Much of the early history of the Landis family centers on Rev. Hans Landis, the Anabaptist preacher from Hirzel, Switzerland who was executed in 1614. Documents from this era are understandably difficult to verify, so future researchers must be cautious. Four sources appearing in the footnotes have provided a little more detail:
1372 - A Hansen Landös of Uerikon is recorded. The name Landis comes from "land" and "oesen" which means "land destroyer". The original spelling was Landoes (Landös).(4)
1412 - Heine Landös, "the fisherman from Uerikon," became a citizen of Zurich.(1)
1415 - Rudi Landos is recorded.(4)
1424 - Heini Landös also became a citizen of Zurich.(1)
1488 - Another Heini Landös became a citizen of Zurich.(1)
1488 - The oldest known Landis homestead is located in Hirzel was built in 1488 and is still kept by a Landis descendant, Alvin [Alwin] Landis, in the area now known as Oberhirzel, near Wädenswil, Canton Zurich, Switzerland. Address: Dorfstrasse 53, 8816 Hirzel, Canton Zurich, Switzerland. Others living at that address include: Dieter, Hedy, Peter, and Werner Landis.(4)
1525 - Hans Landös is in Zurich. His home was said to be the scene of one of Zurich's first adult baptisms.(1)
1538 - A Landis is one of the names joining when Menno Simon founded the Mennonite Church in 1538.(4)
1547 - Johannes Landis married Catherine Schintz.(2) It seems likely that Johannes was the son of the Hans Landös who was in Zurich in 1525.
1553 - Johannes' and Catherine's son Hans Landis was born. He married Barbara (and later Margareta, her sister) Hochstrasser and became a preacher of the Anabaptists. He was executed in 1614.(2)(1)
Hans the Martyr had at least six children, Hans Jr. (1588), Felix, Rudolph, Oswald, Jacob and Verena.(1) (2)
Verena married Mr. Suhner. They had sons Hans Suhner (who went to Amsterdam about 1639) and Rudolph Suhner (who escaped prison in 1641 but was recaptured).(2)
1588 - Hans Landis Jr. was born. Hans Jr. married Elsbeth Erzinger, had children Heinrich and Margaretha.(2)
1614 - On 29 September, Rev. Hans Landis was executed in Zurich.(1)(4)
1614 - Caspar Landis was born. He is of the right age to have been a grandson of Hans the Martyr. He married Susannah Pfister and was living in Markirch, Germany in 1674.(2)
1633 - It was recorded that 46 Anabaptists still lived in Hirzel.(3)
1635 - Among those in prison at that time were Hans Landis (Jr.), Oswald Landis, and Felix Landis.(3)
1637 - Hans Landis (the second), a minister of the Church of Horgerburg, and his daughter Margaret Landis were placed in Othenbach prison (about 6 miles southwest of Zurich on the Reuss River) for 60 weeks and all of their property was sold.(4)
1639 - In November and December 1639 an order went out from the Anabaptist Commission (Zurich?) to arrest all Anabaptists, confiscate all goods, and to declare all marriages annulled and all children illegitimate.(3)
1640 - Oswald Landis, his wife, and two daughters-in-law and his son Jacob Landis and his entire family were imprisoned in the Othenbach prison.(4)
1641 - Hans Landis the third was born. It is not known whose son he was, but he was undoubtedly a grandson or great-grandson of Hans the Martyr. He married Angelina Trimpler and lived at Markirch, Germany.(2)
1642 - Felix Landis of Horgerberg (a son of Hans Landis who was beheaded in 1614) was imprisoned in the Othenbach prison and almost starved to death before release.(4)
1643 - Verena Landis also suffered threats and imprisonment.(4)
1643 - Zurichian Anabaptists reported moving to Alsace.(1)
1646 - Anabaptists of Zurich scattering in several directions, including Alsace (Colmar, Markirch, and the Ill and Rhine Rivers) and the Palatinate (Pfalz, Kraichgau, Mannheim, Worms, and the Rhine and Neckar Rivers).(1)
1649 - Hans Jakob Landis, wife and three children are in Alsace near the Vosges Mountains.(1) He is of the right age to be Hans the Martyr's grandson.
1659 - Christian Landis was born. He was living in Markirch, Germany in 1675. He may have been a son of Caspar.(2)
1670 - Hans Heinrich Landis was born at Colmar, Germany. He is of the right age to have been the great-great-grandson of Hans the Martyr.(2)
1675 - Jacob Landis was living at Frostweiler, Germany.(2)
1683 - Hans Rudolph Landis was born. He married Elizabeth Hirt at Markirch, Germany, in 1709. Migrated to Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1724.(2)
1684 - There was a Landis living in Plumstead Township, Berks County.(2)
1712 - Johannes Landis is living in Pequea Valley, PA.(4)
1717 - Some authorities claim that three brothers bearing the names Felix, John and Benjamin arrived in Pennsylvania in the year 1717. That Felix and Benjamin settled in Lancaster County, and John in Bucks County.(2)(4)
1717 - Felix, Jacob, and Jacob Jr. Landis were living in what would become Lancaster County, PA.(1)
1729 On 14 February 1729 a Felix Landis, Jr. is naturalized and recognized as having arrived between 1700 and 1718.(4)
Since the John Landers who we assume to be our immigrant ancestor was born between 1694 and 1724, most likely about 1710, he could be the grandson of Hans (1641) or the son of Hans Heinrich (1670) or Hans Rudolph (1683), above. Hans Heinrich was born in Colmar and Hans Rudolph was married in Markirch, both in Alsace -- the region from which John Landers is said to have emigrated. We may never know.
(1) "The Earth Is the Lord's" by John Landis Ruth (Herald Press, 2001). Dr. Ruth has provided copious endnotes documenting his research. His endnotes might well serve as a bibliography for those who wish to study this history in more detail.
(2) "The Landiss Family", Rev William Landiss, 1930. Rev. Landiss combined research and oral family history. Some of his dates and relationships are contradicted by others, yet they paint a useful picture.
(3) "Zurich", and similar Web pages by R. R. Reese. Appears to be well documented.
(4) "History of the Landis Families", and collateral Web pages by Tom McFarland. He cites the sources from which his information was obtained. McFarland has also posted two versions of the Landis coat-of-arms, Form 1 and Form 2.
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