The Mennonite religion is part of the Ana-Baptist faiths originating in the area that became Germany in 1870. Mennonites first arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s and still live in the state today.
People following the Mennonite faith settled in two different geographic areas in Pennsylvania in the 1700’s. One group centered around eastern Berks, Montgomery, Lehigh, Bucks, and Northampton Counties. A second group centered around western Berks and Lancaster Counties. Dividing the eastern and western settlements was and is the Schuylkill River.
Mennonite History Centers
Today we have two Mennonite historical centers representing each geographic area. They are worth your research time if you have Mennonite ancestors.
For the eastern group, the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, PA is a good first stop. Begin with the surname file index to see if the family you are researching has a file of already compiled information. The website also contains journals and other historical records to do genealogical research.
For the western group, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Center in Lancaster, PA has a genealogical catalog on index cards. Many of the cards list relationships between Mennonite families, but check the actual source on the card. The cards refer to LMHS library sources on-site. If you can not visit in person, research can be request through the mail.
If you aren’t sure which library to use, use both! Families may have relocated or intermarried between the two areas. The distance between them is about 70 miles, or a four to five day journey on foot. Not impossible for courting, but certainly not a regular occurrence.
Both Mennonite historical centers have extensive libraries, programs, exhibits, and knowledgeable staff. Be sure to use all of it! They are essential to go deeper on your Mennonite family roots. When you understand what your ancestors believed and how they lived, your family tree comes to life.
This entry is part of the PA Ancestors Almanac. Follow the links at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to discover your ancestors in Pennsylvania.
Copyright ©2020, Denys Allen and PA Ancestors. All Rights Reserved.
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