This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter Z. A noteworthy Z I have run across while researching my ancestry is Zsombor.
Zsombor is the original name of a village located in the historic European region of Transylvania, and is the village of my Sebok branch’s ancestral origins. Throughout its history, which stretches back to the 14th century or earlier, the village has gone by a few different names, all of which are variations of Zsombor. When the village was inhabited by Saxons, it was known as Szászzsombor (or Saxon Zsombor). When Saxons left around the time of the plague (or after it), leaving the Lutheran faith that dominates the area still today in addition to some interesting architecture, the village became predominately inhabited by a group of Hungarians known as Székely, who spread into the village from neighboring areas that are collectively referred to in history as Székelyföld (or Székely Land). From about the early 16th century until the borders of Europe changed after the World War II, the village was known as Székelyzsombor. After the borders were redrawn, Székelyzsombor fell outside of Hungary, and became a part of Romania; and again the village’s name was changed, this time to Jimbor, the Romanian equivalent of Zsombor. In addition to these historic names, Zsombor is also known by the German equivalent name of Sommerburg.
Regardless of its name throughout history, Zsombor has always been a fairly small village. In the late 19th century, the village had about 1,500 inhabitants. Today, the village is much smaller, with a total population of about 483 in 2002. Of its current inhabitants, the majority identify themselves as Hungarian, with smaller numbers identifying themselves as either Romanian or Gypsy. Historically, and even to the present day, the people of Zsombor have primarily been occupied with raising livestock and harvesting grains.
Despite having such a small population in the village and many buildings and homes that are currently abandoned, the village has a number of different architectural and cultural interests. There are three major churches in the village: a Lutheran Church that dates back to the Middle Ages, which has been restored and rebuilt following a fire in the late 18th century; a Roman Catholic Church that dates back to the 14th century, which was added on to and restored in the 18th century; and an Orthodox Church that was built in 1905. Another architectural feature of the village is the small medieval castle that sits atop a hill overlooking the village. Although the castle is in a state of disrepair, a significant amount of the castle still stands. In addition to these buildings, the village has an untouched, old world street scenery from the 19th century. Although parts of the village are old with many abandoned buildings that are in a state of disrepair, much work has been done in the past decade to restore the village. High school students involved in an international cultural reconstruction camp have been working year after year in the village to restore various areas.
Apart from the historic architecture and the old world feel and look of the village, the Hungarian Székely culture can be seen throughout. The shapes and colors of the homes, the characteristic “Székely Gates” with their Asian influence that are still found as the main entrance to homes, and the characteristic decorative designs on homes and other items all keep the Székely heritage alive. Additionally, the people of the village dress in traditional costumes to celebrate annual festivals.
Two generations of my Sebok branch were born in Zsombor, or Székelyzsombor as it was known when they lived there: my great grandfather, Albert Sebok (1903-1968) and his parents, Frank Sebok (1875-1951) and Roza Mari Peto (1871-1937), my 2nd great grandparents. According to oral tradition, Frank was employed as a cobbler in Székelyzsombor before immigrating to the United States. The following photos of Frank Sebok with his son Albert, and Roza (Peto) Sebok with her son Albert and daughter Emma were taken in Indiana, where the family lived after arriving in 1905.
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