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Main Lines oft the Z Pedigree – Origins of 

Zerweck / Zerwekh / Zerrweck / Zehrweck


Working on a family tree with a rare name like Zerweck – different from a family with a name like Miller or White or Hansen – it is tacitly hoped that all persons with that name could be linked to one common ancestor. Actually we are far from that target, and it may be doubted if this ever will be achieved.

Therefore it has to be evaluated as an – even limited   success that by far most of the Zerweck/ Zer­wekh/Zerrweck/Zehrweck of this collection can be deduced from 2 or 3 ancestors who had lived in the 16th and 17t century, 10 to 14 generations before the actually living Zerwecks.

An important „nest“ where much more than half of all Zerwecks originate from is situated in the central area of Württemberg, in Untertürkheim, a little wine village few miles up the Neckar river from Cannstatt (both suburbs of Stuttgart  today). Unfortunately in 1694, during a French raid in connection with the Palatine War of Heritage Succession, all the older church books were lost by fire, together with the church and the reverend’s house. Therefore only few isolated names are known for the 16th and 17th century from „Güterbücher“ (Property Books), but not their family relationships.

In Property Books, mainly vintners and farmers are listed, much more than other professions. Already in 1603, however, a certain „Johann Jakob Zerweckh from Untertürkheim, Konstanzer Priester und Vikar im St. Albans-Stift zu Mainz“ (Constancian priest and vicar in Mainz) had let by testament a fund of 200 florins, to be administrated by the community of Untertürkheim. The return of this fund had to be used as 6-years scholarships for students – predominantly but not exclusively from the Zerweck family. This foundation remained in force till the beginning of the 20th century!

The historical background of this foundation , however, appears rather strange to me: How was it possible that in the years before 1600, when the Duchy of Württemberg – including Untertürkheim, of course – had been evangelical already for decades, a man from Untertürkheim became a catholic priest, and then made a foundation which in the following years and centuries quite naturally was used for students of evangelical theology? Questions which I have not been able yet to find answers.

Even a few decades earlier there was an evangelical theologian, Latin teacher in Maulbronn, and „Präzeptor“ of the Latin school in Marbach, Alexander Zerweck (died 1572). His beautiful tombstone is attached to the outer wall of the “chor” of the Alexander church in Marbach (Neckar). According to the List of Immatriculations of the Tübingen University, this Alexander Zerweck was from Marbach; if and how he was related to the Untertürkheim Zerwecks is an open question: In 1693, almost the whole town of Marbach was also destroyed by fire, unfortunately together with all earlier church books of the entire deanery!

The oldest carrier of our name who was mentioned in a church book was Jerg Zerweckh from Untertürkheim. When his son Johannes married in Uhlbach in 1614 he was mentioned as the groom’s father, already deceased (Jerg frequently is cited as Johannes Jerg which is wrong). From the church books it was possible to prove that all Zerweck (with different spellings) from Fellbach, Uhlbach, Rommelshausen, Herrenberg, Freudental, Cannstatt and Leonberg, with ramifications inside and outside Germany, including USA, descend from this Jerg Zerweckh, his son Johannes Zerweck(h) (died before 1640) and his grandson Johannes (Hans) Zerweck „from Uhlbach (born 1617, moved to Fellbach in 1648).

A second line of the Untertürkheim Zerweckh and Zerweck – and thus the whole later „Untertürkheim Line“ – can be attributed to Johann Jacob Zerweckh (born 1669). It is rather probable that Johann Jacob Zerweckh and the above mentioned Jerg Zerweck were of the same kinship, (grandson? great-grandson? grand nephew?) but it could not yet been proven. A famous member of this Untertürkheim Line was the missionary and later town physician of Markgröningen, Nathanael Zerweck (1868 – 1937), ancestor of the branch „von Velsen-Zerweck“. Furthermore the Rietenau / Backnang branch, the Zerweckh descendants in Chile as well as a second group of the Zerwecks und Zerwekhs in the United States also belong to this Untertürkheim line.

A third big branch of the Zerweck family descends from Georg Zehrweck, born before 1640, and died before 1688. This Georg Zehrweck (his descendants omitted the „h“) was „hochgräflicher Amtskeller (i.e. Administrator) oft he Counts of Erbach-Erbach on the castle of Reichenberg near Reichelsheim in Odenwald. He was ancestor of the Zwingenberg line, and of their descendants in USA (Zwingenberg / Berg­straße near Darmstadt). Up to now it was not possible to find any relation of this Georg Zehrweck with the Untertürkheim Zerweck/Zerweckh.

It is interesting, however, that more than 200 years later (1891) a real affinity between the Zwingenberg and Untertürkheim lines originated from a marriage between  William G. Zerwekh (his father Gottlob Jacob Zerwekh had emigrated in 1853 from Untertürkheim)  and Wilhelmine Gertrude Zerweck (her father Johann Georg Zerweck was still born 1836 in Zwingenberg, but emigrated with his family in 1837 to the USA).

In addition to these 3 big lines of descendance – 2 from Untertürkheim, one from Zwingenberg / Bergstraße – there are several smaller „islands“, groups of 2 to 4 generations of the name Zerweck, which however could not (yet) been linked to one of the big lines. An important group of this type, for example, are all those Zerweck, who live in or near Rheinfelden (near Basle), both on the German as well as on the Swiss side of the Rhine river.

It is one of my hopes which I link to this internet publication of my family data base, that I may get into contact with members of such „island pedigrees“ and with single carriers of our name, and that we’ll be able to jointly complement  our lines of relation.

On the other hand, in the meantime I think more realistically on the possibility that our name might have arosen independently at several different locations. Especially the fact that American immigration list several times show the name „Zerwick“ for immigrants from Slovakia (at that time a part of Austria) may be a hint the same or a similar name exists or existed in eastern Europe, not necessarily linked to the Württemberg or Hesse-Darmstadt Zerweck families. Of course one could now speculate whether this eastern European occurrence of our name was based on earlier emigrations from Germany, or vice versa, but I am afraid that such ideas will forever remain provable speculations.


Korntal-Münchingen, January 28, 2010

Günter Zerweck


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