The following is a recollection of stories I have heard and musings I have had over the years:
For some time I remember that there were hints of the Corcilius ancestry being involved in pottery in
Germany. Talking with Gunther Corcilius, and later his son Ernst Corcilius, playful mentions were made that
the Corcilius ancestry were known to be alcoholics (or at least had a strong affinity to alcohol!).
One such story goes like this:
Corcilius was a Roman sentry who was always getting in trouble for his conduct (alcohol-related strongly hinted).
The Roman army typically handled their problem soldiers by sending them to remote outposts throughout their
empire. In this case, sentry Corcilius was assigned to an outpost in what is now Germany, near the area of what is now Cologne
(from Roman/latin for colony).
Having an affinity to alcohol, the sentry set up shop on the side making the equivalent of what we now know as beer steins.
As this sentry settled in and his family and descendents grew, the Corcilius name became to be known for its association
to blue-gray pottery (ref. the gray beer steins so common throughout Germany today).
During my research on the family ancestry, I came across a notice of an exhibit on pottery being held at the Westerwald Ceramic Museum.
Remember that Westerwald is where most of my ancestors in Germany were located. Well one of the names of the potters whose work was
being exhibited was Johannes Corcilius (of Grenzhausen), from the period I believe of the 1600s. I have also been told that steins
can be found today with the Corcilius name on them, although this I have not confirmed. I have seen the name Corzelius on pottery from
these regions however and some of this pottery is relatively recent.
In a letter to Mario Corcilius from Rudolf Corzilius (November 19, 1995), Rudolf talks about a story he used
to tell his daughter Andrea when she was little and would ask about their "strange sounding name":
"As the Romans drove into the Rheinland and colonised the towns of Koln and Koblenz, (there) came after them, a poor roving merchant,
who offerred for sale the unfamiliar southern goods. This black-haired and glowing-eyed southlander liked a lively and warm-hearted
Rheinlandress so dearly, that she enclosed him in her arms. So the merchant stayed on and the latin name arrived in Germany."
In my own research, I too have wondered where our strange sounding name came from, especially since the letter 'z' had
its origins with the Greeks and was not in common use by the early Romans (the 's' sound was preferred).
I had heard that the Kaiser (Wilhelm?) in the late 1800s, standardized the German language and at that time, the regions that treated the 'c' as a hard sound, the
'z' character became representative; but this I haven't been able to verify. There is also the theory that
Catholic members preferred one spelling while Protestants another, as well as a theory put forth that pins the distinction on those
speaking high and low german.
The strongest theory comes regarding immigrants to the US. Many of the immigrants either could not speak English or
they were illiterate and it is said that the immigration officials often wrote the name as it sounded to them. In this manner,
many names became 'Americanized'.
It was this last theory that seems to bear the strongest relation -- specifically
that there are ancestors in our family tree that started in Germany as CorCilius and immigrated to America where the name CorZilius
became their family name (e.g. Johann Wilhelm Corcilius, b1799).
However, since one does find the name CorZilius in both the Westerwald / Mosel region as well as in Holland today, then the name variants
must have been the result of at least 2 factors. It is interesting that
one also finds parallel segments of the family lineage between both the 'c' and 'z' variants.
One thing seems to be for sure -- it is a unique name, with origins in Roman times.