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The distinguished German surname Zabel is derived from the Middle High German word "zabel," meaning "board game." The name may have been bestowed as a nickname on the original bearer, who was most likely someone particularly fond of games. Alternatively, Zabel may be a variant of the surname Zobel, a name derived from the Slavic "sobel," meaning "sable fur." In this instance, the name would have been initially borne by a fur trader.

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The surname Zabel was first found in the Rhineland, where it first emerged. The earliest known bearer of the name was Thid. Zabel, who lived in Cologne in 1187. The young Zabel family was instrumental during this early period, playing an important role in the development of the society of the Rhineland.

Spelling variations of this family name include: Zabel, Zobel, Tzabels, Tzabel, Zabels, Zobels and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Zabel research. Another 287 words (20 lines of text) covering the years 1187, 1325, 1382, 1441 and 1358 are included under the topic Early Zabel History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 25 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Zabel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Zabel Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Christian Zabel and his wife Dorothea Luise Muller, "Old Lutherans" from Pomerania who sailed to New York on board the Barque Rainbow in 1843
  • Christian Zabel, aged 35, landed in New York, NY in 1843
  • Louise Zabel, aged 28, landed in New York, NY in 1843
  • Minna Zabel, aged 6, landed in New York, NY in 1843
  • William Zabel, aged 5, arrived in New York, NY in 1843


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  • John O. Zabel, American politician, Representative from Michigan 2nd District, 1896; People's Candidate for Presidential Elector for Michigan, 1900; Candidate for Circuit Judge in Michigan 38th Circuit, 1914, 1918
  • Steve Zabel (b. 1948), American football player
  • Mr. Max Zabel (1908-1937), German Navigator  from Walldorf, Germany, who worked on board the Hindenburg LZ-129 and survived the Airship Fire on May 6, 1937
  • Erik Zabel (b. 1970), German road bicycle racer
  • Franc Zabel (b. 1968), German composer and pianist


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  1. Rolland, and H.V. Rolland. Illustrations to the Armorial general by J. B. Rietstap 6 volumes in 3. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1976. Print.
  2. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  3. Siebmacher, J.J. Siebmacher's Grosses Wappenbuch 35 Volumes. Germany: Bauer & Raspe. Print.
  4. Göbel, Otto. Niederdeutsche Familiennamen der Gegenwart Wolfshagen-Schäbentz. Franz: Westphal, 1936. Print.
  5. Kneschke, Dr. Ernest Heinrich. Neues allgemeines Deutsches Adels-Lexicon 9 Volumes New General German Aristocracy Lexicon. Leipzig: Friedrich Voigt, 1859. Print.
  6. Gottschald, Max. Deutsche Namenkunde unsere Familiennamen nach ihrer Entstehung und Bedeutung. München: J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, 1932. Print.
  7. Karlsruhe. Badisches Generallandesarchiv Baden Emigration lists 1866-1911. Salt Lake City: Microfilm of Card Index by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Print.
  8. Bahlow, Hans and Edda Gentry. Translation Dictionary of German Names 2nd Edition. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2002. Print.
  9. Strassburger, Ralph B. Pennsylvania German Pioneers The Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia 3 Volumes. Baltimore: Picton Press, 1992. Print. (ISBN 978-0929539980).
  10. Strassburger, Ralph B. German Pioneers The Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia 3 Volumes. Baltimore: Picton Press, 1992. Print. (ISBN 978-0929539980).
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This page was last modified on 15 January 2016 at 14:24.

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