Hermannus (Herman) Thiessens--Our Common Ancestor

altHermannus Thiessens aka Herman Thiessens was born December 12, 1876, the third son of Antoon Thiessens and Willemke de Jong in Groningen city, Groningen province, The Netherlands.  He was, by profession, a furniture maker. He married (1) Hendrikje (Reka) Mulder on November 1, 1900 in Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands who was the daughter of Hendrik Mulder and Foktje Klooster. She was from the village Niebert in the administrative district of Marum. 

Six children were born to them in Groningen: Antoon Fokko [Val] Thiessens b. 7 Apr 1902; Hendrik Thiessens b. 29 Dec 1903 (died three months later on 27 Mar 1904); Fokke Wilhelmina [Fern or Billie] Thiessens b. 20 Nov 1905; Willem Thiessens b. 10 Feb 1907 (died almost three months later on 6 May 1907); Melvina Thiessens b. 16 Oct 1908 (died almost a year later on 14 Sep 1909); and Hermannus [Herman] Thiessens b. 6 Mar 1910.

During the time that Reka was expecting their third child, Fokke [the English name = Fern] Wilhelmina [short and anglicized = Billie], Hermannus investigated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and joined through baptism on October 11, 1905. He was ordained a deacon April 8, 1906. For Reka, it was more difficult to accept this American church, but on February 6, 1906 she was baptized into the LDS church. 

In that day, faithful members were encouraged to emigrate to “Zion” or Utah where the headquarters of the Church was located.  So in 1909, while Reka waspregnant with their son, Herman, Hermannus purchased his ticket and boarded the ship Noordam at Rotterdam, Netherlands and sailed for Ellis Island, New York.  He arrived there on October 5, 1909 at the age of 35 years. His parents and siblings were very much against him going, and they disowned him. In their eyes, he was deserting his family!


From the ship’s manifest, it appears that he traveled in company of Sietze and Grietje Alberts and their family of seven children ages 2 – 16 years of age who were also from Groningen. Their destination was Adams Avenue in Ogden, Utah to join three daughters and sisters. Hermannus stated that he was going to join his friend, B. Meenderink on 35th Street below Washington Avenue in Ogden, Utah.  A year and a half later, Reka immigrated to Utah leaving Groningen on May 25, 1911. She had her three surviving children with her. Val was nine years old, Billie was five years old, and Herman was just over a year old. Things did not go well after her arrival, and this marriage dissolved with divorce. She remarried Silas D. Sneed in 1920.

Henderika Folkers [Henrietta as she was known after immigration] had emigrated from Groningen to Utah in August, 1909. She was the niece of Hendrikje, Hermannus’ first wife. She had joined the LDS church in Groningen on February 29, 1908 after becoming acquainted with missionaries who visited the home of her aunt and uncle, Reka and Hermannus. She had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and the doctors had advised that she go to a climate that was not as wet as Holland. So she decided to come to Ogden, Utah where many of the converts from Groningen were now residing.

After her aunt and uncle’s divorce, she undoubtedly had contact with them, and stated that she really didn’t care for her uncle, Hermannus. But he had an eye on her, and so she decided to leave Utah and went to Evanston, Wyoming where she did house cleaning. She thought that enough time had gone by away from Salt Lake so she decided to return. Upon her arrival by train, who should be waiting for her but Hermannus.  He said he had dreamed that she would be coming by train sometime that day, so he decided to wait for her arrival.

This frightened Henrietta and, after a short time, she went back to Evanston. Time passed and she once again decided to return to Salt Lake City. But who should be waiting at the station? Once again, her uncle was there; same story. But this time, she decided that she would stay in Salt Lake, and on March 6, 1914 they were married in Evanston, Wyoming by James Brown, the LDS bishop there.

Six children were born to this union, three boys and then three girls. They were: Folkert Teunis (Ted) b. 7 Jan 1915; Herman Hendrik [Hank] b. 1 Dec 1919; Joseph Hyrum b. 13 Jan 1924 (he died 30 Apr 1938 from tetanus – complications from an injury at school); Hilda Henryetta b. 13 Jan 1924; Ruth Lenore b. 13 Apr 1927; and Grace Lois b.19 Jun 1928. All six children were born in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Hermannus and Henrietta worked to not only sustain their family, but they were able to save enough money to bring two of Henrietta’s sisters (Sara [Hemhla] and Lena) and her parents (Folkert Teunis Folkers and Hilje Mulder) to the United States in the 1920s. So it was that Hilje was reunited with her sister, Reka. Hermannus worked as a cabinet maker and finisher for W.P. Madsen Company and Henrietta worked as a cleaning lady outside the home. After their son, Joseph, died in 1938, Hermannus’ health began to decline.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and arteriosclerosis which disabled him from working and on 29 August 1948 he passed away in Salt Lake City, Utah due to a cerebral hemorrhage.

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