Translating the Zumbrunnen Entry in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland

The Historical Dictionary of Switzerland is an incredibly detailed reference work on the history of Switzerland, compiled over the last century by hundreds of Swiss historians. There’s an online version of it, that has a brief entry on the Zumbrunnen family of Uri, Switzerland. But there’s also a physical version, which I believe to be long out of print, that has a very detailed entry on the Zumbrunnens.

The original has some bibliographical references that I’ve excluded here, but otherwise this is a sentence-for-sentence translation. (My own commentary, which is provided for context, is in parentheses and highlights like this) The translation is my own. I’m not even close to fluent in German, so there are almost certainly some errors. In doing this research, I’ve become familiar with many of the terms though, and believe this is a mostly good translation.

The 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 one.

Zumbrunnen. Families that lived in the cantons Fribourg, Lucerne and

Canton of Friborg. A Zumbrunnen family that once lived in La Roche, Switzerland. Their coat of arms was a House Mark. (i.e., the distinctive signs used to mark residences.)

  1. In 1518, EMMAN became a landholder in Fribourg.
  2. HANS, son of Emman. Bailiff (Bailiff is a rough translation; the Swiss title is “Landvogt“.) of Vaulruz 1551-1556, of Illens 1561-1566. Died in 1567.

Canton of Lucerne. The Zumbrunnen family held offices in Lucerne and Rothenburg, from the 14th to the 16th century. ANTON was the founder of the chapel at Gerliswil in 1472.

Canton of Uri. An old, respected magisterial family. According to older historians, the Zumbrunnen are descended from the barons of Attinghausen. The family is found in the towns of Attinghausen, Seedorf, Isenthal and Unterschächen, and is mentioned in the records of the Fraumünster of Zürich. (This was the major church that administered land under the Holy Roman Empire’s feudal system in central Switzerland ). Those records include WERNER and ARNOLD in 1257, WALTER in 1290, among others.

Members of the family are also registered as donors to the church in Seedorf and the church in Attinghausen.

The Coat of Arms for this family was:

  1. In gold, two red press coilers (the handles on a machine press) crossed with each other
  2. Variations of a silver fountain on a red background

Some other early Zumbrunnen include KONRAD and BURKHARD, in the Order of St. Lazarus, who were spoken of by the commander of Seedorf in 1296.

KONRAD was the Abbot of St. Urban from 1349-1356.

HEINRICH died in 1339 in the Battle of Laupen.

Prominent Zumbrunnen of Uri:

  1. WALTER, married to Hemma Fürst of Schattdorf, is the father of this family, which became extinct in Uri in the 18th century.
  2. WALTER, son of No. 1., was a representative to the Swiss Diet and councilman from 1431-1439. He was chief magistrate (in Switzerland, this title was called “Landamman” and means the person was the head of state for all of Uri) from 1434-1438.
  3. JOHANN senior, son of No. 2., member of the governing council of Uri, a representative to the Swiss diet and councilman from 1474-1494. Bailiff (this title was called “Landvogt”) of Livinen from 1475-1478, chief magistrate in 1481 and 1482, represented Uri on December 22, 1481 at the memorable Diet of Stans. (a famous summit at which an agreement was reached to avert a civil war among the different Swiss Cantons). His residence was the family home in Attinghausen. A chronicle of 1469 is wrongly attributed to this Johann.
  4. JOHANN junior, son of No. 2, member of the council, bailiff of Sargans in 1466, died in office in 1467.
  5. HEINRICH, member of the council, bailiff of Livinen from 1469-1472.
  6. JOHANN, son of no. 5, bailiff to Baden in 1477, representative to the Swiss diet in 1475 and 1481. Chief magistrate in 1515. Died as leader of the Uri in the Battle of Marignano in 1515.
  7. ULRICH, son of no. 4, bailiff to Sargans from 1494-1496.
  8. MANSUET, son of no. 6, member of the council, treasurer in 1530, representative to the Swiss diet from 1530-1548, bailiff in Thurgau from 1536-1538, guard of the Feldbach monastery in 1538-1540, chief magistrate from 1548-1549, died in office.
  9. JOSUE, son of No. 8, built the house which is still standing at the estate of Allenwinden, in Altdorf, Switzerland. In 1583, he donated 1,000 Florins (the gold in these coins by itself would be worth nearly $150,000 today) to establish a hospital named “Muosspende” and built a chapel there. He was the chief clerk (this title was called “landschreiber”) in Lugano from 1554-1567, church bailiff of Altdorf from 1566-1568. Died in 1588.
  10. HUGO DAVID, son of No. 8, chief clerk, died in 1564.
  11. MANSUET, son of No. 8, chief clerk of the twelve places of Lugano (not totally sure what this means), died in February 1576.
  12. JOHANN, son of No. 8, chief clerk of Lugano in 1550, treasurer in 1558, bailiff in Thurgau from 1564-1566. Became a Knight of the Order of St. Michael in 1567. Steward in 1570, and chief magistrate from 1579-1581, representative to the Swiss diet from 1558-1587, envoy to King Henry III of France in 1582, and to the Religious Council of Milan with King Phillip II in 1588. During the Council of Trent, from May 1562 to June 1563, he represented seven Catholic bishoprics in Rome with Pope Pius IV. He was probably the noblest and most distinguished man of the time in Uri, an intimate friend of Charles Borromeo, and with the Knight Melchior Lussi a chief promoter of the Catholic interests in central Switzerland. Disgusted by the duplicity of politics, he withdrew from public life and devoted his activity to the church. In 1580 he donated 2,000 florins (nearly $300,000 in modern terms) and his Family Crest to the Einsiedeln monastery. With his brother Josue, he was the donor of a bell for the St. Martin Church in Altdorf. Died in 1588.
  13. WALTER, son of No. 8. For 22 years until 1591 he was a guard captain for the Pope in Bologna.
  14. HEINRICH, son of no. 9, member of the council, councilman in 1613, church bailiff in Altdorf from 1592-1594, died in 1619 at the Siege of Orleans. (There’s a famous Siege of Orleans but it happened in 1428, so this obviously refers to some other battle.)
  15. JOSUE, son of no. 9., member of the council, hospital bailiff from 1586-1588, captain in 1604. Died in 1608.
  16. JOHANN, son of No. 11, the head of the council in Altdorf, bailiff to Bollenze from 1626-1628. Died in 1629.
  17. JOHANN HEINRICH, son of No. 14, a doctor of medicine, member of the council. Became a Knight of the Order of St. Michael in 1618. Colonel in the French Service, owner of his own regiment from 1621-1637, secretary in 1611, steward from 1617-1621, chief magistrate from 1621-1623, and again in 1637-1639, captain in 1638. Died April 18, 1648. Representative to the Swiss diet from 1612 to 1648, who attended 240 meetings. He was an agent of congress in 1622 with the Austrians during the disputes over the Grisons. He created a family endowment of the Zumbrunnens in 1644.
  18. Father FRIDOLIN, Order of Saint Benedict,  son of no. 14. Born April 7, 1602 and died on July 1, 1678. He was a priest in Rheinau, Switzerland, and a professor of Theology. Prior to 1646 he wrote several books titled “Catalogus abbatum Rhenoviensium”, “Miscellanea Monsterii Rhenoviensis”, “Tractatus de statu religiosorum”, “Diarium ab Anno 1654 usque ad 1677.” (These titles are in Latin and I believe translate to something like “Catalog of the Abbots of Rhine Valley”; “Miscellaneous Monasteries in the Rhine Valley”, “Treatise on the State of Religion” and “Diary from 1654 to 1677.”)
  19. JOSUE, son of no. 14. Born about 1585, member of the council, captain, deputy of the Catholic regions in October 1616, representative to the Swiss diet 1616-1635, hospital bailiff in Altdorf 1616-1618, head of the town council in 1616, obtained land rights in Obwalden in 1627. (I am not 100% confident of my translation here and believe it’s also possible that rather than obtaining land rights, the expression in German could mean that he was admitted to practice law.) Died October 26, 1643.
  20. JOHANN, son of No. 14. Born about 1585. Captain in the French service, died in 1648 in Flanders, Belgium.
  21. BURKHARD, son of no. 15, born about 1602, chief clerk from 1630-1669, representative to the Swiss diet from 1650-1669, captain and church bailiff in Altdorf 1640-1643, bailiff to Sargans 1663-1665, envoy to the syndicate in 1638 (I don’t know what “the syndicate” would refer to.)and Bellenz in 1650. Died February 15, 1672. A portrait of Burkhard is in possession of the Aschwanden-Jauch family in Zug. (We must find this!!)
  22. ANTON, son of no. 17, captain of the guard in France from 1639 to his death on January 23, 1645.
  23. JOSUE, son of no. 21, chief clerk and bailiff to Sargans from 1663-1666, member of the council, representative to the Swiss diet from 1675-1681. Died December 21, 1684.
  24. Father BERNHARD,  born May 25, 1617 died April 23, 1657. Priest to Muri (a monastery in northern Switzerland), professor at the monastery school, wrote a book titled “Historia Universalis.”
  25. MARIA CECILIA, a nun at the convent of St. Peter in Schwyz, Switzerland. Wrote a chronicle of the convent, dating from 1706, with M. A. Margretha Reding.
  26. With KARL FRANZ, grandson of No. 21, the family line of these Zumbrunnen was extinguished in Uri on March 1, 1743.(My theory is that it’s not a coincidence that the Zumbrunnen family disappeared from Uri, Switzerland in 1743 and appeared in America in 1754.)



  1. […] battle was forgotten in the family at some point, though Heinrich’s name has remained in the Swiss history books. Who knows if the Heinrich Zumbrun, who arrived in America in 1754, had any knowledge of the […]

  2. […] This includes the small branches that are mentioned in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland. […]

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