It was wonderful to find “Who Do You Think You Are?” back on television this spring, moving from NBC to TLC at 10 p.m. on Sundays. Sponsored mainly by, the program also has had British editions and Canadian editions.

The subject of Season 5, Episode 2, which broadcast on March 15, featured musician Josh Groban, who was fascinated to find that his seventh great-grandfather, Jacob Zimmermann, had come to America in 1694 with his widowed mother, Mary Margarethe, and three siblings.

Groban’s Zimmermann ancestor was MaryAnn, born 1845 in Illinois, daughter of John Zimmermann, son of Samuel, son of John, son of Jacob, son of immigrant Jacob.

I knew of the surname Zimmerman as far back as my 1950s childhood in Sangerville. The name is German, sometimes anglicized to Carpenter, the word “zimmer” meaning room. The Dutch version of the name is Timmermann.

Readers may remember my delight in the birth early last year of great-nephew Carter Scott Zimmerman, son of Andy and Stephanie (Taylor) Zimmerman. Interestingly, Andy is a construction engineer, which goes with his name, but he certainly doesn’t resemble the curly-locked Josh Groban.

I haven’t yet been able to connect their ancestral lines, though their shared surname certainly gives me hope that the connection exists. Andy is the son of Ralph, son of William, son of Emil, son of William, born 1837 in Germany, lived in Matawan, Monmouth County, New Jersey, during the 1880 Census.

Groban’s ancestor Jacob was the son of Johann Christopher Zimmermann, who studied at the University of Tubingen in Wurttemberg, Germany. My curiosity has now doubled, given that grandfather’s ancestor, Heinrich Stieff, who came to Pennsylvania in the 1750s, was from Wurttemberg.

He and wife Rachel/Regina and their seven sons were one of eight families who settled in what is now Hillsborough, New Brunswick.

Groban’s Johann Zimmermann was highly educated, even studied music, and was a deacon in the Lutheran Church in Germany. He also was very interested in astronomy, and viewed a comet which inspired writings predicting dire events in the future of the church. His work, shall we say, was not well-received.

Johann was on his way to this continent with his family, but died before the voyage started.

I have looked online for Zimmermann information on, which is available free at libraries; on search engines; on the LDS site at; and on the surname message boards at, looking in this case at That’s only a small start, but we have to begin somewhere.

I did find on the URSUS card catalog at that Maine State Library has a book I will look at when next I am at the library — Jay Norwalk’s “Johan Jost Zimmerman and Related Genealogies of Bratton, Roth, Yaggy, Schlunegger, Cochlin, Elliott, Campbell and McCullough Families,” this Zimmerman having lived about 1721-1787.

The website for “Who Do You Think You Are?” said that Julie Chen was the topic of the first episode, and Angie Harmon was to be the March 22 subject. Featured on upcoming episodes will be Sean Hayes, Tony Goldwyn, America Ferrera, Bill Paxton and Melissa Etheridge. Keep in mind that, as was the case with Josh Groban, the line studied may not be the person’s surname.


Wilson Museum in Castine will wrap up its month of special programs at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at the Hutchins Education Center at 112 Perkins Street. The center will be open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. for genealogical research, then will present “Using Deeds and Probate Records in Historical Research,” with Mark Honey.

For more information, visit wilsonmuseum .org and click on Calendar of Events or call the museum at 326-9247.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email