Family History Through the Alphabet – Z is for Zsombor

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.

Map Showing the Village name of Zsombor
Sign Showing Some of the Different Names for the Village

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.

A local man with his cattle in modern Jimbor (Zsombor)

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.

A Modern View of the Village of Jimbor (Zsombor) Showing its Scenic Beauty
The Medieval Castle that Overlooks the Village

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.

An Older Home with the traditional Székely Gate
Some Hungarians in modern Jimbor (Zsombor) Wearing Traditional Costumes

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.

Frank Sebok with his son Albert
Roza (Peto) Sebok with her son, Albert, and daughter, Emma.

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

12 thoughts on “Family History Through the Alphabet – Z is for Zsombor

    1. I would have to check, but I don’t believe that I have any surnames that begin with Z in my line. One of my 2nd great grandmothers had a sister whose married name was Zeller. I have a great old photo of her and her daughter.

  1. What a picturesque village. One of my favorite parts of family history is learning about the places from which our ancestors came. Enjoyed the post and the pictures.

  2. Having grown up in a country town myself, with just a few hundred people, I have a very soft spot for country towns, and Zsombor looks lovely. It looks peaceful, and like it has an old-world charm to it.

    And CONGRATULATIONS on finishing the Alphabet Challenge. Thank you so much for joining in, it has been a pleasure to read your posts each week, and learn a little about your family and heritage. Well done.

    1. It does have an old-world charm, I agree. I enjoy this challenge, though I haven’t actually completed it. I started with G, so I am missing A-F. I think I will post those, even though the challenge has ended. Thanks for providing the opportunity to think about family history a little differently, and for sharing my posts on your website. 🙂

  3. I came across your post and really enjoyed your collection of pictures and information. My great grandparents & 2 great grandparents also lived in/came from Szekelyzsombor. My great grandfather and grandmother were born in 1879 & 1881 respectively. As small as the village is/was, perhaps our families knew one another. They immigrated to the U.S. around 1906 & settled ultimately in Michigan, by way of Illinois and West Virginia. My family names associated with Szekelyzsombor include Limban, Wirag, Kapor, & Szikszay. Anyway, many thanks for your interesting take on the village.

    1. Thank you for your note. I know so little about my ancestors from Szekelyzsombor–I wish I knew more. Given that it is so small, it is likely that your family and mine did know each other, though I cannot say with any certainty as the names don’t sound familiar. Have you tried researching your family in Szekelyzsombor or Hungary?

      1. Yes, I met a distant cousin on-line who lives in Oregon. She was in Szekelyzsombor about 3-5 years ago & was able to pull some more details together. If you’d like I’m glad to share your email address. As your relatives immigrated at the same time as mine, I wonder if there was something happening there that made them want to leave – or maybe it was just more appealing to get to the U.S. I know that around 1905 they built a new church in Szekelyzsombor, but that’s about all I know about the goings on then. This cousin, Gail, seemed to have made a connection with someone who has access to records. I should check with her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.