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   Before her death, Helen Schleis Sigmund said her mother (Maria Willig Schleis) believed the Willigs hailed from Switzerland. A look at Swiss records revealed there are, indeed, many Willigs living in that country today. But we have been unable to trace our Willig connection further back than Sotin (present-day Croatia) in the late 1700s. If you don't know the history of Germans who emigrated to this area of Eastern Europe, read the unique story of the Donauschwaben.

     We can trace our Willig line back to Anton Willig and Eva Stenzel, who were probably born in the 1760s. It is not known where the couple originated from, but by 1790, they were living and raising a family in the Hungarian town of Sotin  (present-day Croatia.) Only two of their children are known to have survived: sons Paul and Franciscus.
     The line that leads to Willig families currently living in Northeast Ohio came from Paul Willig, who was born in 1794. Paul married Antonia Zimmermann in Sotin in 1811 and the couple had at least five children.
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2003 photo by Danil Vdovic
     It must have been a hard life. Of 46 people born in Sotin into the Willig line between 1790 and 1895, 27 died as children. The 19 who survived are included in the tree below.
***
    Among Paul and Antonia's children was Andreas Willig (who appears in some records as Sebastian.) Twice a widower, Andreas married three times had children by all three women. His last wife, Judeta Abt, raised their children in a home that was once an old mill. Their eldest son, Paul Willig, and his wife Elizabeth, later raised their children here.
***
[THE WILLIG HOUSE: By the 1900s, the home had fallen into the care of other German families. But on Sept. 8, 1945, the home was confiscated and all German families were evicted from the country. Serbian families continued to live in the home until 1991, when it was destroyed during the country's civil war. The shell of it remained in 2003, when this photo was taken. This history and photo are courtesy of geneologist Kurt McCrary and Danil Vdovic, the home's most recent owner. For more information, visit McCrary's Sotin web site.]
***
    Andreas and Judeta's fifth child was Anton Willig, born December 28, 1863. He married Elizabeth ''Clara'' Kovach, but their marriage date is unknown. Clara was born August 4, 1867 to Stephan Kovach and Magdalena Fisher. Anton and Clara had two surviving children, Maria and Stephan.
     On February 13, 1902, Anton arrived in New York on the SS Rotterdam. On the ship's manifest, he noted that he was 38, married, a laborer, in possession of $8, and on his way to Sharon, Pa. Clara followed the next year, arriving in New York on May 12, 1903 aboard the Zeeland. She gave her age as 34, and noted she had been living in Vukovar. The couple's children apparently remained in Yugoslavia for several more years.

COMING TO AMERICA
 
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Ship's manifest entry for Anton Willig
Click ships to enlarge
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SS ROTTERDAM
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Ship's manifest entry for Clara Willig
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SS ZEELAND
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Ship's manifest entry for Maria and Stefan Willig
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SS ARGENTINA

     Nothing more is known of Anton or Clara's activities until 1909, when young Maria and Stephan arrived in the USA to join their parents. They disembarked the SS Argentina in New York on March 26.
     It is clear from the manifest that by this time, Anton and Clara had settled in Aultman, a tiny train-station community in Stark County, Ohio. Aultman is all but extinct today, but Anton and Clara's descendants continue to live in the immediate region.
     Clara died January 5, 1927 of a post-operative bilateral hernia. She was 59. Anton lived until September 29, 1938, dying of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 74.

Click here to see
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Anton's death certificate.
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Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, Akron OH
Click here to see
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Clara's death certificate.

ANTON AND CLARA WILLIG'S CHILDREN
 

  • Maria Willig married Martin Schleis on Valentine's Day (February 14) 1914 in Akron, Ohio. The couple had 10 children, mostly raising them in Aultman, a small village in  northern Stark County. Maria died in her sleep on November 21, 1970. She was 77. Martin died in a nursing home on January 19, 1976 at the age of 79.

[ SEE THE DOCUMENTS, PHOTOS AND STORIES OF THEIR LIVES HERE. ] 

MARTIN & MARIA
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Click to enlarge

STEPHAN & KATHERINE
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Click to enlarge
  • Stephan Willig, married Katherine Knoch. Katherine was born October 15, 1894. The couple raised seven children in Akron, Ohio. Stephan died August 9, 1972; his wife passed away April 9, 1977.

 

   
MEMORIES
   
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Stephan Willig and wife Katherine
A 1938 Sotin wedding
Martin, Maria, Stephan, Katherine, 1960s
Stephan's seven grown children
Eight of Maria's 9 grown children, 1950s

 
THE WILLIG FAMILY TREE
 
 
(Children who died as infants are not included in this tree.)
 
Anton Willig & Eva Stenzel
     (Both born around 1760s)
          .
          .
          . Paul Willig (and Antonia Zimmermann)
          .    b. 6/28/1794   .
          .   m. 2/14/1811  .
          .   d. 9/25/1848   .
          .                     .Barbara Willig
          .                     .b. 12/4/1811
          .                     .
          .                     .Andreas Sebastian Willig (and (1) Magdalena Techtig)
          .                     . b. 11/18/1817 -  d. 12/31/1870 - m. 2/4/1836   (MT died 11/26/1842)
          .                     .                                  
          .                     .                                   .      (and (2) Juliana Engelman)
          .                     .                                   .         m. 2/21/1843 (JE died 3/7/1856)
          .                     .Gertrude Willig             .
          .                     . b. 3/2/1820                        .                 
          .                     .                                   .  Thomas Willig (b. 1/13/1845)
          .                     .
          .                     .                                          (and (3) Judeta Abt)
          .                     .                                   .         m. 5/6/1856
          .                     .                                   .
          .                     .                                   .  Paul Willig (and Elisabeth Wolf)
          .                     .                                   .    b. 4/5/1857  m. 11/22/1880
          .                     .                                   .                      .
          .                     .                                   .                      . Mathias Willig (b. 1881)
          .                     .                                   .                      . Maria Willig (b. 1884)
          .                     .Magdelina Willig        .  Joseph Willig (and Katharina Flesch)
                                 (and Philip Stampfer)           .    b.3/19/1861  m. 10/24/1882
          .                      b. 7/14/1828                    .                      .
          .                     m. 11/9/1847                  .                       . Eva Willig (b. 1884)
          .                                       .                 .
          .                                 Catharina         .
          .                                 Stampfer         .  Anton Willig (and Elizabetha Clara Kovach)
                                            (and                 b. 12/28/1863   .
                                            Johann              d. 9/29/1938      .
          .                                 Nusbruker)        .  m. 2/3/1885      .
          .                                                         .                      . Maria Willig (and Martin Schleis)
          .                                                         .                      . b. 1893   d. 1970  m.
          .                                                         .                      .                   .
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Kathryn Julia Schleis (1914-1966)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Magdalene Helen Schleis (1915-1995)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Jakob Schleis (1917-1917)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Anthony Herman Schleis (1918-1996)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Martin Joseph Schleis (1921-1997)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Clara Josephine Schleis (1923-)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Stephen Lawrence Schleis (1925-)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Lawrence Michael Schleis (1928-2001)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Maryanne Schleis (1931-)
          .                                                         .                      .                   .   Frank John Schleis (1933-)
          .                                                         .                      .
          .                                                         .                      . Stephan Willig (and Katherine Knoch)
          .                                                         .                        b. 1896   d. 1972  m.
          .                                                         .                                          .
          .                                                         .                                          .  Katheryn Willig (1915-1998)
          .                                                         .                                          .  Madlyn Barbara Willig (1917-)
          .                                                         .                                          .  Elizabeth Clara Willig
          .                                                         .                                          .  Ruth Katharine Willig (1921-)
          .                                                         .                                          .  Stephen Elias Conrad Willig
          .                                                         .                                          .  Earl John Willig (1927-2001)
          .                                                         .                                          .  Donna Mae Lyda Willig (1929-)
          .                                                         .
          .                                                         .
          .                                                         .  Josepha Willig (and Franz Michelra)
             .                                                         . b. 5/18/1865   m. 12/25/1885
          .                                                        
             .                   
          . Franciscus Willig (and Regina Joslich)
                  b. 9/5/1790  d. 6/13/1831  m. 11/18/1807
                                .
                                .
                                .
                                .Jacob Willig (and Susana Kistler)
                                . b. 7/18/1813   .
                                . m. 2/8/1832    .
                                . d. 2/12/1843   .
                                .                   .  Catherina Willig (b. 11/20/18350)
                                .                   .
                                .                   .  Mathias Willig (and Agnes Nusbaum)
                                .                   .  b. 9/12/1842  d. 12/13/1862  m. 11/4/1861
                                . 
                                .
                                .Johann Willig
                                . b. 6/24/1824