Genealogists have always concluded that the last name Zumbrun or Zumbrum is a shortening of the Swiss name Zumbrunnen. (As a general rule of thumb, Germanic surnames beginning with Ze, Zem, Zum, Zur are characteristically from Central Switzerland, though there are of course exceptions).
Heinrich, the first Zumbrun in America, was married in a Rhine Valley town called Schwegenheim and although many genealogies say Heinrich was born in Switzerland, he was originally from near the town of Crailsheim, in Baden-Wurttemberg.
The Zumbrunnen family in Crailsheim was very small, however, and likely originated in Switzerland.
This is a quick overview of several branches of the Zumbrunnen family in Switzerland from which Heinrich could have descended, as well as a few minor ones that don’t seem to be likely candidates for our direct ancestry.
The Zumbrunnen of Uri
The Zumbrunnen of Uri are the main branch (I guess you’d say the trunk) of the entire Zumbrunnen family tree. The Zumbrunnen name was first adopted there in the 1200s, and for many generations they were a wealthy and prominent family in the Canton of Uri, particularly the towns of Altdorf and Attinghausen.
These Zumbrunnens are a fascinating group of individuals. They were long-time benefactors of the church. They were active in the civic life of Switzerland, holding many government offices for which records have been kept, and participated in the creation of the Old Swiss Confederacy (the early alliance of Swiss Cantons that directly developed into the modern nation of Switzerland). They were also active in the Swiss military, and fought in some of the key battles that helped establish the borders of Switzerland.
Records exist for this family for nearly 500 years, across 16 generations. The family became less prominent in the late-1600s, and they became “extinct” in Uri in 1743.
The Zumbrunnen of the Bernese Highlands
Beginning perhaps around the late 1500s, a growing family of Zumbrunnen lived in the Bernese Highlands, a remote high-altitude alpine region of Switzerland. These regions may look close on a map, but the Alps were very difficult to traverse and there are no direct routes between here and Uri. This family started out small in the 1500s and 1600s but eventually grew to be the biggest branch of the family. They were especially concentrated in the towns of Zweisimmen, Lenk im Simmental and Aeschi bei Speiz. The Zumbrunnen who live in Switzerland today all trace their ancestry to this line of the family (as far as I’ve been able to determine.)
The Bernese Zumbrunnen believe they are a branch of the Zumbrunnen of Uri. The documentation of this family is quite good, and because there are many living descendants a lot of genealogy work has been done on this family. Beginning in the 1850s, some members of this family also sailed to America, nearly a century after Heinrich arrived.
There’s no evidence that Heinrich descends from this branch of the family, but it’s nevertheless likely that we share a common ancestors in the 1500s or 1400s (a hypothesis that could potentially be proved with genetic testing.)
A small family of Zumbrunnen shows up in the region of Basel beginning in the mid-1600s. In specific, they lived in a town called Sissach. The family is small, and because they show up so late, they’re likely a branch of the Uri or Bernese Zumbrunnen. They are worth looking at for two reasons:
First, they lived only about 5 or 10 miles from the Rhine River, and our ancestor Heinrich Zumbrun ultimately lived along the Rhine River network. It’s possible, for example, that Heinrich’s father/grandfather could have left Uri, settled in Sissach for some time, before continuing up the Rhine River.
Second, the Zumbrunnen family of Sissach contains proven records of the name being shortened from Zumbrunnen. In church records in the late 1600s, this branch of the family begins to shorten their name from Zumbrunnen/Zumbrunnin to simply Zumbrunn.
Some “minor” branches
This includes the small branches that are mentioned in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
A small branch of the Zumbrunnen family lived in Lucerne from the 1300s to 1500s or so. They were likely just an outpost of the main branch of the family, as Lucerne and Uri were both on the shores of Lake Lucerne, and the two towns were closely linked culturally and politically. I know of two connections with the Zumbrunnen of Uri. Conrad Zumbrunnen was from the Zumbrunnen of Uri but became an Abbot of a monastery near Lucerne. In the 1400s, Walter Zumbrunnen married Idda von Bramberg, who was from a family of Lucerne.
A small family of Zumbrunnen lived in Fribourg, Switzerland in the 1500s. The Zumbrunnen of Uri sent their children to a Jesuit college in Fribourg, so it’s possible these two branches of the family are somehow connected through the school.
By the late 1600s or early 1700s there were Zumbrunnen living in Geneva. Although this is chronologically early enough that they could have been our ancestors, these appear to be primarily French-speaking Zumbrunnen. For example, there is a Jean Henri Zumbrunnen here, but not any Johann Heinrichs! Although the Swiss were always multilingual (and so these Zumbrunnen in Geneva likely knew German too), the French-speaking regions of Switzerland aren’t thought to have pumped immigrants up the Rhine River and across to Pennsylvania in the 1700s.
1) I’ve never seen an original source of the claim, aside from the oral tradition. The oral tradition is likely garbled because the name is Swiss, and his father or grandfather were likely born in Switzerland, though Heinrich himself appears to have been born in (modern-day) German territory.
[…] Zumbrunnen family of Switzerland, I quickly discovered the name was particularly common among the Zumbrunnen who lived in the Canton of Uri. Heinrich Zumbrunnen was the bailiff of Livinen from 1469 to 1472. Another Heinrich Zumbrunnen was […]
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[…] people whose names are in all caps have Zumbrunnen as their surname. The article discusses three branches of the Zumbrunnen family, but it’s the third branch in Uri that is the interesting […]
[…] is one that begins in 1649. This church book was therefore started after the Zumbrunnen family had branched off to the Bernese Highlands region of Switzerland, and may also have been published after a branch of the Zumbrunnen family […]