I have grown up always hearing stories about my Amish relatives with the last name Zook. In fact, Zook is a very popular name in the Amish community, and over the course of my life, many people have given me fictional books about the Zooks and the Yoders (along with Esh, these are the three most popular Amish names). Before writing this paper, I did not, however, know why Zook was such a popular name among this religious community.
After doing research both online and by interviewing family members, I have discovered that the original Zooks can be traced to the Zouggenrids who lived in Bern, Switzerland. There is a record of this family in 1380 in this region of Switzerland (Harry D. Zook). The Zouggenrids were also commonly called Zouggs (pron. [tsowk]) as an abbreviation of their last name. This abbreviation remained and fractioned off to many other last names such as Zaugg, Zogg, Zug, Zuck, Zouck, Zook over the course of time (harryzook.com). During the time of the Reformation, the Zouggs suffered great religious persecution. As a result, they fled to Germany. “When the Zaugg’s fled Switzerland and migrated to the Palatinate area of Germany, the spelling of the name changed to Zug” (zookfamily.net). Their religious ties were with the Anabaptists who, of course, are the parent group of the Amish and Mennonite sects.
Years later, my direct relative Moritz Zug (pron. [zux] where /x/ represents the “ich” sound in German) traveled from his home in Germany to England in order to travel by ship to America. This journey took place with his two brothers (Christian and one other) in 1742 (Harry D. Zook). When these brothers moved to America, they settled in Eastern Pennsylvania. Moritz Zug is the founder of the first Amish church in America. Moritz had a son named Johannes. Johannes had a son by the same name, Johannes Jr. When Johannes Jr. was born, the last name Zug (pron. with a very “hard /g/”) was changed to Zook. The reason for this orthographical change is because the Zugs wanted an English spelling and pronunciation of their last name. Thus, with the birth of Johannes Jr., the Zug last name was changed to Zook as the /g/ in Zug was really pronounced more like a /k/ which is reflected in the modern, English spelling of this last name. To this day, there are many Amish in the regions of Pennsylvania and Indiana with the last name “Zook”.
My uncle, who has read Harry D. Zook’s 900+ page book containing history about our family and family’s name, told me many reasons how and why my relatives split off from the Amish church. To briefly explain, with the expansion of individual Zook families and their descendents, they began to intermarry with non-Amish women. The Zooks did, however, retain their conservative religious beliefs. My paternal grandfather considered himself “Old Mennonite” meaning he retained many of the religious beliefs. There is a close theological connection (yet not a strong life-style connection) between the Mennonites and the Baptists. My grandfather belonged to a Baptist church and my father is also Baptist (as am I). My grandfather, father, and I uphold the Amish/Mennonite belief of nonresistance (also known as pacifism), among others.
There is no direct meaning associated with Zouggenrid or Zougg, however, the last name Zaugg is a derived last name from Zougg. According to ancestry.com, the etymology for the name Zaugg is as follows: “Swiss German: from an Old High German personal name Zougo, perhaps related in meaning to ziehen ‘to pull’” (ancestry.com). When the Zouggs/Zauggs moved from Switzerland to Germany, they took on the name Zug. To this day the word “zug” means “train” in German. The etymology for the name Zook comes as a “Respelling of Swiss German Zug, a habitational name from the city and canton so named in Switzerland. This is a frequent surname among Amish and Mennonites in the U.S.” (http://genealogy.familyeducation.com). Essentially, my last name is an Americanized version of the word German word “zug” which means “train”. I asked my uncle if he knew any reason why our family would be associated either with the terms “to pull” or with “train” and he said he did not know why as he never found information that lead him to believe our ancestors had any connection with the train industry.
So! There you go! Just try to picture me (nose ring and all...) decked out in full Amish garb and you will get a glimpse of my past.