Zimmerman Surname Meaning, History & Origin
occupational surname, the older German term for a carpenter (more
are zimmerer, tischler, or schreiner). Zimmermann
- either zimmer meaning “room” or zimber meaning
- with mann meaning “man” or “worker.”
This gave room worker or worker in wood and then
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.
Zimmerman Resources on
Early Zimmermans in Pennsylvania.
- Zimmerman Family
Zimmermans in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oregon.
- Robert Allen Zimmerman’s Family History
Bob Dylan’s family history.
Zimmermann appeared at an early time in southern Germany
and in Switzerland. Early recordings
- Cunrod Zimmermanin of Tailfingen
in Wurttemberg in the charters of Balingen in 1200
- Henricus Zimbermann in Zurich, Switzerland in
- while Cunrat Czimeri was seen in
Wurttemberg in 1335.
Zimmermann, born in Wurttemberg in 1642, was a nonconformist Lutheran
who developed a following in Hamburg. He
planned to establish a colony in Pennsylvania, but died on the voyage across
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
numbering around 20,000.
America. The Zimmerman
and Zimmermann spellings are both found in America, although
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
Zimmerman, widow of the theologian Johann Jacob, did arrive with her
in Pennsylvania in 1694 as part of the Hamburg group under the new
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
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
Zimmerman came from Bern in Switzerland to Germantown, Pennsylvania in
where he established himself as a physician.
Around 1726 he began buying land in Lancaster county.
he applied for his patent and gave his name, the official in charge
would be Carpenter in English,’ and the patent was thereupon issued in
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
Pennsylvania. A later Zimmerman there, Daniel Burnside Zimmerman,
was one of
the pioneers of the coal industry in Somerset county in the early
Elsewhere. Another early arrival
was Jacob Zimmerman from the Rhineland Palatinate who came with his
to Schoharie in upstate New York around 1713.
By the 1750’s his family had settled
in what is now Manheim in Herkimer county.
The family spelling here often became Timmerman.
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.
Indians shortly after their arrival and took shelter in 1760 at the
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
earlier Zimmermans that had come to the Germanna settlement of Germans
Virginia in 1717.
in Orangeburg county in 1798, married Mary Riley, a celebrated beauty
known as the “belle of Orangeburg.’
He and his brother Major David Zimmerman moved to Cedar Springs
eastern part of Spartanburg county.
Their cousin John Conrad Zimmerman had purchased the Glenn
plantation in 1830, not far from Cedar Springs.”
The Zimmermans in Spartanburg county grew to be sizeable and descendants have
Heading West. Some had come to
Pennsylvania and then headed
Zimmerman, for instance, was an immigrant from Switzerland who had
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania around 1830.
There he and his family met up with Dr. William Kiel, a German
planning his own religious communities.
The Zimmermans followed him in 1842 first to Bethel, Missouri
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
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.
line went further afield, to Alaska.
John Willms Zimmerman had arrived from Germany around 1848 and
in Illinois. His grandson John Franklin,
better known as Frank, trained as a mining engineer and rushed out to
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.
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 his name to
Sasha Zimmerman and he was thereafter known by that name.
career spanning five decades as a trade union official in New York with
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.
Canada. Zimmermans came to
Canada from various places – the earlier ones across the border from
later ones from Germany and Russia.
from New Jersey – Peter, James and Mathias – who were Loyalists and
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.
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.
Zimmerman from Baden came to the Wellesley township in the Waterloo
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
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,
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
Heinrich Zimmerman from a Mennonite
community in Ukraine came to
Manitoba in 1903 and later settled in Saskatchewan.
The Zimmermans’ Hazardous Journey to America. Johann Jacob Zimmerman, his wife,
and their four children sailed from Rotterdam in the late summer of 1693, but
were forced to spend the winter in London.
In February 1694 they headed out again aboard the Santa
Maria, which in light of ongoing troubles between England and
France, was armed with fourteen cannons.
They arrived in Deal on the Kent coast and lingered for nearly
two months while they awaited a protective convoy from Plymouth.
Finally underway, they encountered the enemy
in May. After a battle that lasted 24
hours, the convoy captured some thirty guns from the French frigate and a merchant ship.
It is not known when Johann died. He
may have been killed in the melee, but he
was undoubtedly buried at sea. Their
party finally sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in June and landed at
in Germantown, Philadelphia.
Zimmerman and Zimmermann. The Zimmerman and Zimmermann spellings are both found in America, although Zimmermann has been the less common – less
than 10 percent today. The early arrivals from Germany
and Switzerland all dropped their second “n.”
There were only two Zimmermanns – one in New York and one in Illinois –
recorded in the 1840 US census.
The table below shows the Zimmermann/Zimmerman
breakdown by the time of the 1920 US census.
The states with the high percentage of Zimmermanns
here are those in the Midwest where the immigrant numbers came mainly in the mid/late 19th century.
Daniel Burnside Zimmerman. Daniel Zimmerman,
born in 1863 in western Pennsylvania, had two very successful careers – one as a cattle rancher in the West and the second as a coalmine operator in Somerset
business career began in 1877 when, at the age of fourteen and drawn by a
magazine article, he left home for North Dakota and made his first cattle
purchase. By 1892 he had negotiated with
Native Americans to begin cattle ranching on a large scale. Soon the Zimmerman ranches would be
regularly shipping 40,000 cattle to market each year.
As a contemporary recalled:
“He was one of the
most extensive and successful rangers in the West. For more than ten
has numbered his cattle and sheep by the thousands, extending his
from his original field, North Dakota and Montana, to Idaho,
Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Texas.”
In 1899 he was
the first Somerset county man to open a coalmine locally.
By 1907 his coalmine interests totaled more
than 140,000 acres and he was the county’s largest independent coal
operator. For years he employed hundreds
of men in deep
mines and expanded his business operations to include timber, grist
In 1915 he commissioned an enormous personal residence on a hill
adjacent to the Somerset county courthouse, the highest point in
Pennsylvania. His Georgia Manor still
stands today, now functioning as the Georgia Inn, and is on the
Registry of Historic Places. While some
call it pretentious, others call it a national treasure.
Zimmermans in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Coming to Spartanburg county in South Carolina in the early-to-mid 1800’s, six Zimmerman families and settled on farms primarily in
the Glenn Springs/Cedar Springs area.
They were prominent, progressive and productive.
Among the first and second generations there
were doctors, lawyers, teachers and mill overseers.
Many if not all of them operated
farms. One was a partner/owner in the
Bivingsville/Glendale Mills and other enterprises.
Another owned and operated the Glenn Springs
Hotel. Some served on county boards and
of business enterprises. Some were real
estate dealers. And a number made a lot
of money. Carrie M. Zimmerman died at
the age of 93 in her father’s old homestead in Glenn Springs in 1930. She was listed as a capitalist.
Zimmerman, a surgeon who was born in Glenn Springs, returned to
1913 after finishing his internship in New York. Joining
with Dr.Steedley, they built the
Steedley Hospital in 1916.
Mennonite Zimmermans in Canada. Heinrich Zimmerman, born in 1866, came from a Mennonite community in what is now Ukraine. In July 1903 he departed with his wife Dora and their five children from Odessa to Halifax in Canada.
They then traveled overland to their
destination of Winkler, Manitoba. Sadly his wife Dora suffered from a debilitating illness
their arrival in Winkler and she died in April 1905.
However, with the help of
the Mennonite Brethren church, Heinrich was able to marry again. Her name was Elisabeth Willems.
She was a widow with nine children and they
were living near Waldheim in the province of Saskatchewan.
In March 1906 Heinrich embarked for
Saskatchewan with his five children and they were married on the day
and his party arrived there.
Heinrich and Elisabeth were members of the Brotherfield
Mennonite Brethren church. Heinrich was
a fine carpenter and the pulpit there is a fine example of his work.
In 1920 the
Zimmerman family departed Saskatchewan for Reedley, California. Whilst there Heinrich built cupboards for
homes, on which he painted flowers.
Bob Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan’s Jewish Ancestry. Zigman Zimmerman was born in Odessa on Christmas Day 1875 and grew up in an atmosphere of active, vicious anti-Semitism. He seems to have run a shoe-making business before he fled Tsar Nicholas II’s pogroms in 1906.
He arrived in the US in 1907, through Ellis Island in New
York. From there he moved northwest until
to Duluth, Minnesota. He worked as a
peddler and sent for his family soon afterwards. By
1910 they had arrived. They squeezed into
a small apartment on 221
West 1st Street.
Zigman was still a peddler at this time.
But by 1917 Zigman, now styling himself as
Zigmond H. Zimmerman, was a ‘solicitor’ working for the Prudential Life
Insurance Company. That job did not last
that long and he was later a dry goods salesman and a shoe salesman. He died in July 1936 from a heart attack on
the street during a heatwave.
His son Abram, or Abe as he was known, was born
in Duluth in 1911 into a family of four other children.
By the age of seven he was shining shoes and
delivering newspapers and by eighteen he had started working for the
Oil company, first as a messenger boy and then as a clerk.
At the age of twenty-two, in 1933, he
married. Their first child, Robert Allen
Zimmerman, was born eight years later in 1941.
In 1947 the family moved to
Hibbing, Minnesota where Abe’s brothers
Maurice and Paul had set up Micka Electric Company in the year that Bob
born. Abe became an appliance salesman
there. When Bob’s little brother David
was a bit older, their mother Beatty started working as a clerk at
Abe died of a heart
attack in 1968, by which time Bob Zimmerman as Bob Dylan had become
- 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 Zimmerman Numbers Today
- 42,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
- 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Select Zimmerman and Like Surnames
The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland. They were fleeing religious persecution at home. Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them. Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York. Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names. Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.
The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft. They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up. And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.
Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.
Click here for return to front page
Leave a Reply