Introduction and Overview

First, let me admit that I am only a beginner at genealogy and family research. I had no idea of the magnitude of the task that would be involved when documenting the Gottshall surname in the U.S., and I've only encountered an infinitely small percentage of what's out there so far. Also, when I say "Gottshall" with this particular spelling, I of course am referring to all the many spelling variations of the name that exist, and I have by no means discovered them all. I use "Gottshall" because it is my own spelling and because I'm the one doing this page, I'll admit. As far as I can tell, "Gottschalk" is the number one variation in terms of numbers, followed by Gottschall, with my own "Gottshall" coming in a close third. "Gottschalk" is problematic, however, because there are a number of unrelated family lines that would have to be sorted out.

Right now this website has three basic parts. First, I have my own family line and close (and not so close) relatives. These would be the descendants of John Gottshall, who settled in the Williamsport area in the 1830s. It is unclear at this time whether John was descended from the Rev. Jacob Gottshall. He could be his grandson. Or John himself may have come from Germany. I am hoping to make this "final" connection.

Second, I have what I'll refer to as the Mennonite Gottshalls, as documented by the Rev. Grubb and others. These must make up the large majority of Gottshalls in the U.S., from what I've experienced. Of course, many families in this second group are not now Mennonites. Many of these Gottshalls settled in Berks county, where John Gottshall, mentioned above, was from.

Third, there is everybody else. As the web site expands I hope to be more helpful to this third group, honest!

I grew up thinking I had a fairly uncommon surname. While this is true, I've found it also depends on what part of the U.S. one resides in. Gottshalls seem to be most common in eastern Pennsylvania, for reasons that will become clear after studying this web site. As has been pointed out at other genealogy sites, exact spelling is a 20th century invention and obsession. Gottschall, Gotshalk, Gutshall, etc etc, are all the same name.

Keep the above in mind when you see one of those "Gottshalls Across America" type of books. They are collections of names made with cd-rom data taken from telephone listings, etc. Such "books" take no account of spelling variation. If your spelling is "Gottshall," person named "Gottschall" who is closely related to you will not be listed. Also, there is no known "Gottshall family coat of arms," in spite of what a relative might have obtained from "Joe's Heraldry Shoppe."

I think a surname like "Gottshall" lends itself well to family research. It is uncommon enough so that if you find a Gottshall on the World Wide Web or simply in day to day business, there's a pretty good chance it is a relative. When looking up "Gottshall" you won't be deluged with thousands of unrelated people. And yet the surname goes back far enough in this country, and is common enough that you will get a pretty decent list of people with various online and offline searches.

Jon Gottshall
March 19, 1998