July 24, 2006
Timken gets back to roots
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
BERLIN - William R. “Tim” Timken Jr. had to become ambassador to
find his long-lost German relatives.
Timken’s great-grandfather was an immigrant from Tarmstedt, a
village near Bremen in northern Germany. But past efforts by the
Timken family in America never succeeded in finding any
relatives in the old country.
Earlier this year, as Timken prepared for an official,
first-time visit to his great-grandfather’s hometown, the
embassy turned up two descendants of Timken’s great-great aunt
and uncle, he said.
“They don’t have the name Timken, but they’re clearly my
relatives back to 1780,” he said.
Timken and his wife, Sue, visited the relatives during the trip
to the Bremen area in early July.
They were “very nice people and we presume that maybe there were
more,” he said. “But it wasn’t a terribly prolific family,
particularly on the male side.”
Timken frequently tells German audiences about his
great-grandfather, Henry Timken, a German immigrant who came to
the United States at age 8 with his farmer father and brothers.
He made a fortune after inventing a buggy spring that could
handle the rugged roads of the West before he came up with the
tapered roller bearing that launched the Timken Co.
But Timken said he never appreciated the courage it took to make
a journey to the New World in the early 19th century until he
toured a new German Emigration Center museum in nearby
“I saw the absolute — how to describe it — unbelievable
conditions that they endured in crossing the ocean and the
deaths,” he said. “And I also went to the church where they
probably went for the last time.”
Visiting the former family plot, Timken said he wondered why
anyone would leave it for the uncertainties of a new land.
“Those people must have been absolutely courageous because they
didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “For them, it
was like a leap into the unknown.”
He said it was rewarding for him to “better understand the
people that laid the foundations for me.”