Select Zimmerman Surname Genealogy

Zimmermann is a German occupational surname, the older German term for a carpenter (more modern terms are zimmerer, tischler, or schreiner).  Zimmermann combined: 
  • either zimmer meaning “room” or zimber meaning “timber”  
  • with mann meaning “man” or “worker.”  
This gave room worker or worker in wood and then carpenter.

The second “n” in Zimmermann usually got lost in its travels to America and other English-speaking countries.  And a number of Zimmermans in America adopted the English surname form of Carpenter.  Later some Zimmerman arrivals were Jewish

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Zimmermann appeared at an early time in southern Germany and in Switzerland.  Early recordings were: 
  • Cunrod Zimmermanin of Tailfingen in Wurttemberg in the charters of Balingen in 1200  
  • Henricus Zimbermann in Zurich, Switzerland in 1245  
  • while Cunrat Czimeri was seen in Wurttemberg in 1335.  
Johann Jacob Zimmermann, born in Wurttemberg in 1642, was a nonconformist Lutheran minister who developed a following in Hamburg.  He planned to establish a colony in Pennsylvania, but died on the voyage across in 1694. 

The Zimmermann name has spread across Germany.  Today it is the 20th most common surname in Germany, numbering some 160,000, and the 14th most common in Switzerland, numbering around 20,000. 

.  The Zimmerman and Zimmermann spellings are both found in America, although Zimmermann has been the less common - less than 10 percent today.  Pennsylvania provided the first landing point.  Indeed, even by the time of the 1840 census, Pennsylvania accounted for 45% of all the Zimmermans in America. 

.  Maria Zimmerman, widow of the theologian Johann Jacob, did arrive with her children in Pennsylvania in 1694 as part of the Hamburg group under the new leadership of the mystic Johannes Kelpius.  Kelpius started a religious community at Wissahickon Creek near Philadelphia. 

This community dissolved shortly after Kelpius’s death in 1708, but the Zimmerman presence in the area continued after that time:   
  • Maria’s son Jacob was a Mennonite preacher at Skippack in Montgomery county 
  • and his son Christopher held family residences at Worcester township in Montgomery county and at Whitpain township near Philadelphia.  
Later, a number of Zimmermans moved away – to Tennessee in the late 1700’s and to Ohio and Indiana in the early 1800’s.

Heinrich Zimmerman came from Bern in Switzerland to Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1706 where he established himself as a physician.  Around 1726 he began buying land in Lancaster county.

“When he applied for his patent and gave his name, the official in charge said, ‘That would be Carpenter in English,’ and the patent was thereupon issued in the latter name.”

From that time on, many of the descendants adopted the English name, while a few adhered to the original Zimmerman.  

Michael Zimmerman came on the Edinburgh in 1753 and settled in Lancaster county.  Thirty years on, he moved to new land in Somerset county in western Pennsylvania.  A later Zimmerman there, Daniel Burnside Zimmerman, was one of the pioneers of the coal industry in Somerset county in the early 1900’s.

Another early arrival was Jacob Zimmerman from the Rhineland Palatinate who came with his wife Anna to Schoharie in upstate New York around 1713.  By the 1750’s his family had settled on land in what is now Manheim in Herkimer county.  The family spelling here often became Timmerman.  

Christian Zimmerman, also from the Rhineland Palatinate, had initially come to Philadelphia in 1751.  But then, seven years later after his marriage, he moved to the Moravian settlement in Friedberg, North Carolina.

“Christian and his wife Anna were threatened by Indians shortly after their arrival and took shelter in 1760 at the Bethabara fort for several months.”

Some of their children remained in North Carolina; others migrated to Indiana.  

Zimmermans in the late 1700’s in the Orangeburg and Spartanburg counties in South Carolina appear to have originated from earlier Zimmermans that had come to the Germanna settlement of Germans in Virginia in 1717. 

“Jacob Zimmerman, born in Orangeburg county in 1798, married Mary Riley, a celebrated beauty who was known as the "belle of Orangeburg.’  He and his brother Major David Zimmerman moved to Cedar Springs in the eastern part of Spartanburg county.  Their cousin John Conrad Zimmerman had purchased the Glenn Springs plantation in 1830, not far from Cedar Springs.”

The Zimmermans in Spartanburg county grew to be sizeable and descendants have organized reunions. 

Heading West
.  Some had come to Pennsylvania and then headed West. 

David Zimmerman, for instance, was an immigrant from Switzerland who had arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania around 1830.  There he and his family met up with Dr. William Kiel, a German mystic planning his own religious communities.  The Zimmermans followed him in 1842 first to Bethel, Missouri where they developed a reputation as glove-makers and then in 1863, via the Panama isthmus, to Aurora in Oregon territory.

Jacob Zimmerman from Baden came to Philadelphia in 1843 and initially settled with his wife in Cincinnati, Ohio.  They then headed west on a wagon-train to Oregon with their two children in 1851.  They were one of the early settlers of Fairview.  Later, in 1869, they purchased land at Gresham where they built their home and started a dairy farm.  Three generations of the Zimmerman family lived there.  It now operates as a historic house museum. 

Another Zimmerman line went further afield, to Alaska.  John Willms Zimmerman had arrived from Germany around 1848 and settled in Illinois.  His grandson John Franklin, better known as Frank, trained as a mining engineer and rushed out to Alaska in 1897 at the time of the Gold Rush.  Frank died in a mining accident at Dome Creek in 1929.  His widow and children moved to Los Angeles.  

Jewish.  Charles Sasha Ubsushone arrived in New York from Ukraine in 1913 at the age of sixteen to join his relatives who were already living there.  On entry, an official at Ellis Island changed hisname to Charles Sasha Zimmerman and he was thereafter known by that name.  Sasha had a career spanning five decades as a trade union official in New York with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.  

Another Jewish immigrant from Ukraine was Zigman Zimmerman who arrived in 1910 and settled in Duluth, Minnesota.  His line led to Bob Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan.

.  Zimmermans came to Canada from various places – the earlier ones across the border from America, later ones from Germany and Russia.  

From America came: 
  • three Zimmerman brothers from New Jersey – Peter, James and Mathias – who were Loyalists and reached Clinton township in the Niagara region of Ontario in 1794.  Peter and Mathias moved to Halton county in 1814, Peter to Burlington and Mathias to Nelson township. 
  • while Samuel Zimmerman arrived in the Niagara region from Pennsylvania in 1842.  He proved a shrewd businessman who quickly made a fortune in construction work.  However, he died at the young age of forty-two in a railway accident.  
Henry Zimmerman from Baden came to the Wellesley township in the Waterloo region of Ontario sometime in the 1850’s.  He was a wagon-maker by trade.  In his latter years he became an inn-keeper, having acquired what came to be known as the Zimmerman House in 1882.  He and his wife Catherine had apparently twenty children between 1860 and 1888.  Henry died in 1898.

Nathan Zimmerman and his son Benjamin arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba from Russia in 1882, escaping the political persecutions and pogroms against Jews at the time.  Nathan started as a peddler and later opened a pawnbrokers’ shop.  Benjamin became a leader of the Jewish community in Winnipeg and a successful businessman. Meanwhile Heinrich Zimmerman from a Mennonite community in Ukraine came to Manitoba in 1903 and later settled in Saskatchewan

Select Zimmerman Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Zimmerman Names

Johann Jacob Zimmermann was a nonconformist Lutheran minister who organized the departure of his family and his followers in Hamburg to Pennsylvania in 1694 (although he himself was unable to complete the journey). 
Daniel Zimmerman had two successful careers, one as a cattle rancher in the American West in the late 1800’s and the second as a coalmine operator in western Pennsylvania in the early 1900’s.
Arthur Zimmerman
from New Jersey was one of the world's greatest sprint cyclists and winner of the first world championship in 1893.
Ethel Zimmermann
, better known as Ethel Merman, was a Broadway star of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  She was often referred to as the first lady of musical stage comedy.
Bob Zimmerman
from Minnesota changed his name to Bob Dylan in 1960.  As a singer-songwriter and performer he has been a major figure in American popular culture for more than half a century

Select Zimmermans Today
  • 42,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania) 
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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