Surname Saturday - Gesizler Family

Lineage of Joseph Geißler of Baden and Ohio
Lineage of Joseph Geißler of Baden
who immigrated to Franklin County, Ohio

My father is a descendant of a German Catholic immigrant to made his way to Franklin County, Ohio perhaps in the 1850s. The immigrant's name was Joseph Geißler. Future posts will discuss the many things I know about the Geißler/Geiszler line, for now I want to focus on the last name and some broad information about other Geißler/Geiszler immigrants to America.

The Last Name

A variety of resources, many with suspect sources, put forth the idea that the Geißler surname has a Swiss and German origin. The meaning is supposedly related to a goatherder. One source speculated that Geiß translates as "nanny goat" in German, giving weight to the origin and meaning. Goat herders not only tended goats but products from goat milk.

How do you say the last name Geißler?

The G in German might have various sounds depending upon who is saying the name. It can have a familiar English /g/ sound or a harsher /k/ sound. I have seen documents from my immigrant ancestor with a 'G' as the initial letter and a 'K'.

Next is the vowel combination of 'ei'  The German pronunciation is long i.  The English pronunciation tends to be long e.  Geesler?  German ie is long e.  English ie is long i. Most Geiszlers that I have met say the "I" sound... almost like the first syllable is "guy" rather than "Gee"

According to Paul Joyce German Course at the University of Portsmouth,  "A double 's' (written 'ss' or 'ß') is always pronounced as an unvoiced English 's' in words such as 'seal' or 'self'. This sound is written 'ss' when the preceding vowel in a word is short. It is written 'ß': after a long vowel e.g. 'Fuß', 'Maß', 'Spaß'"

It's important to note that the ß is called Eszett. So, when Germans were describing how to spell their names in English, the middle letters have often become 'ss' or 'sz'. The Geiszlers on the lineage above have had various spellings until it finally locked into Geiszler by Henry's death in 1931.

For the most part, the Geiszlers in Ohio pronounce the name: "Guys - lure."

Spelling Variations

Wouldn't it be easy if the Geißler had only two variations? Well, that's not the case.

The last name can be spelled as: Geiszler, Geissler, Keisler, Keiszler, Guysler, Gysler, Gesley, Geiss, Geisler, GEisen, Geisnger. (I'll add to this list as I discover more variations.)

Geiszlers in America

My mother discovered a book many years ago called, "Geiszlers of America." It has long since been discarded as there was a whole lot of 'how to do your research' and very little about 'Geiszler family history' in this book.  What I did discover was a large number of Geiszlers (with the z, that my family thinks is oh so important) in North Dakota and Oregon but only the men on the lineage chart above in Ohio. My mother attempted to contact some of the names in that book at was disappointed by the lack of response.

The Rumor

Several Geiszler 'cousins' have shared emails with me over the year and suggested that the Geißlers were in the Prussian aristocratic class. When things deteriorated for the gentry, the Geißlers fled.

No there may or may not be truth to this idea. What I do know is that there was no 'real Germany' as a unified country in the 1830s-1850s when my immigrant was born and then sailed to America. In the early 1800s, many Germanic people hoped to create a unified country with democratic rather that royal government. In 1848, uprisings began throughout the German-states to overthrown the princes. The princes won and for a time worked with the rebels towards reformation, but soon many rebels were being arrested and persecuted. Disappointed relatives then began leaving their homeland.

The link to aristocracy doesn't seem likely as it was primarily rebels or rebel sympathizers that were a large part of the mass emigration in the 1840s and 1850s. For my particular ancestor, I'm inclined to believe he was a part of or related to a rebel and needed to find a new home quickly to save his skin.

This overview of the Geißlers does have scant resources but it is this compilation is the most consistent across the family legends and secondary resources available on the internet. If I were to publish this information in a lengthy family history, I'll look for more reliable documentation.

Further Reading:
Discovering Signatures for Joseph Geißler

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