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Sanford Joseph Heilner and Claire Heilner Freedman collection on the Aron Heilner family

Identifier: MSS 6721

Scope and Contents

Collection spans the years approximately 1813 to 2013. The collection tells the story of Aron Heilner's sons, Sigmund and Seligmann travelling to Western America from Urspringen, Germany. The collection contains photographs, letters, diary entries, and business records.


  • approximately 1813-2013


Language of Materials

Materials in old German script and English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Sanford Joseph Heilner and Claire Heilner Freedman collection of Aron Heilner family papers must be obtained from the supervisor of Reference Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Sanford Joseph Heilner (1936-1985) was an entrepreneur and genealogist.

Sanford Joseph Heilner was born on April 21, 1936 and was a man who possessed many gifts and talents. When he decided to do something, even a thing of which he had little knowledge; he would work and train himself to become professional in that which he chose to do. This was a gift he had from the time he was a small boy. His creativity was boundless and was certainly demonstrated when he decided, around 1977, to teach himself to read Old German Script.

Sanford, the son of Sanford and Marion Yancey Heilner, was raised in Baker, Oregon. He went through school there and then for one year, attended Brigham Young University. In 1956, when he was 19, he was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Stuttgart, Germany. While there he learned to love not only the German people but the German language. As always he learned it perfectly and used it throughout his life. Upon his return from his mission, Sanford completed his college education at Brigham Young University, married, had a family and became successful in his professional life.

Sanford was aware of the Heilner family collection, in the possession of his mother, Marion Yancey Heilner, a collection which consisted of almost a thousand letters and documents all written in Old German Script, a mostly defunct language today. These letters were written by Sanford's great-grandfather Aron Heilner in Germany to his two sons, Sigmund and Seligmann Heilner, in America, beginning in 1853 and ending in 1917. Sanford borrowed the old metal box in which the letters were housed from his mother and began translating them in 1977. For three years he painstakingly translated this collection until they were completed. During that time he and his wife took several trips to Germany to see the towns and houses in which this history took place. He spent hours in German archives and libraries documenting and verifying the vital information he had uncovered in the letters. Sanford died in 1985 leaving his five children and home in Salt Lake City. His contributions in art, music, film and historical research are still today outstanding and a tribute to his name.

Sanford died on October 26, 1985.

Biographical History

Claire Rose Heilner Freedman (1933- ) is a genealogist.

Claire Rose Heilner Freedman was born April 21, 1933. Claire developed a love of Family History from her mother. As a child she would play under her mother's "genealogy table" as her mother would do family history research and, often, tell Claire stories of her ancestors. Most of her young life was spent in Baker, Oregon where she was educated until her junior year in high school. At this time she had the marvelous opportunity to attend an outstanding girl's school in Tacoma, Washington where she completed her high school years.

After attending college at UCLA, Claire married Eugene Freedman, moved to his native New York and had five children. When the last child went to junior high school, Claire attended New York University, earning her master's degree in history and an archival certificate in Archival Management and Historical Editing. Through all her married life she became proficient in family history research and used her skills in helping others. Principally, however, she assisted her brother, Sanford Joseph Heilner, who was translating the Heilner Family letters and documents from Old German Script. All of these letters were written by their Great Grandfather Aron Heilner who lived in Germany to their Grandfather Sigmund Aron Heilner here in America. Claire and her mother scanned each translated letter for genealogical clues, and finding scores of them, they were able, with additional marvelous research by Sanford, to greatly expand their understanding of their Heilner ancestors.

Fortunately Sanford completed the translation work before his death in 1985. However, Claire continued the Heilner research. In 2009, she decided to donate the Heilner collection to Brigham Young University Archives. John Murphy, Director of the BYU Archives, suggested that as an archivist, she do the processing of the collection at BYU. During that period Claire discovered much more information left by her Grandfather Sigmund Aron Heilner that was all in English. It contained many of his business records as well as reams of personal correspondence, mainly between the American family members.

Today Claire resides in Provo, Utah where she and her husband enjoy their children and seventeen grandchildren.


1 half box (0.25 linear ft.)

13 boxes (6.5 linear ft.)


Arranged in four series: 1. Aron Heilner family letters and documents, approximately 1813-2010. 2. Business letters and documents, 1826-2010. 3. Personal letters between American family members and associates, approximately 1865-2009. 4. Helmut Richard Otto Heilner papers, 1846-2013.

Custodial History

Records passed from Sigmund Aron Heilner to Joseph Jacob Heilner to Sanford and Marion Yancey Heilner to Sanford Joseph Heilner to Claire Heilner Freedman. In 1977 Sanford Joseph Heilner, great-grandson of Aron Heilner began to translate the old German script letters to English. Claire Heilner Freedman, great-granddaughter of Aron Heilner, donated the collection to Brigham Young University in 2009 where she also processed the collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Claire Heilner Freedman; 2009.


19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.


No more anticipated additions to the materials.
Register of Sanford Joseph Heilner and Claire Heilner Freedman collection on the Aron Heilner family
Claire Heilner Freedman, Elizabeth Wood, John M. Murphy
2012 June 18
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States