The original countries
Renwart Orban was Master of the city of Liège in 1403. This is the earliest mention of the name in Belgium and, to my knowledge, in the world. Some other ancient references to the name Orban and other similar names can be found in a book by Jules Herbillon et Jean Germain entitled "dictionnaire des noms de famille en Belgique romane et dans les régions limitrophes":
1433 Colet Orban
1445 Damoiselle Aely, widow of Johan Orbain (Liège)
1464 Orban of Wainne (Stavelot)
1494 Orban of Ronnay
1520 Maroye Orban (Namur)
1541 Orbaine Bihain
1604 Jean Orbant (Namur)
1659 Pire Orban (Vielsalm)
1766 Nicolas Orbain (Arbrefontaine)
The same book gives the present split of the 2259 Orbans by province:
Flemish Brabant: 52
Walloon Brabant: 69
West Flanders: 21
East Flanders: 14
Liège: 1119 (the record!)
The 3 main cities where the 893 Orban families now live are Liège (132), Amay (72) and Namur (60). For some of the Orbans of Amay, see my own family tree.
One Orban family is originally from La Roche (prov. Luxembourg), where they were burgomaster or deputy mayor from father to son. A page is devoted to the history of that family since 1638, with the description of their coat of arms. This family of the Belgian nobility changed its name through marriage to Orban de Xivry in 1875. Some of their heirs emigrated to Canada.
Another Orban family from the same province of Luxembourg was raised to peerage by the King in 1924 (without changing its name).
Other Orbans were living in the southern tip of Belgium (Gaume). Some of them (from Gérouville) emigrated to neighbouring France (near Montmédy, Ardennes) in the early XVIIIth century. But most of them remained in the area. The name was found as early as the XVIth century in La Hage (Bellefontaine). The first recognised ancestor was discovered in 1648 in parochial documents: Jacqmin Orban whose descendency is still alive. In the XIXth century, one branch moved to Antwerp, another to Mons. They are not related to the Orbans of La Roche or Liège.
Another important Orban family is from Liège. A book has been written on this family: "Descendance de Henri Joseph Orban à la date du 1er septembre 1971", by Madeleine Lippens Peltzer, Countess Maurice Lippens, and herself descendant of Henri Joseph (more about him at famous Orban's).
The name Orban has been researched in the provinces of Antwerp and Luxembourg over the period 1750-1997 by Bastiaensen Jean Louis, Bareelstraat 23, 2920 Kalmthout and in the community of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse by Brulez Piet, Kerkstraat 23, 3010 Leuven-Kessel-Lo, tel.: +32-16-25.26.28.
A large emigration due to religious persecution took place in the XIth and XIIth centuries (others say XVIth and XVIIth centuries); several of those emigrants, among them Orbans, took root in Hungary. Another emigration where Orbans were involved took place in the XIXth century: at that time the steel industry was booming around Liège, and local people traveled throughout the world, and most notably to Sweden and Hungary and to Pennsylvania in the USA, to create steel plants. During the same period and in the early XXth century, other Belgians emigrated to the USA, mainly to Wisconsin, because of food shortages. The latest emigration, in present time, sent Belgian Orbans all around the world, looking for business opportunities.
Some Orbans in Belgium (and France) could so be immigrants from Hungary at the period of the French Revolution, according to this source. Later some Hungarians settled in Belgium after the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union.
There are many Orbáns in Erdély, and it is commonly considered a Szekely name (Szekelys were one of the most ancient tribes of Hungary and some theories link them to Attila's Huns). There is a city in Erdély which has a huge concentration of Orbáns. This city is Szekelyudvarhely (Romanian name unknown to me). What makes this very interesting is that Szekelyudvarhely is one of the centers of unitarian religion in Erdély. Unitarians have always been considered being rebellious and free-minded. Erdély was the only safe haven for unitarians in Europe for several centuries. As a result, besides the US (there are several million unitarians in New England, US), Erdély is the only place where unitarian is a 'large' church. These Orbáns make up a significant portion of the unitarians. Consequently, an Orbán is much more likely to be unitarian than an average person from Erdély.
Other sources tell that the Hungarian name Orbán has its origins in Voivodina, which was originally part of Hungary, but is now a region of Serbia, one of the two remaining states of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Voivodina too has a sizeable Hungarian minority of 22%. There is actually now ethnic unrest there among the Hungarians, who traditionally were not treated badly, but are suffering under the rise of Serbian nationalism. Voivodina is located in the North of Serbia and borders Hungary and Croatia along the Danube. Its capital is Novi Sad.
The most unusual story is about some Spanish Orbans who fled Spain during the inquisition to settle in Hungary.
Finally, a few Hungarian Orban's could be descended from Belgian emigrants who fled the Principality of Liège after religious persecution or who came here to create a steel industry. Some of them could have transited through Transylvania (see hereunder).
In Hungary itself, Orbán is the 37th most frequent surname (4601 occurrences), according to a survey of the telephone directory made by Radix. The highest concentration of Orbán's is along the Western border of Hungary with Austria - in Gyor-Sopron-Moson county, in Vas and in Zala counties. For example, the graveyard of Oszkó, a small rural village near Szombathely (largest town in Vas), is full with crosses and graves bearing the name Orbán. It is thought that the Orbáns of that area were moved to this region from Transylvania to protect the border against the Ottomans sometime in the XVIIth century.
There are also many Orbáns in the South, on the border with Croatia and Serbia.
Most of the Hungarian Orbáns are Szekely/Transylvanian Hungarians in origin. Also, most of them are Protestants rather than Roman Catholics. After the Reformation, many Hungarian Protestants travelled to Northern Europe for theological study and training. A few are Jewish.
Many Orbáns were from "kulak" families, which means a wealthy peasant in pre-communist Hungary. But some others were of aristocratic origin (barons).
After the revolution of 1956, approx. 270,000 Hungarians left their country, first to Austria, but, after the closure of the western border of Hungary, even to Yugoslavia. The refugees were put into large camps where they lived until a country was found where the refugees could settle down. Most of the Hungarians wanted to go to USA, but the US government set up a limit for the number of refugees they wanted to admit. Therefore, a lot of the refugees who did not get the possibility to settle down in the USA tried to get into the States on illegal ways. The revolution of 1956 sent Orbán emigrants all around the world, mainly to Western Europe, but also to the USA in areas already inhabited by descendants of Hungarians (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio).
The oldest mention of the name Orban can be traced to the year 1453, when a cannon maker from Hungary named Orban helped the Ottomans overthrow the Byzantine empire in Constantinople (see here).
In an Orbán family from Szarföld, it seems that the surname was sometimes changed to Orbany around 1730. Can anyone confirm?
A large family research by Donna Paterson lived in Scharosch/Birthalm. Any invformation would be welcome.
Some of the Transylvanian Orbans could be of Belgian origin. Indeed, a friend who visited the Transylvanian mountains told me that some people there speak a language close to old Flemish; Hitler considered them as lost children of the Reich, whereas they might rather be Belgian protestants who fled the Spaniards in the XVIth century.
Orbon is a known Spanish surname, also seen in former Spanish colonies such as Cuba and in the Philippines.
Orbaneja is an old family name in Andalusia. Some members of that family emigrated to Venezuela in the early XVIIth century, where they changed their name to Urbaneja.
Ironically, another family's surname Urbaneja was changed to Orbaneja several decades ago. They now live in the Asturias, but were originally from the Burgos area, where two little villages are called respectively "Orbaneja del Castillo" and "Orbaneja Riopico".
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The Hungarian immigrants
Most of the Hungarians (including of course the Orbans) drifted during most of the XIXth and the early XXth century to areas where other central Europeans went (Pennsylvania, New Jersey - especially around Passaic and New Brunswick in northern New Jersey -, New York state, including New York City and Buffalo, and Ohio), although they also scattered tending to socially and economically better than their fellow Slav immigrants. Very often, the Orbans among them came from western Hungary, close to the Austrian border. Some of them came from the Hungarian minorities in Romania and Voivodina (Serbia), and even from Croatia. Here is a list of some Orbans who arrived at Ellis Island (source: The American Immigrant Wall of Honor)
|Julia Orban Dosa
|Anton and Mary Orban Nagy
|Mariska Mary Orban
|Mary Halasz Orban
|The John Orban, Sr. Family
|The Imre Orban Family
|Anna Cesnak Orban
|Fanny Steffan Orban
Sometime in the late 1800's, some Hungarian Orbans settled in Indiana where they still reside today. Others came to the same area (East Chicago, Indiana) in the 1950's, probably to meet fellow countrymen. Among them, a family initially went to Germany (Bavaria), before deciding they'd be better of in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A family from Luscka (then in Gomor es Kis-hont county, currently Lucka in Slovakia) made their way to Indiana first in 1914, and their descent is now in Illinois. Another family from Csorna moved to Michigan around 1907.
Other Orbans went to West Virginia at the same period to work as coal miners.
An individual born in Melence served a period in the Austro-Hungarian army. His civilian career was that of an estate manager. His duties took him throughout Hungary and the Middle East. He spoke a number of languages (German, English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish.) But originally his family emigrated from Spain sometime during the Spanish Inquisition. He entered the United States at Ellis Island in 1914, like many others. The family now lives in Texas.
Several Orbans (related to the Hungarian, German, Swedish and Yugoslavian families) emigrated to the USA both before and after World War II and settled in the Chicago area.
One family emigrated during the 1956 revolution, ending in NY and eventually moving out to Missouri. At least 3 generations back, that branch of the family lived on the island of Csepel on the Danube, which is actually a part of Budapest. Another family that emigrated in 1956 went first to Vancouver in British Columbia (Canada), before settling in Seattle, Washington.
One individual's family of Transylvanian origin emigrated to Australia after World War II before he moved to Maryland.
Recent immigration comprises Orbans coming from all over Hungary to study in American universities, like those two young people from Gyor-Moson-Sopron county registered at MIT and Tufts in Boston.
From their initial settling areas, the Hungarian Orban's moved to all of the USA during the XXth century. They can now be found in most of the states of the Union: from New York, New England, Virginia and Florida in the East to California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington in the West, without forgetting centrally located states such as Louisiana and Oklahoma.
One family's original name was Orban Markosfalvi, meaning Orban from Markosfalva; this name was later abbreviated to d'Orban.
Another family of Hungarian origin in Oregon had Oder as its original name, but changed it to Orban two generations ago: they felt that their children would be teased less with that name.
The Belgian immigrants
The Belgian Orbans settled with their countrymen in Wisconsin in the early 1900's to go away from poverty and hunger in the Namur province.
The French immigrants
One Orban family of French origin came to the US in the 1800's from the Alsace region of France and Germany to settle in the Great Lakes region of the USA. In the late 1800's to early 1900's the family settled in California, with many relatives still residing today in the southern California area, especially in or near Pasadena.
The Polish immigrants
One Polish family settled in Posen, Michigan (an essentially Polish community). Its original name Urban was changed to Orban by the oldest son. They are now present in other parts of Michigan. [Incidentally, the same happened to the people who are now the Orbans of Connecticut]. Another family in Michigan is also from Polish origin, but their original name was changed from Urbancewski to Orban by US immigration officials at Ellis Island at the turn of the century. Still another Urban family from Polish origin had its name changed to Urbanes and later Orbanes by US officials.
Some Orbans in the US (San Francisco area, Connecticut) were originally called Orbanowski and simplified their name after immigrating from Germany. The Orbanowski's were originally Polish from Gdansk (Danzig) before emigrating to Germany.
Other Orbans, probably from Polish origin, were living in or near Chicago in the 1890's. They had offspring who live near Los Angeles, all Orbans. For many years, they also lived in Kenosha Wisconsin. Their ancestor's birth name may have been something like Orbanski.
A Polish family named Urbanowicz that immigrated to Pennsylvania from Warsaw in Poland in the 1860's had several children. One went by the name Orbanek, others brothers spelled their names as Orbanic or Orbank.
The German and Austrian immigrants
In other instances, people named Orbann, whose origin is to be traced to Germany, dropped one "n" from their name to become Orban. Others immigrants are from Prussia (Germany), when Frank and his sister Mary Orban came to America around the year 1880, and settled near the small town of Brighton in Illinois.
One family's name was spelled Urbanus before they came to the US in the late 1890's. When the ancestor was naturalized, his name appeared on the papers as Orbanus. He left Europe from Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland), which at the time was controlled by Russia. His family is believed to be of Prussian origin, as there are photos of several Prussian soldiers in the old family album. Their name is now spelled either Orbanus or Orbanes, but nobody knows how this last change occurred. It is possible that back in the XVth or XVIth century the name Urbanus was Städter or Stetter - until it became fashionable for Germans to change the spelling of their names to the Latin equivalent (in this case, "City dweller").
The family Horban are the heirs of an Austrian Army officer in the early 1900's.
Most of the Orbin's in the US are descended from Philip Orbin (in earlier days the name was also spelled Orban) who emigrated to the US from Germany in the late 1700's. The 1880 and 1900 census data gives various other spellings (Orben) as well as longer versions which may have been shortened to Orbin. The same census data shows that persons with these surnames came from a wide variety of countries (Hungary, "Lusitania", Bavaria, Austria and other countries of that area prior to the re-unification of those countries just before 1900). For more information on the Orbin's, see The Orbin Family Home Page. Another Orbin family is unrelated: they immigrated from Lithuania around 1910 (the ancestor's name was in fact Urbonas).
The US family Orbanz immigrated from either the most eastern part of Germany or from Poland during the XIXth century.
Some Dutch people with the name Oirbans immigrated in the beginning of the XIXth century.
An Orbanic family from Croatia emigrated to California in 1984.
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Across the Prairies in Saskatchewan, in the small village of Arbury on a grid road, just a little south of the Hamlet of Serath, off the #6 Highway, half of the population are called Orban! They must have emigrated from Hungary during the late 1800's when the Canadian Prairies were settled.
Four Hungarian Orban brothers came from Andras Falva, a village in Szeklyfold, Bukovina, now under Romanian control, to Punnichy, Sask., in 1911 and the following years. Another brother and sister went on to Brazil after being denied access to Canada because of health problems. A similar story occurred for a young man of Hungarian origin who came to Regina, Saskatwchewan, from Bukavia, Austria, in 1911 at age 17 and was later joined by three brothers and a cousin. Still in Saskatchewan, a family from Bellad, Soprnegya, Hungary immigrated to Lethring in 1924 and other members of the same family went to Herow, Ontario. In the village of Punnichy, another Orban family settled around 1930, but they were not Hungarian. Belgian perhaps?
The story and a family tree of an Orban family of Saskatchewan can be found here.
One ethnic Hungarian family from Manitoba came originally from Lueta, Harghita (Romania) and emigrated in the 1930's. Another Orban family is living in Edmonton, Alberta, after moving from Ontario, where the ancestors settled to flee World War I.
One Orban family is originally from Hungary, but that was not their original family name. They were called Oberle, and the family was originally from France (where the name is written Oberlé; "Les Oberlé" is the title of a book by French author Hervé Bazin). They moved to Hungary during the 1780s, when Maria-Theresia, the Habsburg empress, brought all sort of tradesmen from Europe into the empire. The ancestors of this family were teachers. The name Oberle was changed to Orban around 1930.
The Belgian immigrants
Canada, in particular Québec and Saskatchewan, is also home to a few Belgian Orban emigrants, some of which went back to Europe (UK and Belgium). One family moved to Québec at the end of the XIXth century, before continuiing to Massachusetts just before World War I. A honorary professor of the University of Montréal came originally from my own area in Belgium. An Orban de Xivry family settled in Montreal and Toronto (see their page).
Information on some Orbans buried in Ontario cemeteries van be found here.
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Other Orban's could be descendants of Belgian steel-makers. Does anyone have confirmation of this?
There are also about 10 members of an Orbansen family in the Helsingør area. The name means "son of Orban" and their Orban ancestors came from France (or from Belgium? because of the rarity of the name Orban in France) in the XVIth century.
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England is also the home of Belgian Orban emigrants (a/o a person whose Belgian father was born in Canada and became a Canadian citizen and whose mother was born in Russia, but also a lady, descending from the Orbans of Luxembourg, whose great-grandfather went to Flanders).
Oriben is a name found in Scotland, where it also appears under the spellings Orben, Orban, Oriban, Horriben and the most recent Horribine. The name might originate in Germany.
One family from Hungarian descent now living in Germany changed its family name to Orban, from what it had originally been (Oesterreicher). They chose Orban, because it has the same starting initial, and was a good Catholic name in a predominantly Catholic country. The name change was made in the first decade of the 20th century, when the Austro-Hungarian empire was already experiencing internal tension, and it was unpopular in Hungary to have a German-sounding family name. Alternatively, it may have been to escape anti-semitism, as many of the Hungarian Jews had German names, thanks to the relatively enlightened attitude of one of the former Kaisers of Austria-Hungary, who had wanted to reduce discrimination against the Jews by making them all take germanic rather than obviously jewish names.
Many Orbans now living in Germany left Hungary after the Revolution
The name Horban also exists in Austria.
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The name Orbant, which is of Jewish origin, is known in Moscow and Odessa. A member of that family now lives in Bulgaria.
|Départements with highest occurrence of the name Orban
|Cities with high occurrence
|1891 - 1915
|Marne, Ardennes, Réunion
|Troissy, Bazeilles, Saint-Louis
|1916 - 1940
|Marne, Nord, Paris
|Mareuil le Port, Lille, Paris 14e
|1941 - 1965
|Marne, Réunion, Aisne
|Reims, Saint-Louis, Serches
|1966 - 1990
|Réunion, Marne, Ardennes
|Saint-Louis, Reims, Charleville Mézières
Currently about 300 people have the Orban name in France. Many of them originated from Belgium and live near the Belgian border (North-East of the country, such as in Givet) or in the East (Vosges, Alsace). The name has also been mentioned between 1680 and 1727 at Mouzay (Departement of the Meuse) near the actual Belgian border. More details in this page. In that region, there are also Orbans in Vigneul-sous-Montmédy (Meuse) and Charleville-Mézières (Ardennes). Near Montmédy, some immigrated from Gérouville (Gaume, Belgium) in the early XVIIIth century; and in the Ardennes, the name is also mentioned in Brévilly, Auflance, Chooz, Donchery, Beaumont en Argonne for several generations between 1692 and 1844. Recently, one Orban of the Vosges area moved to Leipzig, Germany.
In the small village of Troissy (F-51700, pop. 750) and in some surrounding villages in Champagne (Departement of the Marne) like Leuvrigny, Cuisles and Cuchery, there are many Orbans, most of them producers of champagne from father to son since several generations! But it seems that they are not related to one another. The legend says that these families descend from mercenaries recruited by Napoleon in Hungary two centuries ago; they settled first in the Ardennes, and later in Champagne. But Orbans seem to have been in Troissy well before Napoleon started his wars, with several generations extending from 1750 until now. A member of one of these families recently emigrated to Italy and she thinks that these Orbans are descending from aristocrats who fled Hungary after an earlier revolution.
The region of Alsace in the East also has a few Orbans, including some who emigrated to the US in the 1800's.
In the neighbouring region of Lorraine, in the now united villages of Xivry le Franc and Circourt (Departement of Meurthe-et-Moselle), there were also some Orbans in the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries. They can be found in the genealogy of Michel Canton. One of them was notary. The biggest house in the village is still called Chateau Orban. Its interior decoration was considerably damaged by German troops in August 1914.
More surprisingly, the Orban name have been recorded since 1700 in the departement of Haute-Loire, in the Centre-South of France, far from every other location where Orbans are present. See the genealogy of this family.
There are a few other Orbans from Hungarian origin, who fled after the 1956 Revolution.
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Some of the Dutch Orbans are from Hungarian origin and immigrated here rather recently. This is the case for the family of Baron Orbán de Lengyelfalva, that lived in the neighbourhod of "Lengyelfalva", Polonica, in Transylvania (Romania). They emigrated to Hungary in 1944 and to Holland in 1956. See the page with their family tree and one of them in the Orban literature page.
The name Oirbans is also known in the Netherlands. It could be a deformation of Orban, in the same way as other Dutch names starting with 'oir'. The Oirbans's could be descendants from French Huguenots. I need a confirmation of this. Some Oirbans's emigrated to the USA at the beginning of the XIXth century..
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It seems there is also another Orban family from Ukrainian origin. I am waiting for further information on them.
Another Orban in Brazil is a poet (see the Links page).
A former consul of Belgium in Amman (Jordan) was an Orban. I'l afraid there are no Orbans left in Jordan.
Another Orban family is from Dutch origin and emigrated to South Africa in the early 1900's; their ancestors were initially from Belgium and later moved to Germany, and from there to the Netherlands. They spread around the whole country.
One Orbin family in South Africa immigrated from the USA.
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