Kristjan Hennel's father was born into serfdom. Because of his condition of servitude he was not granted a last name. The name Hennel has Germanic roots, and it is widely accepted that the name was derived from the Hennels' German landlord when serfdom was abolished.
Kristjan Hennel was born in 1851 and years later married Maria in Tallinn, Estonia. Together they had five children. Joseph and Maria were twins born in 1875; William was born in 1879; and Elizabeth and Pauline, also twins, were born 1881. When the children were all still very young, the Hennel's, along with 144 other Estonian families, migrated east to Novgorod, Russia. During his time in Estonia and Russia, Kristjan became a game warden and shoemaker. Living conditions in Russia were less than ideal for the large Hennel family. As news spread of affordable land available in western Canada, Kristjan deemed this a fortuitous opportunity and soon travelled across the Atlantic.
In 1903 Kristjan and Maria, along with their son Joseph, arrived in an area south of Stettler, Alberta. By 1908 Kristjan had successfully cultivated fifteen acres of land, accumulating 22 cows and four pigs. The following year Kristjan's son William and his wife Ida arrived at the Hennel homestead with their seven children.
William's youngest son Rudolph was born in 1916. William died when Rudolph was only nine months old, leaving Ida to manage the farm and look after the family. Rudolph married Doris Mulbach in November 1945. Doris and Rudolph supported Alberta's rural co-operative movement and Doris presided as secretary of the Co-operative Association for many years. Preserving their Estonian heritage had been fundamental to the Hennels and particularly to Rudolph, who spoke the language fluently and maintained an Estonian songbook belonging to his mother as a keepsake. Of interest, Rudolph's great-grandson is named after Estonia's capital city, Tallinn. Six generations of Hennels have lived on the homestead originally established by Kristjan Hennel. In August 1999, the Hennel family was deemed a "Century Farm", in other words, a farming operation that has stayed in the same family for one hundred years. Members of the Hennel family are proud of their agricultural and Estonian heritage. This is demonstrated through their commitment to farming and through active involvement in the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society. Maintaining a connection with their Estonian heritage is important for the younger generations of Hennels. Rudolph's sons, Ron and Allan, along with his grandson David, participated in laying the groundwork for the Jaanipaev celebration at Linda Hall in 2005. The Hennels serve as a fine example of a family preserving its agricultural and cultural roots.