The history of the Landis Families is still being written in 2010, as internet searches allow access
to information which was previously obscure. The primary objective of this website is to describe only one
narrow branch of the Landis Family tree, namely the branch begun by John, of Bucks County,
as he is called, one of 3 early Landis immigrants to North America. However, where practical, our links
to other branches of the Landis Families will also be presented.
Below are two excerpts describing the history of the Landis Families. The first is more general,
and the second is quite specific to our group of families. As a brief overview, about 1717, three
people (Benjamin, Felix, and John Landis, who are usually described as brothers) emigrated to
Pennsylvania from their ancestral home near Zurich, Switzerland. All 3 were Mennonites, but Benjamin was
a preacher ; Benjamin and Felix went directly to Lancaster, whereas John first went
north to Bucks County. Most living American members of the Landis family are descended from Benjamin, and the
published genealogies of the Landis families are heavy with those descendents. However, our group of families
is descended from John, of Bucks County, who left fewer descendents.
Apparently, most (but by no means all) Americans who descend from the ancestral Swiss Landis clan are
descended from these 3 early immigrants.
Alternative histories exist.
Our relationship to Kenesaw Mountain Landis is more distant.
History of Switzerland (Swiss national website)
Samuel E. Wenger has written (2005) a history of the Landis family which links immigrants
Benjamin, Felix, and John Landis to Hans Landis.
Landis genealogy by Larry M. Landis (incorporating data from Samuel Wenger)
First excerpt by John Landis Peeling, alternate website
Second excerpt from The Landis Family of Lancaster County, 1888, by David B. Landis
The Landis families have their origin in Menzinger, Aeugst am Albis, Hirzel, Horgen, Kappel am
Albis, Kilchberg, Richterswil, Schönenberg, Urdorf, & Wädenswil, all of Canton Zurich,
Switzerland, and all sitting on the western shore of Lake Zurich, in about 1392. There are still
Landises living there. Swiss records state that this family name identifies an old family of the
parish Hirzel in 1485. 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
The name Landis comes from "land" and "oesen" which means "land destroyer". The original
spelling was Landoes (Landös).
Various historical sources record early Landises.
A Hansen Landos of Uerikon is recorded in 1372
A Rudi Landos is recorded in 1415
The first appearance in the Horgen records of a Landis is 1485.
From the Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of
South-eastern Pennsylvania: A Landis is one of the names joining when Menno Simon founded the
Mennonite Church in 1538. Hans Landis, who in 1614, against the prohibition of the government
preached before large meetings in forest and field, baptized and solemnized marriages. He was,
for that reason, taken prisoner and as he would not promise to cease such activities in the
future, condemned to six years’ punishment on the galleys of Venice, but escaped. He returned to
Switzerland and was soon recaptured and beheaded on Sept 29, 1614. It was reported that he was a
tall, stately person with a long black and gray beard and a manful voice. In 1637 a 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.
In 1640 an Oswald Landis, his wife, and two daughters-in-law and his son Jacob Landis and his
entire family were imprisoned in the Othenbach prison. One or two years later Felix Landis of
Horgerberg (a son of Hans Landis who was beheaded in 1614) was similarly imprisoned and almost
starved to death before release. In 1643 Verena Landis also suffered threats and imprisonment.
Two Landises are listed as preachers to those who were Mennonite land buyers in the Skippack
settlement in Pennsylvania in 1706. A Jacob Landis of Switzerland is one of the signers of a
letter written on March 3, 1709 to the Anabaptist congregation in the Netherlands (Holland).
The signers list themselves as ministers and elders of the Mennonite congregations of Switzerland.
A Landis who is identified as being from Zurich is banished from Bern in 1710. With others from
Zurich and Bern, they were transported down the Rhine in 1710 and are believed to have eventually
moved to Obfeldon and Lancaster Co. Pennsylvania. Because Prussia had become depopulated by
pestilence and war, King Frederick of Prussia in 1710, asked Bern, who wanted the Mennonites out
of Switzerland, to send a colony of the persecuted Mennonites there. They would have religious
freedom and be exempt from war. Bern expressed the hope that the Mennonites would find it (land
near the border of Lithuania) comfortable so that none of them would attempt to come back. The
project failed. They found that their principle of non-resistence was not respected and while not
compelled to bear arms, they were compelled to pay large sums of money as the price of exemption,
and too, the hope of going to Pennsylvania was a great a temptation.
In 1712 a Johannes Landis is living in Pequea Valley, PA.
On 2/14/1729 a Felix Landis, Jr. is naturalized and recognized as having arrived between 1700
The following is excerpted from the small book :
The Landis Family of Lancaster County, 1888, by David B. Landis
Contains mostly family trees starting with emigrant Benjamin, but a small
portion is devoted to John and Felix. Available at Wis. Hist. Soc. in Madison.
On page 11, David B. Landis relates that little is known about
individual members of the Landis families between 1643 and 1717, but that the
connection to the clan of Hans Landis is likely
[Pg. 12] In 1717, three brothers, Rev. Benjamin, Felix, and John, all Swiss
Mennonites, came to America from the vicinity of Manheim on the Rhine, where they
had been driven from Zurich, Switzerland, and purchased land from Penn and the
In footnotes, the author states that these 3 brothers were
"descendents of those who were persecuted in the 17th century. In Taylor's
surveys of the old patent tracts, Jacob Landis is said to have taken out the
patent for a tract; and in 1718 the first assessment in Conestogoe (now Lancaster
County) included the names of Jacob Landis and Jacob Landis Jr. From the various
records extant it seems as if the name of Jacob on the old surveys was a mistake,
and that it was intended for Benjamin, who had also a son Benjamin Jr."
Like most of the pioneer settlers in the American wilds, these good people were
comparatively poor in worldly possessions, and had their hands so full of work
that they failed, it seems, to keep their family records. They became, however,
instinctively American in their progress, and proceeded at once to skillfully
till the soil which has since made the county known the world over as a "garden
spot". Here also, these pioneer members of the family worshipped God according
to their desire, and in perfect peace.
Benjamin's lineal descendents being numerous and mostly located in the present
confines of Lancaster County, his vast family obtains precedence throughout this
volume ; while the descendents of his two brothers, Felix and John (and
others who emigrated afterward) are also given wherever they are connected with
the history of the county.
[a good drawing of a John H. Landis. was included (right),
but his clothing is dated early 1880's, and thus this man would not be
descended from John of Bucks County, but rather from Rev. Benjamin.]
[Pg 48] John Landis, a
grandson of John, of Bucks County, was born 16 August
1776, and emigrated to Lancaster in 1797. He was married to a daughter of Michael
Kline (as spelled here), grandfather of G.M. Kline,
esq., of that city. In 1805 he removed to Middletown, and a year or two later he
returned to Lancaster. He kept a store on King Street fourteen years; afterward
on North Queen until 1829, when he removed to Warwick township. He returned again
to the city about 1840, and was elected alderman of the old North-east ward,
serving from 26 February 1842. He was made a mason in Lodge No. 43, on 13 May
1818; was elected senior warden in 1824, and Worshipful Master in December 1828,
serving as such one year. He was also a member of Chapter No. 43, Royal Arch
Masons. Died 28 April 1850.
[additional information is given here for John's children,
Jesse, Mary, Beulah, and Charles]
John Landis's home,
John H. Landis