Notes about the Zurbrick /Zurbrück family
that migrated from Alsace-Lorraine, France
to Erie co., NY in the early 1830s.
Updated in June 2003 with info from the Wintersbourg, Lorraine parish
records & research notes of Pierre Balliet.
(Feel free to email me with additional information or corrections.)
The Zurbricks of Erie co., NY were German-speaking and they immigrated from the village of Pfalzweyer, Alsace, France & nearby Hangviller, Lorraine, France, which were in the Vosges Mountains, near the German border. The area was once part of Germany, and the Alsatian people have a distinct dialect and culture from either France or Germany. The Zurbrück immigrants settled in Cheektowaga & Lancaster townships, in Erie co., NY around 1830 & 1833. ("Cheektowaga" comes from a Native American word meaning "place of the crabapples". See 1866 Map.) The 1840 census for Cheektowaga township had 4 Zurbrücks listed as heads of households - they were Nicholas, Michael (son of Nicholas), George Sr. and George Jr. - The name was spelled Zurbrück in Alsace-Lorraine. They had been living in Alsace-Lorraine for at least 150 years, but they almost certainly originated in Switzerland. Several of the families that intermarried with the early Zurbrücks were also Swiss (such as Kocher & Hügel). The Zurbrück line can be traced back in Alsace to Johann Jacob Zurbrück Sr. who was born about 1681 in Alsace (married to Anna Christina Brumm about 1712). Alsace-Lorraine was mostly a Lutheran area. Johann Jacob Zurbrück's religion was Reformed (Calvinist), and these reformed refugees came to Alsace-Lorraine at various times during its history. The reformed refugees were either French Hugenots or Swiss. Zurbrück is not a French name, but is very similar to the Swiss Zurbrügg. Eventually, many of the reformed people became Lutheran, as the Zurbrücks did. From 1828 to 1837 there was a large migration of people from Alsace-Lorraine to America. The mayor of Pfalzweyer recorded an explanation for this: "All these individuals [including Nicolas Zurbrück in 1830] have left this village for it is located on top of the Vosges mountains, where the soil is so unproductive that it needs plenty of manure, and these people are forbidden to collect the dead leaves in the forest surrounding the village." The farmers of that time were very dependent on the forests. They needed the wood to build houses and they needed dead leaves for stable litter. They made oil with the beechnuts and their pigs were fed on acorns, etc. from the forest. In 1827, under King Louis XVIII, there was a new forestry law enacted whereby the gathering of wood, leaves, acorns, beechnuts, etc. became forbidden. Farmers in the South of France organized riots that turned violent. But the people of Alsace-Lorraine had a different temperment and did not act against the law. Instead, they left the area. Another factor causing people to leave could have been an outbreak of cholera in 1832. Many of the poorer people died, especially in villages. And before the 1830s, the quality of the grain harvest was decreasing, which resulted in high cost and poor quality of the bread.
One of the original Zurbrick immigrants to Erie
co., NY was Nickolaus Zurbrück (b. 1780). He was known as Johann
Nicolas Zurbrück or Hans Nickel Zurbrück in the old country,
according to the usual naming tradition of the area. (Most men had
Johann or Hans as the first name, but were called by the middle name.
Most women had Anna or Maria as a first name, but known by the middle name.
The middle name was usually after the baptismal sponsor, like an aunt or
uncle or family friend.) Nickolaus was a farmer and linen weaver
who left Pfalzweyer with 9000F in 1830 - bringing his wife, Maria Elisabetha
Gerber (b. 1785), & 6 of their 7 children. - Their children were Johan
Nickolus (b. 1808), Michael (b. 1810), Philip (b. 1815) and Peter (b. 1820);
their daughters were Margaret (b. 1812), Catharine (b. 1824) and Christine
(b. 1828), but one daughter seems to have died young in Alsace, since Nickolaus'
party only included 8 people. Nickolas' brother George Zurbrück,
b. 1787, also came to the Cheektowaga area, sometime after 1832, with his
wife Elizabeth Burkhalter (Burckhalter). The database
has a lot of ancestors for Elizabeth Burkhalter (added June 2003).
George & Elizabeth brought some or all of their children, including
George (b. 1814), Nicholas (b. 14 May 1819), Adam (b. 1824) and 3 daughters
- Catharina (b. 1822), Caroline (b. 1829) and Christina (b. 1832 in Hangviller,
France). Nickolaus & George Zurbrück were sons of Michael
Zurbrück (a linen weaver at Pfalzweyer, Alsace) and his wife Barbara
Hügel /Hüegel. Nickolaus and George apparently had a brother
Michael Zurbrück (Jr.) who may not have immigrated to America, but
Michael had a son Nicholas Zurbrück (b. Dec. 1819) who did immigrate
with the others. Interestingly, there were two first-cousin
marriages between the two immigrant families. Peter (b. 1820) &
Catharine (b. 1824) were the children of Nickolaus Zurbrück (b. 1780)
and they were married to Christina (b. 1832) & Nickolas (b. May 1819)
who were the children of George Zurbrück (b. 1787). We know
this because the birthdates recorded at their deaths (under their married
names) corresponded exactly to the baptismal dates (under their birth names),
& some church
records gave the maiden name for both females as Zurbrück.
Another source of confusion was the existence of two Nickolas Zurbricks
who were both born in 1819 and both were married to women named Catharine.
It turns out that the Nickolaus b. May 1819 was married to Catharine Zurbrick
(b. 1824), while the Nickolas Zurbrick b. Dec. 1819 was married to Catharine
Gottlieb. Most of the Zurbricks in the USA descend from this
Erie co., NY group that came from Alsace-Lorraine in the early 1830s.
[See ZURBRICK Family Tree Diagram ]
The immigrant ancestors Georg & Nickolaus Zurbrück were the 2nd cousins, once removed, of the famous American painter George Hetzel Jr. (b. 1826). George Hetzel's parents immigrated from Hangviller, Lorraine, France in 1828 to Pittsburgh, PA. George Hetzel Jr. lived in Pennsylvania and founded the "scalp level tradition". Our Nickolaus Zurbrück (b. 1780) & Georg Zurbrück (b. 1787) shared the same great-grandparents with George Hetzel Sr. (b. 1798) = Hans Jacob Kocher (b. 1685) & his wife Maria Barbara Scheurer /Anna Barbara Schier (b. c1698).
The original spelling of Zurbrück in Alsace-Lorraine means "from the bridge" in German (zur brücke). In the Alsace-Lorraine dialect, "brick" = bridge. Family oral history suggests that the early Zurbricks were associated with watch-making and possibly bridge-building. In fact, the immigrant ancestor, Nickolaus Zurbrück, was a linen weaver (as was his father) and his wife, Maria Elisabetha Gerber, was the daughter of a linen weaver in Hangviller, Lorraine, France. [aka Hangenweiler, Frankreich in German]. Other direct ancestors connected with the Zurbrück family were innkeepers, weavers, tailors, farmers, cowherds and shepherds. The villages of Pfalzweyer (Pfalzweiler), Alsace, France and Berling (Berlingen), France were about a mile or two from Hangviller, Lorraine, France and were villages where many of the Zurbrucks lived. [see map] [Link to a site with photos of Pfalzweyer] Pfalzweyer was in the canton La Petite Pierre (formerly Lützelstein). It was part of the Department of Niederrhein = "lower Rhine" in German, or Bas-Rhin in French. Even though the village of Hangviller is a couple miles from Pfalzweyer, Hangviller belongs to the canton of Phalsbourg, in the department of Moselle, in Lorraine, France. [More records about the Zurbrücks of Hangviller may be found in the archives at Metz.] The Lutheran church parish records of Wintersbourg cover the area around Hangviller and Pfalzweyer. A lot of individual data from these parish records have been added to the online database which is accessed via the Surnames page. (Thanks to Pierre Balliet, a distant cousin.)
The Zurbrück surname is a known derivation of the Swiss surname Zurbrigg /Zurbrügg that originates in the area of Frutigen, Switzerland, and means "over the bridge". A number of Zurbriggs or Zurbrüggs went to Canada directly from Switzerland in the early 1800s, & some were recorded as "Zurbrick" on official records. Others went directly from Switzerland to Michigan and were recorded as "Surbrook". The Zurbrick /Zurbrück /Zurbrügg surnames are all pronounced something like "Tsoor-brick". The Canadian group seems entirely separate from the Alsace-Lorraine group that went to NY State in the 1830s...but they probably have common origins at some point in the past, going back to the early 1600s in Switzerland. Contact Alayne Dieter if you are interested in the Swiss Zurbrüggs /Zurbricks /Surbrooks that emigrated via Canada and into Michigan & the USA in the early 1800s.
"Zubrick" is a common misspelling of the surname Zurbrick. But I was surprised to learn that Zubrick may be a distinct surname found in the old country of Czecholslovakia.
Several people have mentioned that Zurbrick men tend to be tall with slim builds.
Our County and Its People, A Descriptive Work on Erie County, NY,
Edited by Truman C. White, 1898. Typist's notes in [ ]
P.514 - "In the list of the first officers and supervisors of Cheektowaga
will be found the names of many early prominent settlers. Among other
citizens were: John Zurbrick and Philip Zurbrick. The latter built a
flouring mill on Cayuga creek in 1874; it was remodeled into a roller mill
in 1882, and on his death in 1888 passed to his sons, Albert and Frank
Zurbrick." [located on Zurbrick Rd.]
P. 574 - "On July 23, 1894, the village (Depew) was incorporated, and
first officers elected August 21, were Dr. William Fairbanks, president;
John Zurbrick, George Waltz and John Graney, trustees; Anthony Hartung,
treasurer; Martin Kiefer, collector; J. N. Oswald, clerk. The corporate
limits are about two and one-fourth miles square, and the population is
P. 575 - "The Union free school district No. 7, of Cheektowaga, taking
part of the old district No. 4, Lancaster, was also organized, the first
president being Franklin Zurbrick. A brick school house was built on the
south side in 1894-95 and another on the north side in 1895, each costing
P. 275 - "Zurbrick, George P., Lancaster, was born in that town and is the
son of Peter and grandson of George Zurbrick, who came from Germany in 1830,
settling near where the town line now is between Lancaster and Cheektowaga,
buying first a small piece of land and adding to it from time to time, until
the family had a large tract, which was sold to the Bellevue Land Co. Mr.
Zurbrick lived on a farm joining the old homestead until 1894, when he built
him a fine residence on Lake Avenue, Lancaster, where he now lives. He has
been for some years a large dealer in cattle and since retiring from the
farm has devoted his time entirely to that business. He married [Carolyn/Caroline] the
daughter of Louis Marquart in 1880, who died in 1888, leaving three
children: Myron H., Alice D. and Lottie C. In 1890 he married [Ellen L.] the daughter
of W.D. Greene [Warner D. Green], by whom he has three children: Ray G., Howard W.
& Elmer P. Zurbrick. Mr. Zurbrick has always taken a keen, though quiet, interest in town affairs
and is one of the directors of the Bank of Lancaster." [Note: this says that George P., son of Peter,
was grandson of George Zurbrick, when he is really the grandson of Nickolaus Zurbrick who came
in 1830 from Alsace-Lorraine, France, near the German border. George Sr. was brother of Nickolaus.]
WESTERN NEW YORK PROFILES
Abstracts from Buffalo & Erie Co., NY Public Library
Especially from the History of the city of Buffalo and Erie County: with Illustrations & Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men & Pioneers, by Smith, H. P. (Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1884):
(Link to more surnames from this location)
"In 1826 ... a large portion of the Buffalo Creek reservation was bought from the Indians, of which a tract about a mile and a half wide, north and south, and three miles long, lay in the southeast corner of the present town of Cheektowaga. This was at once opened for settlement and was speedily occupied. Soon after 1830 a considerable number of German families settled in the territory of Cheektowaga, and their numbers have gone on increasing until now the town is almost entirely occupied by people of German birth and their children...
"The town of Cheektowaga was formed from Amherst, on the 20th day of March, 1829. The name was suggested by Alexander Hitchcock, and was intended to represent its Indian appellation -- sometimes rendered Ji-ik-do-wah-ga, which means 'the place of the crab-apple tree'....
"The Roman Catholic Church of Cheektowaga is situated in the northern part of the town and owes its origin to Joseph Batt, who deeded three acres of land to Bishop Timon and his successors in office, for that purpose, on the first day of April, 1851. Mr. Batt was on his way from Alsace-Lorraine to this country, in 1836, when a violent storm arose and the ship was for several days in imminent danger of sinking. He then made a vow to erect a chapel to the Virgin Mary in case he and his family should escape. They did escape and as soon as his means permitted he faithfully fulfilled his vow. The corner-stone of the chapel was laid on the 10th of July, 1853, and it was dedicated by Rev. P.N. Neuman, on the 2d of October in that year. Mr. Batt died in February, 1872, at the age of eighty-three years, and was buried in the cemetery of the chapel he had founded."
From the same book, pages 724-728:
"Born 1840 Cheektowaga, NY to Michael (1811-1848) & Saloma DEIFENBACH Zubrick of Alsace. Married 1872 Malissa STEVENS born IN 1851. Children; John L., Estella, Bell & Fanny. (Cheektowaga)" [Same as the John Zurbrick listed under Civil War Vets, above.]
" p o Lancaster, general farmer and cattle dealer, born at Alsace in 1820, came to county in 1830; wife Christiana Zurbrick, born in 1832, married in 1852, and died in 1874; children eight -- George P., Henry W., William Levy, Elizabeth, Edwin, Mary and Anna L. Parents Nicholas and Elizabeth Zurbrick, of Alsace, who came to county in 1830; the former was born in 1780, and died in 1844; the latter born in 1785, married in 1806, and died in 1860; children six."
ZURBRICK, Phillip [typist note:
Philip was brother of Peter]
"p o Cheektowaga, miller, born in France in 1815, came to Cheektowaga in 1830; wife Fanny Geckler, of Lancaster, daughter of John and Anna M. Geckler, of Germany, who came to county in 1825, born in 1826, married in 1848; children seven -- three sons and four daughters. Philip built his present flour mill in 1874, it is a three-story building, located on Cayuga creek, on the Buffalo plank road. Parents Nicholas and Maria E. (Garber) Zurbrick, of France, who came to county in 1830; children six." [Other sources say Maria was Maria Elizabeth GERBER, sometimes called Elizabeth /Elisabetha.]
ZURBRICKS IN THE CIVIL WAR
Some of these were found in the www.ancestry.com database of Civil War pension cards, while others were found in my research. The first three were brothers, and it is interesting that they served in 3 different states - NY, Ohio and Indiana.