Some twenty odd years ago, while working as the director of communications for Virginia Mennonite Conference and Missions, I began our monthly newsletter with a short devotional titled “Klymer Klatsch.” It was a takeoff on the German word/phrase “Kaffeeklatsch” which means a conversation over coffee. I simply changed the first letter of my name to form an alliteration.
|The old city hall in Affoltern am Albis, Switzerland|
When I began to write a blog a few years later, it was only natural for me to resurrect the name Klymer Klatsch for the title. I’ve had numerous conversations about this title; most people are bemused by my choice.
While here in Switzerland, I’ve enjoyed doing some work on my ancestry, particularly looking into the origins of my father’s name Clymer, and my mother’s, Horst.
The immigrant from whom I descend arrived in Philadelphia with the name Henrich Clemmer. He had been Klemmer in Germany before he made the cross-oceanic voyage. My great-grandfather changed our name from Clemmer to Clymer.
Through email exchanges with Mennonite historian John Ruth, I discovered that the Klemmer name originated in Affoltern am Albis, a region southeast of Zürich. He also told me that there were variants of the name in the same region: Klimer, Klimmer, and Kleiner. So I searched websites related to the region and found another interesting variation of the name: KLYMER. Yes, the same name as I use in my alliterative blog title!
But it gets even more interesting. I kept finding all sorts twists and turns on the Clemmers’ migration to the USA with genealogical experts presenting contrasting views. So when I discovered a website MennoSearch.com, I was lured by the statement, “Research your Swiss, German, or Mennonite Ancestry,” including information on the Clemmers, I sprung for it.
I excitedly opened the PDF file on the Clemmer genealogy and the very first entry at the top of
|The region Am Albis, near Zürich, where Klymer comes from|
I planned an excursion to Affoltern, the area of my ancestors. Since there was no graveyard near the train station, I started out on foot, looking for variations of my name on the mailboxes of apartment complexes. I must have looked at some 100 mailboxes without any success. Instead I found all sorts of other Swiss-Mennonite surnames: Huber, Good, Eberly, Lichty, Noll, Siegrist, Gautsche, Bergey, Mischler, Hess, Eby and Baer. I even found the name of some Honduran Anabaptists multiple times: Machado!
Not to be deterred, I began asking people on the street if they had a schoolmate or acquaintance named, Klemmer, Klimmer, Klymer or Kleiner. After enduring a number of puzzled looks, I finally found someone who knew of several Kleiners who were classmates of hers. I didn’t have time to schedule a visit with them, but I felt like I had made a connection.
What’s in a name? For me searching for my ancestry through my surname was a process of finding roots, a home. I now know where I’ve come since at least 1554. That’s over 450 years.
What’s in a name? A name that has been passed down for so many years and in different places, gives me a sense of knowing who I am. That name ties me to a human history of both time and place. But I also have another name. I have been stamped with the “image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:27), like every other human being. While my Klymer name links me to an earthly heritage, my God identity links me to an eternal heritage. “I have called you by name, you are mine, (Isa. 43:1)” says my creator. God has been calling me “Klymer” since before I was born, and since before I discovered where I’m from.