My grandparents, Jacob & Lena (Zimmerman) Willems, were step-brother and step-sister in a marriage my family says was arranged by the Mennonite Brethren Church. Grandma's father, Heinrich H. Zimmermann (1866-1934), was a widower with 5 children, whose wife, Maria Dyck Zimmermann (1861-1905), died soon after the family arrived in Canada (1903) from a Mennonite colony in what is now Ukraine. Grandpa's mother, Elisabeth Bolt Willems (1858-1943), was a widow with 9 children whose husband, Cornelius Willems (1885-1902), died two years after the family arrived in Saskatchewan in 1900 from Mountain Lake, Minnesota, the place where the family settled after emigrating from a Mennonite settlement in Crimea in 1875. Jacob & Lena were married in 1909. They moved to Reedley, California in 1919.

There is an even earlier couple important to this history, Gerhard Willems (1820-1900) and Katharina Rempel Willems (1823-1875), Cornelius' parents. Their story reaches back to the early years of Mennonite sesttlement in the land they knew as South Russia, a story of migration from the North Sea to the Black Sea, from Eastern Europe to North America.

COMMENTS are very welcome. You may reach me by clicking on the "view my complete profile".

Friday, May 31, 2013

Zimmermann-Willems Family Portrait (c. 1916)

There were actually three Zimmerman-Willems marriages in my family:

1) my great-grandparents, Heinrich H. Zimmerman & Elisabeth Boldt Willems Zimmerman;

2) my grandparents, Jacob and Lena (Helena) Zimmermann Willems; 

3) my grandfather's younger brother and grandmother's next youngest sister: George & Anna Zimmermann Willems.

The photo below was taken around 1916 in Saskatchewan, Canada, most likely in the town of Waldheim.

 Note: Elisabeth is wearing a traditional Russian Mennonite head-dress:

Front row:
            Heinrich and Elisabeth, the parents are seated in the center.  Seated next to them are their two oldest children and their spouses.  Lena, my grandmother, sits next to her father.  Jacob, my grandfather, sits next to her.  Seated next to Elisabeth in the front row is her oldest child, Cornelius, and his wife, Tina.  Standing behind them are all the rest of the Zimmerman and Willems children as well as the spouses of those who were married.
Middle row:  the women (left to right):
Margaret Willems, Elizabeth Jantz; Marie Zimmerman, Marie Goertzen, Kate Willems, Anna Jantz; Anna Zimmerman Willems
Back row:  the men (left to right):
Abe Jantz*, Pete Goertzen, *Henry Jantz, George Willems, Henry Zimmerman; Jacob/Jack Zimmerman; Henry Willems   
*Note:  The Jantz men were brothers--Abe Jantz was married to Elizabeth Willems; Henry Jantz was married to Anna Willems.  Other husbands: Pete Goertzen was married to Marie Willems. George Willems was married to my grandmother’s sister Anna.