Genealogical Society speaker celebrates Luxembourg origins this Saturday

Posted June 11, 2018 at 10:12 pm

j Jim Wiltgen in Luxcity35.tif

As part of the Ice Cream Days celebration in Le Mars, the Northwest Iowa Genealogical Society (NWIGS) will host a program billed “The Search for a Connection to Luxembourg.”

The event will take place in the fourth floor study hall of the Plymouth County Historical Museum on Saturday, June 16, at 1:30 PM.

Featured speaker, Jim Wiltgen of Conway Ark., has many ties to Le Mars and other Iowa towns. In his presentation, he will explain how his intensive study of his Luxembourg ancestry yielded an astounding 11,000 names. Moreover, he will discuss his conclusion on the significance of that small European country to the history of Northwest Iowa.

Bordered by Belgium, Germany and France, Luxembourg is the birthplace of Peter Gehlen, whose surname is familiar to area residents because of his namesake, Gehlen Catholic Schools. A lesser known fact is Gehlen’s major role in bringing a number of families from that country to Northwest Iowa in 1870.

One example of their continued presence is the town of Remsen’s annual Oktoberfest celebrating its German and Luxembourg heritage.

Highlighting Wiltgen’s experiences in genealogical research, he visited several towns in Luxembourg with his two brothers in 2016 and with his wife and daughters the following year. Owing to his tenacious investigations, he actually located a blood relative there.

And, reminiscent of last month’s NWIGS’s program that touched on Dutch gratitude, he discovered that residents of Luxembourg are still thankful for the American military’s heroism during World War II.

The oldest of nine children born to Le Mars native, Jim Wiltgen, Sr., Jim Wiltgen is the Executive Vice President for Student Affairs at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. He grew up in Sioux City, and now resides in Conway with his wife Suzanne, son John, and daughters Elena and Claudia.

His great-grandfather John Wiltgen and wife Catherine (Graser) emigrated from Luxembourg to Le Mars in 1884. They are just part of the extended Wiltgen clan that settled in Iowa in the 19th Century.

Their saga is an example of why to this day, there is what Jim Wiltgen calls “a love affair” between citizens of the tiny nation of Luxembourg and the United States of America.

Everyone is welcome to attend this free, and enlightening, event.

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