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. 


  1. Dawn, I think your grandmother was right.
    To hammer = timmeren
    I hammer = ik timmer
    We hammer = wij timmeren
    Carpenter = timmerman
    Possibly in Dutch slang a "timmer" is the nickname for a "timmerman".
    Besides, there is a saying in Dutch: "Aan de weg timmeren", the meaning a.o. being "Getting publicity".
    The Netherlands

  2. Thanks, Peter! I should have known Grandma was right. She was only 2nd and 3rd generation from the Netherlands...

  3. What a great family story! Not many of us can document 8 generations working in the same industry. As my mother would say, "it's in their blood". Thanks for sharing your family story in the COG!

  4. I'm glad I could participate and share, Jasia. Thanks for all you do with the COG!

  5. Enjoyed reading your submission to the COG. Great photos.

  6. Dawn, Not only was this an enjoyable bit of family history, I also learned alot. Thanks.

  7. Thanks for stopping by, Carol and Joan! I appreciate your comments.