Our Wiensz Heritage

cover of Our Wiensz Heritage book


Our family published the 80 page hardcover book Our Wiensz Heritage: Our Mennonite Heritage and Our Place Among the Descendants of Heinrich Wiensz (1774-1819) in 1980. It contains genealogies dating back to 1774, many photos, various stories, and background historical information.

It was editted and compiled by my sister, Esther J. Wiens, my mother, Tina Wiens, and my brother, Victor D. Wiens. Esther also did all the typing and retyping. I (David C. Wiens) prepared the photographs and was the publisher of note.

Copies of the book on the Internet

I have found links to numerous scanned copies of our book on the Internet. These were made without our permission.

I scanned one page so you can get an idea of what kind of information our book contains.

Hardcover books still available

Forty years after publishing this book, it is not out of print, yet, as we still have a number of unsold hardcover books available! If you would like to obtain your own copy, contact me, and we will let you know how much it will cost with shipping.


Despite our best efforts, some mistakes crept into the book. As we discovered them, we added them to an errata sheet. If you have a copy of this book you might not have received this sheet, or it got lost, or we discovered more mistakes after we printed that version. If you find any other mistakes, please let us know.

Mom's name as author

One of the authors, my mother, is listed as "Mrs. Kornelius (Tina) Wiens". Unfortunately some web sites mentioning the book shortened this name to just "Kornelius Wiens", who was my Dad. This is wrong. In hindsight Mom should have given her name simply as "Tina Wiens" to avoid confusion.

In 2019 I discovered why Mom listed her name that way. In doing research for my 50 year high school reunion, I read archived issues of The Chilliwack Progress, which was (and still is) the local newspaper in Chilliwack BC. In the 1970's and earlier, that newspaper NEVER mentioned a married woman's first name, but ALWAYS referred to her by her husband's name with a "Mrs." title. Only if she was still single, or widowed, or in her obituary, did the newspaper use a woman's own first name instead of her husband's first name. This was what society did at the time, so Mom just wrote her name for the book like she was used to.

Bibliographic listing

The recommended listing is:

   ISBN 0-88925-211-4
   WIENS, Esther J., et al.
   Our Wiensz Heritage: Our Mennonite Heritage and Our Place Among the Descendants of Heinrich Wiensz (1774-1819).
   By ... and Tina Wiens and Victor D. Wiens.
   Vancouver BC: David C. Wiens 1980. 80 p., tables, photos, maps.

How the book project got started(This section was written by my sister, Esther)

small photo of Grandpa Wiensz small photo of Mom In the early 1970's, Dad's cousin, George Nickel, told Mom (Tina Wiens, picture at left) that someone must have his grandfather Gerhard Wiensz's old family Bible. When Mom asked my Grandpa Wiens (Kornelius G. Wiensz, picture at left) about it, he suggested that since his brother, Peter, had seemed to be their father's favourite child, the Bible may have been passed on to Peter's children.

Since we were family friends with Peter Wiensz’s eldest son, Peter, Mom asked Peter if he knew anything about this Bible. He admitted that he did indeed have the Bible in his possession, and allowed Mom to borrow it for a few days. In it she found information about our ancestor, Heinrich Wiensz (1774-1819), and his wife, Judith (Sawatzky), and some of their descendants. Mom copied (by hand), and translated from German to English, all of the genealogical information and family stories in it before returning the Bible. This was valuable information that we hadn't seen before and thought had long been lost!

(Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures or photocopies of those pages before returning the Bible. After Peter & Nettie passed away, the Bible seems to have disappeared, probably because the family history in it was in Gothic German handwriting that younger people couldn't read, so no one else realized that it contained priceless information.)

From the information in the Wiensz family Bible, Mom now knew about the original family lines. She had always loved finding and visiting with relatives, so she talked with all of the Wiens relatives that she could locate, and asked them for genealogical information, and asked them to contact their relatives, to get as complete a record as possible. Mom held numerous gatherings with Wiens family members who lived in the area, and at each gathering more information was collected. I (Esther) faithfully handwrote all of the information, rewriting it as more information was gathered. More and more relatives got excited about this project and asked us to publish the information in a book.

icon to link to Wiensz Reunion 1980 group photo In 1979 we learned that our relative, Georgi Vins, had recently been released from prison in the Soviet Union, thanks to the efforts of President Jimmy Carter, and had been deported to the United States. Mom then planned a Wiens reunion (click on picture at left) for June 1980 in Abbotsford BC, to which she invited Georgi Vins and his family. Approximately 50 people attended. It was also exciting for us to find out details about the Heinrich Wiensz (HHe) line not long before the Wiens reunion, so some of them came to our reunion, and we were able to include their family information in our book.

What also made the book special is all of the photos that were submitted by relatives. Without those photos, the book would have consisted mostly of “faceless” names. Adding photos made the people seem more real and much more interesting. My brother, Dave, took pictures of the photos that were sent to us (so we could return the originals). To make the book even more interesting, my brother, Vic, wrote up background information on Mennonite history, and found a number of informative maps that we redrew to include in the book.

We would have loved to include more stories about relatives in Our Wiensz Heritage, but many of our relatives were pressuring us to get the book published soon, so we decided to limit the stories to the first few generations, information that must have been in the Wiensz family Bible. It would be left up to future generations to find out more stories and update the information in our book.

Since Vic had experience with creating school yearbooks, Dave had experience with taking and printing photographs, and I enjoyed typing, we decided to create all of the layout pages for the book ourselves.

Production of the book

In the days before desktop publishing was available to the masses, producing a book such as ours required literal cutting and pasting. Text was typed, cut out, and placed on layout sheets that had faint blue grid lines to help with alignment. Photos were copied and resized, then cropped and placed onto these same layout sheets. The text and photos could easily be moved around to try various layout alternatives, until they were pasted onto the sheets. Fixing mistakes after pasting was very difficult and time-consuming.

I started doing all the camera and darkroom work myself, but it was too much work on top of a full-time job, so eventually just sent the rest of the photos to a photo shop, with instructions for resizing and cropping. Maps were hand drawn, often by tracing maps we found, then hand-lettered. I don't remember whether we created the large type for the cover and title page ourselves with rub on transfers, or if we got the printer to typeset them.

While most of the genealogies and stories and photo captions were originally handwritten, Esther typed the draft copy on the family’s electric typewriter. When we were ready to produce the high quality camera-ready final copy, we rented an Olivetti ET-221 electronic typewriter. It allowed Esther to enter one line at a time, then carefully check and correct it, before it was printed with the daisywheel and expensive film ribbon.

This would all have been much easier with a computer, and by this time I owned one, but both my terminal and my printer only displayed upper-case letters, so it wasn't up to the task.

August, September, and October of 1980 were a whirlwind of activity as we worked hard to produce the final copy and layout for 80 pages. This was done in our "spare" time, as one of us worked full-time, and another was studying full-time at university plus had a part-time job.

D.W. Friesen Printers in Altona, Manitoba printed and bound the books. December 1, 1980 was an exciting day for us when the boxes containing 500 copies of Our Wiensz Heritage arrived! (But 500 was too many, and is why 40 years later we still have a few copies left over.)

Wiensz vs. Wiens

Some people have asked why the two spellings, "Wiens" and "Wiensz"? Maybe "Wiens" was the original German spelling, and later some added the 'z' due to the influence of the Polish language of their neighbours in Prussia? Just my guess.

In one case, a Peter Wiens had a 'z' in Russia but dropped it when he came to Canada, as did his two oldest sons (who were just little children when they came over). But the two younger sons, who were born in Canada, did have the 'z'. Maybe the 'z' got dropped because the Canadian immigration official incorrectly wrote their names on the official papers without it, but when children were born in Canada the parents registered their names with the 'z' because that is the way their family name had originally been spelled? Who knows?

I discussed this with my sister, Esther, who is our family historian -- no definitive answer. Apparently already in Prussia a few hundred years ago both spellings were used, as well as two other variants, "Wienz" and "Wienss". She even found instances in Prussia where the same person used one spelling in one document but another spelling in another document.

The more recent spelling "Vins" came about when the German name "Wiens", pronounced "veenss", was transliterated to Russian, then transliterated from Russian to English, and subsequently mispronounced as "Vihnss". Of course "Wiens" is usually pronounced as "weenss" or "weenz" in English, or mispronounced as "wines" or "waynes", and commonly misspelled as "Weins".

Where did the name "Wiens" or "Wiensz" originate? My brother, Vic, found information that said the first use of the name may have originated in the Danzig area when some Jews from the Jewish quarter in Vienna moved to that area. They were first known as "von Wien" and latter changed to "Wiens". When Mennonites who came from similar sounding towns in Holland and Belgium moved to the Danzig area they appear to have adopted this existing surname.

GRanDMA database

The name "GRanDMA" stands for "The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry". It is maintained by the California Mennonite Historical Society's Genealogy Project Committee.

This is a database containing genealogical information for over 1.4 million individuals, most of whom are descended from Mennonites that lived in Poland and Russia. My sister, Esther, has entered and submitted all the information in Our Wiensz Heritage to this database, as well as more recent data (births, deaths, marriages) that isn't in our book.


One of our relatives phoned me in July 2020 and told me he is interested in doing research to try and locate information on our ancestors that predate the Heinrich Wiensz (born 1774) in our book. It will be exciting if he finds any!


Last revised 2024-Apr-04 12:31 PDT.
Copyright 2020- David C. Wiens.

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