So, the Gimbrères have their roots in the heart of Gascony, in the Gers department. Documents show how they slowly but surely spread over villages and towns in the Gers and later further on. Via Bordeaux and Antwerp, the Gimbrères arrived in Tilburg.
This process is reflected in the diagram below. Further on we will describe, briefly and mostly chronologically, most of the places where Gimbrères have lived before their arrival in Tilburg. Those who look at the diagram long enough, will note that all French places have an end date. The last French Gimbrère, as far as we can see, has passed away in 1970 in Tournan-en-Brie, close to Paris. The Gimbrères who live in France nowadays are emigrated Dutchmen. The direct lineage of Jehan Gimbrere (approx. 1505) to Jean François (1839) in Tilburg can be found in French ancestors
La Gimbrère (? – approx. 1450)
La Gimbrere, the lieu-dit discussed in The manor La Gimbrère, is located 19 km northwest of Auch. Here everything started for the Gimbreres. In the 16th century not much was left of this community. La Gimbrere then was a small nobility, with a manor, a so-called salle noble, and an accompanying tenant farm, a métairie. The manor still exists, in the middle of rolling fertile agricultural farmland, where wheat, maize and sunflowers are grown. It is certain that from 1499 at the latest, no more Gimbreres lived in this house.
Bonas (approx. 1250 – approx. 1550)
Already in 1293, Gimbrères were living in the fiefdom of Bonas, northwest of La Gimbrere. With the assignment of civil rights and freedoms to its inhabitants, the lord of Bonas tried to seduce these inhabitants to live within the walled village. The village consisted of a straight road bordered by houses. The backs of these houses made up the village wall. Bonas was one of many fortified villages, the castelnaus, which were built in the 12th–13th centuries in Gascony, often on a hill nearby the castle.
The Bonas Castle, renovated considerably in the 18th century, is still present. The village has been covered with sand up to the top of the village walls, to create a nice terrace for the lord of the castle. Its inhabitants have moved away, and Bonas no longer has a village centre. Early 16th century Gimbreres lived in and around Bonas (five households even), but they probably moved away soon afterwards. After 1507 they can no longer be traced in documents relating to Bonas.
Jegun (approx. 1500 – approx. 1680)
The first entries of Gimbreres in documentation are all within a radius of 10 km around Jegun. Probably Gimbrères already lived in this small fortified town, but the first entry in the town itself is only found in 1633. Bertrand Gimbrere is then a lawyer at its royal court. Nowadays the town has some 1100 inhabitants.
Cézan (16th Century)
Cézan (8 km northeast of La Gimbrere) is a nice castelnau, situated on the top of a hill, with remains of the walls and castle of the lords of Cézan. The village has 200 inhabitants. We are not certain that Gimbreres lived here, but in 1558 Jehan Gimbrere litigated against the consuls (aldermen) of Cézan on behalf of a maitre chirurgien of the village. Jehan has also fallen out with the local nobility, who had him fined with 25 pounds, for carrying a weapon. These are at least strong indications that Jehan lived here, or nearby in Castera Vivent.
Castera Vivent (approx. 1500 – approx. 1680)
This hamlet of nine houses is nowadays called le Vieux Castera (3 km northeast of La Gimbrere). It is situated in the community Castéra-Verduzan, where the presence of a medicinal spring led to the establishment of a spa. Castéra Vivent is a castelnau as well, located at the spur of a ridgeline. Gimbrères lived here in the 16th and 17th centuries. A number of them were buried in the family tomb in the small St Blaise’s church. In a protocol from 1564, Fris Gimbrere, alderman of Castera Vivent and maitre Bernard Gimbrere, priest of Castera Vivent, gave testimony in a church tax dispute.
This Fris, in our line of descent, is the son of Jehan, the first Gimbrère in the line of direct descent of all Gimbrères in the Netherlands and worldwide (and probably the one mentioned above under Cézan).
Vic-Fezensac (approx. 1550 – approx. 1700)
Almost 10 km west of La Gimbrere, we find the small town of Vic-Fezensac, with 3500 inhabitants. It once was the location of a Roman settlement. A comital castle was torn down after the French Revolution. At the end of the 16th century, a flourishing protestant community existed. Perhaps this has drawn the father of Samson Lagimbrere to this town. The Old Testament name of Samson is an indication in this direction. We did not find any other Huguenots among the Gimbrères.
Toulouse (end 16th – early 17th Century)
Toulouse is a major industrial and university city in the southwest of France (84 km east of La Gimbrère). With 472,000 inhabitants and 1,331,000 in the metropolis, it is the fourth city of France. Its Airbus airplane factory is famous. Toulouse has a glorious past, visible in its large, beautiful inner city. Even before the Romans settled here, there was an oppidum of a prosperous people. The “Roman” city of Tolosa was one of the largest towns of Gallia. It remained an important town in the Middle Ages.
Gimbrères have lived here: master wool carder François Gimbrere made up his last will here in 1614 and Jean Gimbrere married here in 1651. The search for Gimbrères in the archives of Toulouse, which are easily accessible, is like looking for a needle in a haystack; Toulouse was an impressive city and that is reflected in the enormous number of archival documents. Until now we have no idea or evidence of a relationship of these Gimbreres with those in the heartland. However, considering the absolute rarity of this name in France and the strong kinship between all other Gimbrères we have found, a relationship here is likely as well.
La Cavalerie/Claverie (17th Century)
The Commanderie de la Cavalerie is situated between Ayguetinte and Castéra-Verduzan. It started as a commanderie of the Templars and after their fall the Maltese Convent of the Hospital took over. The commanderie had the function of resting place for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella. The villa and chapel which have survived are now a private property. There are some houses in the vicinity, which nowadays form the lieu-dit La Claverie. We discovered that some generations of Gimbrères have lived here in the 17th century. They were buried in the chapel.
Ayguetinte (approx. 1600 – 1800)
Ayguetinte is situated approx. 7 km north of La Gimbrère. From at least about 1600 until 1810 Gimbreres lived in this village. Jean Gimbrere was the local innkeeper and the great-grandson of the first identified person in the Gimbrère lineage. Nowadays Ayguetinte is a sleepy village, which does not arouse memories of its past. The church is from after 1800, the houses don’t look very old either. Some villas and farms may be older. Around 1760 one noble family (d’Auxion) was living here, two surgeons and one carpenter, a cabinet maker, a coppersmith and an oilpresser. The church records do not specify professions of other inhabitants. In 1779 the noble Gérard d’Auxion submitted a declaration of his rights in the nobility of Ayguetine. He indicated that the village was surrounded by wall and moats, counting only 28 houses inside the walls.
What does a maitre chirurgien do in such a village? Two Gimbrères were not the only ones with this profession. Joseph Raulin was a famous physician in the 18th century. He was born in Ayguetinte, where his father Pierre was a maitre chirurgien. One surgeon in a village was not unusual. They also assisted at deliveries. But two in this small Ayguetinte seems excessive. Even more so: there were three Gimbrères active as maitre chirurgien in 1700, the brothers Bernard, Antoine and Raymond. We assume that supralocal activities may explain this. Perhaps the presence of medicinal baths of the neighbouring Castéra-Verduzan, which have preceded the current facilities, required surgical assistance. Another possibility is the Commanderie La Claverie.
Gaillac (approx. 1660 – 1756)
Gaillac is located 120 km east of the Gimbrère heartland, on the river Tarn and is surrounded by vineyards. Nowadays it has 19000 inhabitants and it is the third town of the Tarn Department. The attractive old town is built in pink brick. Around 1660 Jean Gimbrere, maitre chirurgien, left Ayguetinte for Gaillac. A nephew, also Jean and also maitre chirurgien followed in his footsteps 35 years later. His children were the last local Gimbrères.
Valence-sur-Baïse (approx. 1680 – 1829)
Valence is a small town with about 1100 inhabitants, situated on a steep slope with a view over the river Baïse and its valley, 6 km northwest of Ayguetinte. It was founded as a new town, a bastide, in 1274 and has a typical square street plan. It is one of the many bastides in the southwest of France. According to current standards it is just a village, with a primary school as the highlight of local services. Another Jean Gimbrere also left Ayguetinte to settle as maitre chirurgien in Valence, around 1680. His descendants remained present until the middle of the 19th century.
Auch (1690 – 1876)
Auch is the capital of the Gers Department and is considered to be the historical heart of Gascony. As early as the classical antiquity this was a town: Augusta Auscorum, located on a major Roman road, from Toulouse to Bordeaux, the Via Aquitania. Worthwhile to visit, with 22,000 inhabitants, an old town and a beautiful cathedral. The pousterles, alley stairs, from the river to the old town above, create a medieval atmosphere. A bit off from the old town is the Departmental Archive where we found many sources for the genealogy and history of the Gimbrères.
In 1690 Bernard Gimbrere, the youngest of five brothers, all of them maitre chirurgien, left Ayguetinte for this town. He and his descendants were held in regard: both he and his son and his grandson were elected as consul. In 1876 his great great grandchild Madeleine died. She was the last Gimbrere in Auch.
Larroque sur l’Osse, Larressingle, Mouchan (approx. 1720 – 1953)
Larroque sur l’Osse, or Larroque Maniban or Larroque Verduzan, as it was called before the French Revolution, is a small village on a hilltop. Another castelnau, of which the walls and the castle are still visible. The 240 inhabitants reflect the low population density of the Gers. Around 1800 the village still had 600 inhabitants. Larroque is located 20 km away from Ayguetinte (don’t confuse it with the many other Larroques in the Gers, such as Larroque-St Sernin!).
Approx. 1720 Raymond Gimbrere, son of the eldest of five brothers, all maitres chirurgiens, as he was himself, left Ayguetinte for Larroque. His great grandson Bazile moved through Europe with Napoleon’s forces, as a field surgeon, a.o. to Russia, and he was one the few who survived. Bazile was born in Larroque but settled in Paris after a long military career.
Raymond’s youngest son, another Jean, moved to Larressingle, a nice walled medieval village, and his grandson Jean Marie to Mouchan, a village of 400 inhabitants with a beautiful Romanesque church, where Catherine Claire, the last Gimbrère in the Gers, died in 1953.
Parijs, Tournan-en-Brie (1840 – 1970)
Paris speaks for itself. Bazile Gimbrere, from Larroque, son of a maitre chirurgien, and himself a field surgeon, ended his military career in Paris, where he stayed from then on. His grandson Georges Louis Eugène, born in Paris, died in 1970 in Tournan-en-Brie, a municipality with 8800 inhabitants, 35 km east of Paris. According to our information, he was the last Gimbrère not to descend from Jean François. He was a descendant of Bernard, the eldest son of five of Blaise Gimbrere and Lucy Despenan, who lived in the 17th century, whereas our Jean François descended from Raymond, their third son.
Bordeaux (1733 – 1837?)
Bordeaux is a port city on the river Garonne, which flows together with the Dordogne and then flows out into the Atlantic Ocean as the Gironde. 247,000 people (2014) live in the city itself, but the metropolis counts more than 870,000 inhabitants. Bordeaux is situated 137 km northwest of Ayguetinte and the heartland of the Gimbrères. It is a lively university, industrial and port city, with a nice centre, fine churches and other highlights. Bordeaux is the heart of the wine region with the same name. It also has a Roman history, under the name of Burdigala. When Louis XIV, the later Sun King, draws into Bordeaux in 1675, the city submits to the central power in Paris. Port de la Lune (nickname for Bordeaux) was opened up for trade and develops into the major harbour of France.
The city flourishes, until the French Revolution. Wine from the region is traded, as well as sugar from the colonies, but the main source of income is slave trade. During this period walls are brought down and the medieval town is transformed to a modern city. Adventurers from Portugal, Ireland and the Tarn region settle in Bordeaux, to profit from the new prosperity.
The heyday of the city is reflected in monumental buildings, such as the Grande Théâtre, which is inaugurated in the year that our ancestor Dominique married. But the prosperity ended with the French Revolution, which broke out in 1789. The Girondins, representing the liberal bourgeoisie in the Bordeaux region, tried to deliver their moderate views in revolutionary Paris, but in vain. They lost the battle. Economically too the “good times” were gone, because the Atlantic trade is blocked under Napoleon’s rule. This history may explain why Bernard Gimbrere moved to Bordeaux in 1733 and the Gimbrères disappeared again from this city around 1800. Anyhow, this is the time that Bernard’s grandson Jean left Bordeaux and went to Antwerp.
Antwerpen (approx. 1800 – 1870)
Antwerp, well-known port on the river Scheldt, is 874 km north of Ayguetinte and the Gimbrère heartland. French revolutionary troops occupied the southern Netherlands up to the river Meuse. This freed the city from the blockade instituted by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The city prospered and attracted many new inhabitants. Many French troops were garrisoned in Antwerp, because of the importance of the port in the fight against England. Docks were installed on Napoleon’s initiative from 1803.
Approximately 1800 Jean Gimbrere came from Bordeaux to Antwerp. Perhaps he participated in the local military activities. In 1809 there were about 1000 regular troops quartered in Antwerp and 1400 military workers and master shipwrights. This business did not last long. The Belgian Revolution in 1830 and the final dissolution of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1839 was bad news for the prosperity of Antwerp. The port lost 60% of its trade.
Jean Gimbrere was the first of his family in Antwerp, and also the last. His son Dominique died in 1830 and his son Jean François moved to Tilburg in 1839.
Tilburg (1839 – present)
The mother town of the Dutch Gimbrères lies 935 km north of Ayguetinte. It is a sizeable city with 217,000 inhabitants. Its university and other educational institutions nowadays characterize the city, but it also has a glorious past as a textile city. For centuries it had a wool cloth industry, which was mechanized in the beginning of the 19th century. The innovative atmosphere in the Tilburg textile industry may have seduced Jean François to settle there in 1839. In this year the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands was made final. From Antwerp in decline Jean went to Tilburg, as a trader in umbrella’s, soon also as an umbrella manufacturer.The mother town of the Dutch Gimbrères lies 935 km north of Ayguetinte. It is a sizeable city with 217,000 inhabitants. Its university and other educational institutions nowadays characterize the city, but it also has a glorious past as a textile city. For centuries it had a wool cloth industry, which was mechanized in the beginning of the 19th century. The innovative atmosphere in the Tilburg textile industry may have seduced Jean François to settle there in 1839. In this year the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands was made final. From Antwerp in decline Jean went to Tilburg, as a trader in umbrella’s, soon also as an umbrella manufacturer.
In the Gimbrère family the story goes that Jean François, son of a French citizen, could make use of a French patent on the metal ribs of the umbrellas. The Netherlands were a promising outlet for umbrellas, but also an attractive choice because of the instability in Antwerp and the uncertain border situation.