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.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

New Blog: The Gift of Laughter ~ the Story of a California Mennonite Family

Although I may add a few things from time to time, this blog is essentially finished.  I have begun a new blog-book about the family I knew growing up—parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It covers the period between 1919 when my Willems grandparents moved from Saskatchewan to Reedley, California and ends in 1954 when my parents moved with their children to Phoenix, Arizona.  The title of the new blog is The Gift of Laughter ~ the Story of a California Mennonite Family.  You can access it by clicking on the following link: