Wiens Reunion

My interest in family history began with a lunch with my Dad, Peter A Kroeker, my aunt, Nettie Kroeker, and my uncle, Abram A Kroeker. We were at Aunt Nettie’s place.

Conversation moved from farming to the village of Hoffnungsfeld just outside Winkler, Manitoba, now extinct. It had been established by my Great Grandfather Jacob Wiens after he led a migration of 34 families to Manitoba from the Ukraine in 1876.

In that group that crossed the Atlantic on the S S Sardinian were my Grandparents Helena (daughter of Jacob) and her husband Abram Kroeker. They had been married in the Ukraine the previous December.

“We should organize a reunion of the descendants of Jacob Wiens,” I said. That got approving nods from all three.

As soon as I got home I began a long process of letter writing that lasted a year, asking people for names and information about their families.

Most of the relatives were in southern Manitoba, but the family had also spread west across the Prairies into British Columbia.

There were seven branches descended from the seven children of Jacob and Helena.

They had spread to many United States as well.

The Wiens Family Reunion was held in Winkler, attended by more than 1,000 people.

My cousin Peter J Kroeker was mayor of Winkler and another cousin was president of the Winkler Agricultural Society. Both were on my planning committee, so it was easy to book the Ag Society Building just outside of town for the weekend and the Winkler Arena for a Sunday afternoon program.

People came from near and far, mostly in cars. Two planeloads of relatives came from California and Ontario. They landed on an airstrip right next to the reunion grounds.

Upon registering for the reunion, every person got a name tag. The colour of the tag showed which of the seven branches they came from, and a number on the tag showed what generation they were, going down from Jacob Wiens.

A hosting committee prepared tours of the Winkler area.

Duff Roblin was Premier of Manitoba at the time. He came to give a speech and was named an honourary Wiens for the day.

It was an exciting time. People bought their meals at hamburger and hot dog stands.

Charts of the family tree I had drawn lined the walls of the Ag Society Building, which became a virtual museum that weekend.

When it was all over Sunday evening, I gave a sigh of relief.

Not long after I published my first book called “The Wiens Family Register.”

That was an awesome weekend.

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