all in one lifetime.  It cannot be told in their own words, because they did not leave behind any diaries, letters or other written accounts of their experiences.  Rather, it must be pieced together from the official documents that recorded events in their lives – things like church registers, ship passenger lists, deeds, and census returns.  These give us the basic facts but usually leave the “why” and “how” unexplained.


Life in Germany


The story begins in Morschheim, Germany, the birthplace of Johannes Zink and Maria Elisabetha Klingenschmitt, as they were known in their native land.[1] Morschheim is a village of about 725 people in the Palatinate, a region in the southwest part of Germany on the west side of the Rhine River. During the Napoleonic era, when Johannes and Maria Elisabetha were born, the Palatinate was occupied by the French.  In 1816, when they were youngsters, the Palatinate was given to the Kingdom of Bavaria as part of the redistribution of Europe following the fall of Napoleon.  The Palatinate remained part of Bavaria until the end of World War II.[2]  Today it is within the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. 


Johannes Zink was born in Morschheim on 5 April 1807, the son of Johannes Zink and Catharina Elisabetha Leppert.[3]  He was orphaned at an early age; his mother died in August 1810 when he was only three years old, and his father died in January 1814 when he was six.  He had two older sisters, one of whom married in 1814 and the other in 1817, and he probably lived with one of them after their father's death.

Maria Elisabetha Klingenschmitt,[4] his future wife, was born in Morschheim on 24 November 1808, the daughter of Johann Jost Klingenschmitt and Anna Catharina Rauch.[5] She was also the "baby" of her family; she had at least six older brothers and sisters.


The Zink and Klingenschmitt families attended the Evangelical church in Morschheim, also called Mauritiuskirche, which is on the main square of the village and dates from the 13th and 14th centuries.[6]  In that church, Johannes Zink and Elisabetha Klingenschmitt were married on 7 April 1829.[7]  


        The Morschheim church books recorded the births and baptisms of the following children of Johannes Zink and Elisabetha Klingenschmitt, born prior to their emigration to the United States:[8]


·        Anna Margaretha Zink, illegitimate, born 29 October 1827, baptized 2 November 1827. She died 8 December 1827 in Morschheim, and was buried 18 December 1827.


·        Heinrich Adam Zink, born 28 December 1829, baptized 1 January 1830;


·        Johannes Zink, born 28 September 1831, baptized 2 October 1831;


·        Andreas Zink, born 2 October 1833, baptized 6 October 1833;


·        Philipp Zink, born 19 June 1836, baptized 22 June 1836.


Johannes Zink was described as a farmer in the records about him and his family that appeared in the Morschheim church books.  Other than that, nothing is currently known about his life in Morschheim.




Johannes Zink was issued a passport on 28 April 1837 by the Bavarian government office in Kirchheimbolanden.  The passport was valid for travel to North America by him, his wife, and their four children.  (A digital photo of the passport can be found on the Family Documents page). 

It is clear from the passport that the family traveled overland from the Palatinate through France.  They passed through the city of Metz in northeast France, where French officials made a notation on the passport dated 29 June 1837. The notation stated that the passport holder was in possession of 3,500 francs and tickets for his family's passage to America.  They probably journeyed overland from Metz to Paris, where they would have boarded a boat that navigated the Seine River to the port of Le Havre. 

The passport has another notation in French, to the effect that the family was traveling to North America aboard the sailing ship Vandalia.  The notation was made in Le Havre on 20 July 1837, which is probably the date they sailed or close to it.  The Vandalia arrived in New York City on 31 August 1837, according to the ship passenger list filed by the master of the ship with U.S. customs officials.[10]  Among the 175 passengers on the ship were John Zink, 30; Maria Elizabeth Zink, 25; Henry Zink, 7; John Zink, 5; Andrew Zink, 4; and Phillip Zink, 1. Although their relationship to each other was not stated, their names were grouped as was customary for families traveling together.  John Zink was said to be a farmer, and the entire group was said to have come from Germany and to be destined for Ohio.  The notation “six boxes” appeared next to their names, which probably describes the possessions they brought with them.


The Zinks were not traveling alone.  Other people from Morschheim were also on the Vandalia when it sailed from Le Havre, including Anna Barbara Rauch, age 22, and John Schoelles, also 22, both of whom were cousins of Mary Elizabeth Zink. 


Though Ohio was listed on the ship manifest as their destination, the Zinks probably intended from the beginning to settle in western New York.  By 1837 when the Zinks emigrated, there was already a cluster of Morschheim families in the Town of Pendleton in southern Niagara County, and the Town of Amherst in northern Erie County.  (Pendleton and Amherst adjoin each other, with the Erie Canal and Tonawanda Creek forming the boundary between them).  Mary Elizabeth Zink’s brothers, Peter Klingenschmitt and Henry Adam Klingenschmitt, had emigrated in 1833 with their families and settled in the area.  Other people in the area with Morschheim connections included the Jacob Neubecker family, who had sailed on the same ship as the Klingenschmitts, and the Andrew Bayer family, who emigrated in 1834. Eventually more than fifty Morschheim people made their home in the Towns of Pendleton and Amherst, illustrating the desire of immigrants to surround themselves with people they knew and felt close to.


Family papers indicate that the Zink family traveled to the Town of Pendleton by Erie Canal boat, soon after their arrival in New York City.[11]  The Erie Canal had opened in 1825, linking New York City with Buffalo on Lake Erie, and for years the Canal was the principal route by which people and goods moved between New York City and upstate New York and points further west.  The Zinks were probably accompanied on the canal boat trip by John Schoelles, who had sailed with them on the Vandalia; he settled near Wendelville in the Town of Amherst, married there, and had a large family.


Life in Western New York


The Erie Canal remained important in the life of the Zink family long after they completed their journey.  In November 1838, a year after arriving in western New York, John Zink purchased for $431 a 54-acre parcel of land bordering the Canal in the Town of Pendleton.[12]  The parcel adjoined the farm of the Jacob Neubecker family, and was just down the road from Wendelville, where there was a bridge over the Canal leading to the Town of Amherst.  The Zinks farmed the land, and were living there at the time of the 1840 and 1850 Federal censuses.[13]  


While they were living in Pendleton, five additional children were born to John and Mary Elizabeth Zink:[14]


·        Peter Zink, born 18 March 1839;


·        Elizabeth Zink, born 18 February 1842;


·        Jacob Henry Zink, born 1 January 1846;


·        Mary Zink, born 19 June 1849;


·        Lewis Zink, born 3 July 1853.


        John Zink and his family were among the founders and early members of St. Paul’s German Evangelical Church in Wendelville, which is now called St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.  This church was the nucleus of the German-speaking community that formed near Wendelville, on both sides of the Erie Canal, prior to the American Civil War.  Many of the early parishioners of the church were from Morschheim and other villages in the Palatinate.


A history of the church published in 1983 indicates that two of the Zink children, John and Andrew, were in the first confirmation class in 1849, and that their father was one of the original trustees when the church was incorporated in 1852.  He also helped with construction of the brick church building, which was dedicated in 1854 and is still in use today.[15]   In 1855 John and Elizabeth Zink, together with their neighbors Jacob and Margaret Neubecker, deeded a small parcel of land to the trustees of the church, to be used as a graveyard.[16]  Today that parcel is the “old” Wendelville cemetery containing the graves of many early settlers of the area.


The Zinks lived on the Pendleton farm for about twenty years.  In the 1850s, possibly in 1856,[17] they moved to a farm in the Town of Amherst.  They were living there at the time of the 1860 and 1870 Federal censuses.[18]  John Zink sold the Pendleton farm to his son Andrew in the spring of 1866.[19]


Life in Michigan


Like many other immigrants of the period, John and Mary Elizabeth Zink did not remain permanently in western New York.  In the spring of 1871 they moved to Monroe County, Michigan;[20] most of their children also relocated to Michigan.   In August of that year, John Zink purchased three lots in the 1st Ward of the City of Monroe in Monroe County.[21]  He and his wife were residing in the 1st Ward when the Federal census was taken in 1880.[22] 


Mary Elizabeth Zink died in Monroe on 14 August 1887,[23] and her husband died two years later, on 10 March 1889, at the residence of his son in Exeter, Michigan.[24]  They left behind many descendants in Michigan, western New York, Ohio and other parts of the United States.[25]




[1] In the German records before 1800, the Zink surname was usually spelled “Zinck” and the Klingenschmitt surname was usually spelled “Klingenschmidt.”   

[2] This explains why many American records list “Bavaria” as the place of birth of John and Mary Elizabeth Zink and their older children.

[3] There is no record of his baptism in the Morschheim church because there is a gap in the church records from 1799 to 1815, which roughly coincides with the period of French occupation of the Palatinate during the Napoleonic era. His confirmation record  in 1821 identified him as the son of Johannes Zink and gave his date of birth as 5 April 1807.

[4] Though she was probably given the names “Maria Elisabetha” at baptism, the German records usually refer to her as “Elisabetha.”  American records and sources refer to her variously  as “Mary” and “Mary Elizabeth.”

[5] As in the case of Johannes Zink, there is no record of her baptism in the Morschheim church records (see note 3 above).  Her confirmation record in 1822 listed her date of birth as 24 November 1808 and identified her as the daughter of Justus (Jost) Klingenschmitt.  A different date of birth was given in The Zink Families in America by Dora Zink Kellogg (Omaha: Citizen Publishing Co., 1933), hereinafter referred to as “the Kellogg book,” which discussed the John and Mary Elizabeth Zink family in Chapter 10.  Because the confirmation record was created when Mary Elizabeth was a teenager, and the Kellogg book was published almost fifty years after her death, the birth date in the confirmation record is probably the correct one.

[6] A picture of the church appears on Morschheim’s webpage at <> (click on Tourismus, then on Sehenswurdigkeiten).

[7]  Zink - Klingenschmitt marriage record, 7 April 1829, church books of the Evangelical church (Evangelische Kirche), Morschheim, Germany; hereinafter referred to as “Morschheim church books.”  The church books for the period discussed in this article have been microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“LDS Church”) and are available at its Family History Library in Salt Lake City on microfilm no. 0193059 (years 1710 to 1826) and microfilm no. 0193060 (years 1827 to 1869).  The baptism and marriage records in the church books for the years 1710 to 1826 have been extracted and are available on a compact disk produced by the LDS Church as part of its Western Europe Vital Records Index; this index is available at the Family History Library and can also be purchased.

[8] All of the information about the children is taken from the Morschheim church books.  With the exception of Anna Margaretha, who died before the Zinks emigrated, the names and birthdates of the children in the Morschheim church books match the names and birthdates that appear in the Kellogg book.

[10] SS Vandalia Passenger Manifest, 31 August 1837, page 1, lines 1-6; in microfilm series M237 (Washington: National Archives), roll 35; also available on Family History Library microfilm no. 0002280.

[11] Handwritten notes of Milton Zink, great-grandson of John Zink, undated, prepared prior to publication of the Kellogg book in 1933; currently in the possession of the author.

[12] Book 62 of Deeds, p. 500, Niagara County Clerk’s Office, Lockport, NY; the deed was dated 22 November 1838 and recorded 27 October 1854; available on Family History Library microfilm no. 887732.

[13] John Chinck (sic) household, 1840 U.S. Census, New York, Niagara County, Town of Pendleton, page 199; John Cink (sic) household, 1850 U.S. Census, New York, Niagara County, Town of Pendleton, page 243, dwelling 238, family 249.

[14] Names and birth dates are from the Kellogg book and Milton Zink notes.

[15] A Walk Through History, 1833—1983: St. Paul’s United Church of Christ (Wendelville, NY: no publisher, no date),  pp. 8-9; copy available in the Amherst Museum, Town of Amherst, NY.

[16] Book 71 of Deeds, pp. 136-7, Niagara County Clerk’s Office, Lockport, NY; the deed was dated 19 October 1855 and recorded 22 July 1856; available on Family History Library microfilm no. 887737.

[17] Handwritten notes of Milton Zink.

[18] John Zink household, 1860 U.S. Census, New York, Erie County, Town of Amherst, page 493, dwelling 1880, family 1843; John Zink household, 1870 U.S. Census, New York, Erie County, Town of Amherst, page 360, dwelling 327, family 327.

[19] Book 105 of Deeds, p. 175, Niagara County Clerk’s Office, Lockport, NY; the deed was dated 20 March 1866 and recorded 11 April 1866; available on Family History Library microfilm no. 895605.

[20] Handwritten notes of Milton Zink; John McClelland Bulkley, History of Monroe County Michigan, Vol. II (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1913), p. 673.

[21] Liber 78 of Deeds, pp. 21-22, Monroe County, Michigan; the deed was dated 15 August 1871 and recorded the following day; available on Family History Library microfilm no. 1392715. 

[22] The microfilm copy of the 1880 census of the 1st Ward of the City of Monroe is not legible.  The Genealogical Society of Monroe County Michigan has recreated a list of 1st Ward residents from a ledger book found in the basement vault at the Monroe County courthouse.  This list appears in 1876 Township Plat Map Index and 1880 Federal Census Index; Includes Census of Monroe City Ward 1, Monroe County, Michigan (Rick Grassley, John R. Vidolich, and Lois Ann Vidolich, compilers; published by the Genealogical Society of Monroe County Michigan, no date); available in the Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

[23] Two obituaries of Mary Elizabeth Zink, published in the Monroe Democrat on 18 August 1887 and the Amherst Bee on 1 September 1887, state that she died on 14 August 1887.  This is assumed to be the correct date of her death.  However,  a different date of death (16 August 1887) appears in her death record filed in Monroe County, Michigan. There is no obvious explanation for this discrepancy.  

[24] Three sources - his obituary published in the Monroe Democrat on 14 March 1889; the handwritten notes of Mary (Zink) Graff, his daughter; and minutes of the 1932 reunion of the Zink and Graff families - agree that that he died on 10 March 1889.  The obituary further indicates that he died at the residence of his son in Exeter, Michigan. However, the official record of his death filed in Monroe County, Michigan indicates that he died in Exeter on 5 December 1889.  This date is obviously incorrect in that his obituary was published almost nine months earlier, in March of 1889. Another inaccuracy in the death record is his age at death, which was overstated by more than five years.

[25] Four generations of their descendants are listed in Chapter 10 of the Kellogg book.


© 2009-2013 Peter J. Bush.  All rights reserved.