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The Zimblers of Goldingen

The Zimblers

I can trace my Zimbler roots back to my Great Great Great Great Grandfather Abraham Zimbler who was born in Goldingen in circa 1775 and who died there in 1827.

There are two family "legends" both of which seem to have at least some degree of truth to them.

The first is that the family got the name Zimbler because they were musicians who played the Zimble. The Zimble or Tsimbl is a stringed instrument like a Hammered Dulcimer (or Cymbalom) that was common in Klezmer music. The histor of the Zimble can be traced back to biblical times and is related to the Tambal and psaltery. It has nothing to do with the brass Cymbals!

A Zimbler (or Zimbalist) is someone who plays the Zimble.

I have pasted below a photo of a Zimble / Dulcimer.

Image: tsimbl

Image: tsimbl

So this is what a Zimble is ! The musicians are no relations

Click here for more information on tsimbls

click here to listen to tsimbl music - then click on listen to all button

It is certainly true that Jews did not have surnames until the 18th century when they were forced to take them by the Tsarist government and the story about the family being musicians is so well known throughout all the family branches that there must be some truth in it. One family member tells me that a Zimbler was conscripted and played in the Russian Army band and got the name Zimbler that way. Another family member tells me that they were musicians who played at local weddings and simchas - and got the name that way.

In either case - they were clealy a musical bunch and many family members still are. Indeed, one Zimbler apparently played with the Walker Brothers in the 1960s - now that is fame !

The second family legend is that the family name was originally Jacobson or Jacobsohn. Apparently my late great aunt Joan Zimbler even had a photo of an old gravestone with the name Jacobsohn - although I have never seen this photo.

More prosaically, family records indicate that the famly were boot and shoemakers. That's cobblers to you !

I have no evidence of the Jacobsohn link but it is to this day an incredibly common surname in Kuldiga (Goldingen). When I was out there, I looked in the Kuldiga telephone directory and there were dozens of (presumably non-Jewish) Jakobsen families in what is a very small town.

Click here for Zimbler family photos

History of Goldingen

Kuldiga/Goldingen was the capital of the ancient Duchy of Courland, whose rule was the Grand Duke Jakob - so perhaps Jakobsen or Jacobsohn was a common name for both Jewish and Christian families locally.

By the way, Courland was quite an economic power in its day and even had some overseas territories in West Africa and, bizarrely, Tobago. The Courland or Kurzeme area stretched from Mitau/Jelgava and Kuldiga/Goldingen in the East to the port of Libau/Liepaja in the West.

Kuldiga/Goldingen is situated in the Venta river near the Latvian/Lithuanian border. It escaped both the War and the Soviet occupation virtually unscathed and today is one of the prettiest towns in Latvia.

It's most spectacular feature is the Rumba wateralls on the Venta. The waterfall is of minimal height (just two metre or so) but it is the widest waterfall in all Europe - approx 270 metres wide. In earlier times, salmon would swim upstream and attempt a daring salmon leap at the Rumba falls. Not surprisingly, many salmon would fail in this endeavour !

The enterprising locals used to string up nets all the way along the Rumba to catch the salmon as they attempted the Rumba leap (see photo below).

Perhaps this is why salmon is such a Jewish favourite - it used to literally fall into their nets from the sky. So presumably it was very cheap to buy.


Top - The salmon nets over the Rumba Falls. Above - Goldingen in the 1920s

click here for more info on the Venta Rumba waterfall

click here for more information on Jewish Goldingen sthetl site

More pictures of Goldingen

Image: certificate of naturalization

Joseph Zimbler's certificate of Naturalization - 17 Jan 1895

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