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About the Zahniser Foundation

Formally organized at the annual Reunion of the family in Grove City, PA, August 24, 1948, and later incorporated under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania, The ZAHNISER FOUNDATION is a product of family fellowship, active since the arrival of the family in America in 1753. It is an organization dedicated to the conservation of family fellowships and traditions. Today, the Zahniser Foundation carries on that mission by preserving our family history and traditions, while seeking new ways to connect a family that is now too numerous to count and spans the globe.


The Zahniser Foundation is an organization dedicated to promoting family fellowship, preserving family history, and perpetuating our family’s story and traditions. While these goals had always been central themes of the Family Reunion, held annually since 1875, the Foundation was officially created in 1949 through incorporation as a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation with the following stated purposes:

  • To maintain and encourage mutual acquaintance and fellowship in the Zahniser family

  • To serve and promote adherence to the traditions and cultural patterns historically characteristic of the family in America

  • To hold, care for and maintain burial grounds containing the remains of ancestors of the family

  • To collect, preserve and care for relics and other properties of historical interest to the family

  • To secure, hold and administer funds for the furtherance of the above-named purposes, and

  • To reserve, hold and administer funds for such educational, benevolent and historical purposes as may be specified by the donors thereof, but does not contemplate pecuniary gain or profit, incidental or otherwise to its members.

These same incorporation documents state “membership shall consist of and be limited to lineal descendants (and their spouses) of one Matthias Zahniser, who landed in America in 1753, and later settled in the area of Pennsylvania in what is now known as Mercer County, where he died in 1833.”

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Historical Zahniser Cemetery

The Zahniser Cemetery is an historic burial site located in Jackson Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The original cemetery was created by Valentine Zahnizer by deed dated February 13, 1826, and recorded in the Recorder’s Office of Mercer County. When created, it was sixteen perches by ten perches (approximately one acre) in size in what was then Coolspring Township, now Jackson Township, to be held in Trust by Michael Zahnizer and Alexander Turner. This cemetery was abandoned in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and was in very poor condition, and nearly full, when the Foundation was formed in 1949. Since that time, the Foundation has cared for and maintained the cemetery as an historic site.

When the Foundation took over care of the cemetery, it was in such poor condition that it was impossible to verify, without possible disturbance of a burial site, where all prior interments took place within the boundaries of the plot. In 1998, the Foundation took formal ownership of the cemetery through a court agreement with then land-owner Dennis Jenkins. The cemetery was reduced in size to 0.47 acres and a permanent right-of-way was given to access the cemetery from Township Road T-784 (Hosack Road).

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Click here for more  information about this historical site.

Zahniser Family Reunion

For more than a century, the Zahniser Reunion has been a recognized institution in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The first “Family Picnic” was held June 26, 1875, in the orchard across the road from the house of the original family settlement in Lake Township, PA. Approximately three hundred people were present for this now historic event. This was the beginning of the Zahniser Reunion, which has been held annually ever since. An in-depth recounting of the early history of the Zahniser Reunion, originally presented at the reunion on August 25, 1938 by Charles R. Zahniser, can be read here.

Additional news articles about the reunion can be found here [link to repository of newspaper clippings].

The Zahniser Family Reunion has been held every year consecutively since this first family picnic. The location has shifted and the popularity has varied over time as circumstances have changed. Consider joining us for the next reunion, held every year on the first Saturday of August. Details of the next event can be found here.

Ancestry Information

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Board of Directors

  • John Zahniser, President, New Wilmington, PA

  • Adam Zahniser, Vice-President, Treasurer, Financial Committee Chair, Jackson Center, PA

  • Sally Kaiser, Secretary, Communications Committee Chair, Hermitage, PA

  • David Zahniser, Cemetery Committee Chair, Sharpsville, PA

  • Betty Shafer, member, Family History Committee Chair, Brookfield, OH

  • Rick Shelby, member, Website Committee Chair, McLean, VA

  • Bruce Slater, member, Pittsburgh, PA

  • Christina Barker, member, Greenville, PA

  • Casey Jones, member, Jackson Center, PA

  • Melissa Tate, Reunion Committee Chair, Greenville, PA

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