Sunday, July 29, 2012

COG: Timmer = Hammer; Eight Generations of Building

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy is Business and Commerce and here is my contribution: 

This is a sign outside my grandfather’s home in about the year 1957 advertising him as a contractor and builder in Michigan. Although not every family member over the generations did the same, nonetheless, the earliest known progenitor in the Timmer family, Luitje Jans Timmer was listed as a carpenter on the birth record of his son Jan Luitjes Timmer in 1814. Jan was born in Sint Annen (Ten Boer), Groningen, Netherlands. Jan’s son Hendrik was the father of John (Johannes) Timmer, my grandfather’s father.
My grandmother told me that the name Timmer means “hammer” in Dutch, but I've seen the translation is actually carpenter. It was about the year 1811 when the Dutch were required to register a family surname (see my post here about Dutch naming customs). Perhaps it was Luitje Jans who decided to use Timmer for a surname to signify his occupation.

Some of my earliest memories of my grandfather include the smell of sawdust and the sight of sawhorses. Here my father is helping my grandfather build what eventually was the home where my grandfather drew his last breath. I have many fond memories of this home. Somewhere there is a photograph taken at this same time with me toddling around in a diaper while they worked.

My father learned a lot of carpentry work from my grandfather. He eventually went on to a long teaching career in vocational education teaching carpentry skills. My grandfather also taught his other son-in-law (my mother’s first husband Wayne) the tools of the trade. Wayne eventually went into the home remodeling business. In turn, my sister’s husband took over the family business for many years. His son grew up in the business and now does the same type of work. He built his own house, pictured below:

This makes eight generations of building in our family; a heritage of which we are proud. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Going Global

Being from the United States with Dutch ancestry, I was delighted to find a blogger from the Netherlands (Peter's Blogvia Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog a while back. It reminded me of the time I had a project that went global in the early days of computer-assisted genealogy research.

I had been working on my family line of Kiel and gotten back to Harm Hendrik Kiel (1808-1891) and his wife Hendericka J. Siegers. I did this the “old-fashioned” way by requesting copies of death certificates and researching cemetery records on-site. (See my post here about my cemetery research on the Kiel family).

In 1997, I got in touch with a gentleman via an internet posting on I lived in Florida at the time and he lived in California, clear on the other side of the coast. We corresponded several times by email as he was also descended from a Kiel family of Grand Rapids, MI. Although I felt it was very possible that we had the same family, we couldn’t quite make a connection with the information on hand. He descended from a Lammert Kiel who was born in 1821. He could also go back several more generations from there, but Harm was my earliest known Kiel ancestor. I made it a research goal to see if I could find records that connected my Harm Kiel with his Kiel ancestor.

First I had to locate records from the Netherlands. Luckily, I was able to go through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and obtain microfilmed copies of records from the Netherlands that would assist me. These records were in Dutch, so I got online and posted a note on a newsgroup board that was dedicated to genealogy in the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg area. I asked for help in translating the records I had. I received an offer from a transplanted Dutchwoman in South Africa. She graciously translated the records I needed regarding Harm and noted that it was pretty brave of him to start a new life in a foreign country at the age of 60 during a time when one didn’t know much about the rest of the world since there was no television, radio or internet. I had not thought about it much, but her experience of living in a foreign country provided her with a different outlook on it.

And what would this Grandfather Kiel have thought about the way I took only a few weeks to traverse the globe via technology to discover that he and Lammert Kiel were brothers and were grandsons of Steffan Jans Kijl and Renske Harms Clasens who were married 24 April 1750 in Wedde, Groningen, Netherlands. He might have thought it magical for me to have transcended both time and space to gain this knowledge. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Those Places Thursday: A Kaleidoscope Perspective

Carla, of sassygenealogist, published a post on her four sets of great-grandparents which consist of her eight primary surnames she searches for, entitled "My Eight Great Surprises". The surprise was that she found out she was not as  "Southern" as she thought.

It prompted me to think of my eight surnames and where they came from. They would be: Watts, Spencer, Hardy, Lovelace, Timmer, Bolhuis, Katsma and Kiel. Half are firmly Dutch as my mother was the second or third generation from the Netherlands. Her grandparents on her father's side came over on their honeymoon. Her Kiel family was here a generation earlier.

The Watts and Hardy lines are firmly entrenched in Virginia clear back to the 1700s and likely English before that. The Lovelace line (also of English origin) can be traced from Kentucky back to North Carolina and then up to Maryland, but still not past the Mason Dixon line. The Spencer line is my most elusive after twenty years. While I can't say for sure where this line originated, I'd be very surprised to find it varied from the others. (But, hey, I surely wouldn't complain if someone were able to trace this line successfully and prove  otherwise.)

I commented on Carla's post that I wound up marrying a Northerner to add more variety to the mix. My children's eight greats consists of:  Watts, Hardy, Timmer and Katsma from me, of course.  Then they have Westfall, Smith, Neamon and McKinsey. These four lines are firmly entrenched in the Northern half of the United States. The first Westfall from Germany to America was born in 1843. He settled in Cattaraugus County, New York. The Smiths hailed from Ontario, Canada for a few generations having originally emigrated from England at some point. Neamon is also a German line that emigrated in the same time period as the Westfalls. Last but not least is the McKinsey line which so far I have traced back to Pennsylvania in the 1830s.

Researching all of these families have given me a broad and varied perspective from a historical lens, reminding me of a kaleidoscope of blending patterns that makes us who we are.

The Brewster Kaleidoscope Society

Monday, July 2, 2012

Maritime Monday: The Milwaukee Clipper

From the Muskegon Chronicle photo files
I am visiting my mother and sister in the Muskegon, MI area this week. My mother grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and told us stories about how as children, she and her brother would go with their parents on the Milwaukee Clipper from Muskegon to Milwaukee. She remembers most clearly running around playing on the deck of the ship. She said they went everywhere on the ship and it was great fun.

My sister mentioned that the Milwaukee Clipper was open as a museum now in downtown Muskegon, so her and I rounded up my daughters and our mother and headed over there yesterday afternoon. My mother is in a wheelchair and wasn't able to run around on any of the decks this time. Instead she explored the museum store and watched the video which included actual footage from back in the day when the Clipper was still in commission. She was hoping to see someone she knew, but didn't recognize anyone. The girls and I took the actual tour up and down the levels of the ship. 

Timmer Family ca. 1940
We had this photograph from my grandmother's collection that at first we thought might have been a family excursion on the Clipper. Included is my mother Helen, her brother John, their mother Theresa and John & Martha Timmer, my mother's grandparents. Upon further investigation, we think the lighthouse in the background is actually the one in Grand Haven, MI instead. I have other photographs back home originally from my great-grandmother from when the family took a trip over to Wisconsin that I will have to study to see if we can tell if it was a trip on the Milwaukee Clipper. 

It was nice to show the girls a historical connection to their Michigan heritage and they seemed to have a good time. They were invited to volunteer sometime to be a soda jerk at the Soda Bowl on the ship during the summertime on the ship and they agreed that if they lived in the area, they would enjoy doing that.

If you're interested in a virtual tour of the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper, click here: