"It's All in the Family"

Updated: 15 April 2009

(This is an article about the family tree, courtesy of Sister Mary Marcellinda, O.S.F. who gave a copy of this article to Jim Adams. Handwritten note in the margin says this article appeared in the company's magazine in 1962. Jim also has a photocopy of the original tree done by Father John Nemmers in 1890. The handwritten notes in the margin of the original tree read:

"Johann Nicolas Nemmers was born in 1783 at Donde-Lingen, Luxembourg, and died March 7, 1857.

Catharina Weber was born (as above) in 1785 and died March 25, 1870.

Carolina Nemmers was born Nov. 30, 1827 at (as above) and died Mar. 14, 1869.

Theodore Haxmeier was born in 1814 at Leschede, Hannover, Ger. and died Nov. 30, 1871.

All above are buried at St. Donatus, Ia.

Henry P. Haxmeier was born S.W. of St. Donatus, Ia., in 1849 and died Mar. 1931.

Lizzie Gilles (1853 - July 1927) came to America at age 12 from Luxembourg. Both are buried at Bellevue, Iowa.

This family tree was made around 1890 by Father John Nemmers, pastor of Gilbertville, Iowa, where he is buried. 1928.

The tree appeared in the March 24, 1919 issue of "The Catholic Tribune" of Dubuque, Iowa, together with a written account of the project. It was updated in 1948 by Susan Hoxmeier of Alton, Ia., and Sister M. Marcellinda Kass, OSF of Dubuque, Iowa, and Frank Hoxmeier of Orleans, Nebr.

(Picture not available of Irv Nemmers and his son, Joe holding a copy of the Nemmers tree. If you have a copy of this photo or article please send a copy to Jim Adams. (adamsmckain at gmail.com)

Photo caption reads: No skeletons here. Irv Nemmers and his son, Joe, display their family tree which dates back to 1750, lists more than 3,600 names. Irv is a member of D-814; Joe is Manager of Printing Service.

It's All in the Family

Most people can trace their family back little further than Great-aunt Tillie, but not so with Irvin Nemmers of D-814. Thanks to an unusually complete family tree, Irv is able to name nearly 3,600 family members dating back to the year 1750.

The family tree goes all the way back to Irv's great-grandparents, John Nicholas Nemmers and Catherina Weber, whose marriage formed the tree's trunk, and is made up of five major branches representing the two sons and three daughters of the family. From these, the tree splits into a welter of family sub-branches.

"Being of French-German ancestry, it's not unusual that most of the families had a good number of children," Irv said. A quick check of the tree shows what he means. Most of the sub-branches show anywhere from six to fifteen children per family. Irv's father was the seventh in a family of seven sons, and Irv himself was the seventh in a family of ten.

Work on the original tree, from which this one grew, was started in 1900 by the Reverend John Nemmers, who for 60 years served a parish in Gilbertville, Iowa. The present tree, with each of its 3,600 names clearly readable, was sketched by Sister Mary Marcellinda, O.S.F., of Dubuque, Iowa, in 1948.

Irv has been called on many times to check the tree for the lineage of a Nemmers previously unknown to him, and has never found one with the family name who wasn't related and listed on the tree.

Some years ago, for example, Irv learned that a Patricia N. Nemmers was working in the Abbott Engineering Department. He checked the tree and found that her father was Irv's cousin. Pat later married William Hayden of D-720.

The Nemmers' tree shows its share of notable figures. A son of one of the western Iowa Nemmers' families was a member of Admiral Byrd's Antarctic Expedition, and another, Irwin Nemmers of the Milwaukee Nemmers' branch, was featured in Ripley's "Believe It or Not" as having graduated from four universities at one time. He is now a part-time Professor at Northwestern University.

Irv proudly points out that the tree lists a number of religious personages, too. Including the tree's originator, Father John Nemmers, there are 11 Catholic Priests (two of whom bear the title of Monsignor), one Jesuit, and 30 Sisters of various Orders. One of Irv's sons, Father Bill Nemmers, was among the latest to be ordained.

Does Irv plan to update the original tree?

"No, I'm afraid not," says Irv. "It took several people a good many years to compile the original tree, and there is no telling how many more names have been added to each family since the tree was completed 14 years ago."

He does plan to do further research on the Nemmers' family, and to maintain his own branch of the tree following his early retirement on July 1. Commenting that his son, Joe one of Irv's five children, had already contributed three new names to the tree, Irv said, "This could get to be a full-time job."