The Mennonite Church has a very long history in the United States. This Christian group today numbers 1.7 million across the globe. One aspect over the years they have been known for is seeking peace and social justice for everyone. They have been in times of war known as ‘conscientious objectors’ in their belief of non-violence.
Yet, if you have ancestors from many of the states heavily populated with Mennonite followers, you may have a good number on your family tree. They came to colonial America from European countries seeking religious freedom. Over the years they developed a simple lifestyle, especially working farm lands very successfully.
In the early 1700s many from Germany fled to America and settled in the colony of Pennsylvania and establishing Germantown. Other Mennonites came from Switzerland and the Netherlands to settle in Maryland, Delaware and also Pennsylvania. In the early 1800s they resettled into Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois.
During the 1800s and into the 20th century there have been various branches of Mennonites formed and break away from the original teachings, some accepting more modern things (progressives), while others kept the simple, basic lifestyle (conservative).
Many have become quite notable over the decades. The list includes: Milton Hersey of Hersey Chocolates, JC Chasez – singer with the band N’Sync; James L. Kraft – founder of Kraft Foods; Erie Sauder – founder of Sauder Furniture; Lois Smith – an actress; Dan Kreider – a professional football player with the Pittsburgh Steelers; William Rittenhouse – had the first printing press in America and later served as director of the US Mint under president George Washington; Graham Kerr – world class chef; and Erik Kratz – professional baseball player.
To better learn about the Mennonites over the years, there is a collection of 5,401 photos of Mennonite individuals, families, works, homes, farms, in the Mennonite Church USA Archives. Unfortunately, there is no search box to locate any of the photos by using a keyword or name. There is no special date order or location for the photos. There is at the top, a tab titled ‘Sets’ where the images have been grouped in specific categories such as hospitals, communities, and personal. All images have descriptions with dates and locations. Each can be saved to your computer.
Just scanning over the wide time periods of images, locations and topics is very interesting. You might not locate an image of an ancestor, but you will get a better sense of their life and community.
Photo: Sixteen Mennonite Conscientious Objectors at Camp Pike, Arkansas, 1918< Return To Blog