According to Ancestry.com, the surname Hunkler is of Swiss German derivation, a shortened form of a Germanic personal name meaning either “giant” or “bear cub.” In the 2000 census, there were only 241 individuals in the U.S. named Hunkler.
Our Hunkler branch also hails from Switzerland – the earliest known ancestor by this name was John George Hunkler who was born in Switzerland and was apparently a bricklayer. He and his wife, Margaret Egger, had six children: Huldreich, Ursule, George John, Henry, John George, and Adeline. The three boys and Adeline (Adella) emigrated to the U.S. at various times in the 1880s or after. I’ve found the emigration record for John George, who was 15 when he sailed (apparently alone) on the ship Belgenland in 1886:
After arriving in the U.S. Adella married Fritz Meier and eventually settled in Michigan. She died in 1958 in White Pigeon.
The three Hunkler sons settled in Illinois. The eldest, my great-great-grandfather George John, born September 20, 1862, emigrated around 1883 and by 1886 was in Washington, Illinois. On December 14 of that year he married Maria Elisabeth Rusch, paying $19.78 for her passage on a Red Star Line steamer from Antwerp to New York or Philadelphia, and railroad fare from Basel to Antwerp and from New York or Philadelphia to Washington, Illinois. George and Maria had five children: Bertha Elizabeth (Bert), Matilda (Tillie), John George, Lena Agnes, and Hulda Catherine. George John died in 1934, Maria in 1948; both are buried in Glendale Cemetery in Washington.
Lena Hunkler at 15
Lena, my great-grandmother, was born December 22, 1892 in Washington and married Albert Carl Swing one hundred years ago this June 18. They had three children: Roy Albert, Velma Marie (my maternal grandmother), and Marilyn Margaret. Lena and Albert eventually moved to Harlingen, Texas, dying in 1969 and 1964, and are buried at Restlawn Cemetery in La Feria.
Henry Hunkler, born 1864, married Elizabeth Hess in 1891 and had four children: Elmer Henry, Irma Elizabeth, Arthur Melven, and Mildred Bernice. Henry died in 1928 in Washington, Illinois (Elizabeth in 1926), and is also buried in Glendale Cemetery.
John George married Bertha Geiger in 1904 and had two children: Agnes Alvina and Walter Eugene. John and Bertha are also buried in Glendale Cemetery after dying in 1955 and 1946.