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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 20, 2019 1:00 am

Anabaptist, Mennonite genealogy event set


A two-day seminar tracing the history of the migration of Anabaptists and Mennonites from Europe to, and through, the United States will take place April 26 and 27 at the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center.

The event is designed to assist amateur genealogists seeking information about Mennonite and Anabaptist ancestors. It's an especially tough task because of scarce and scattered sources, said John Beatty, an Allen County Public Library reference librarian who will speak during the events.

In addition to Beatty, the seminar has gathered six experts from around the region:

• Adam J. Barrone, a staff member of the library's genealogical center with Anabaptist roots, who will speak on “What They Brought and What They Left Behind” 

• Peggy Goertzen, director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies at Hillsdale College, who will speak on “Menno Simons Essentials: Who Are These Mennonites,” “Patterns, Persecution and Faith: Why Are We Moving?” and “Brothers Helping Brothers: The Swiss, Prussian, and Dutch Low-German Mennonites in the 1970s”

• Max Haines, an expert on Mennonites in Berne, Indiana, who will speak on “Berne Mennonites: A Man, A Mission”

• Carrie Phillips, a Bluffton University librarian and an expert on the Swiss Mennonite community in Bluffton, Ohio, who will speak on “Swiss Roots and Beaver Branches: Anabaptist-Mennonite Stories from a Bluffton Perspective”  

• Joe Springer, curator at the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College for more than 30 years, who will speak on “Where Can I Find ... ? Resources for Anabaptist-Mennonite Research.”

Beatty, who will speak on Anabaptist and Mennonite materials in print and online in the library's genealogy center, said the migration of Anabaptists and Mennonites came in two waves, fueled by religious persecution and economic opportunity.

Anabaptist is a general term for early Protestant Christian reformers who rejected infant baptism and baptized only believers. Mennonites are followers of 16th-century reformer Menno Simons, who held some Anabaptist beliefs.

In the 1700s, a wave of Swiss and German Mennonites settled in Pennsylvania and moved west from there, Beatty said.

The second wave included those dislocated into Russia and eastern Europe who came to the United States in the 1800s, Beatty said.

“There is no comprehensive guidebook that I've found for Anabaptist/Amish/Mennonite migration,” he said.

However, he said, the local library does have family history books on Mennonite and Anabaptist families and some European genealogical volumes helpful to researchers.

Curt Sylvester, chairman of education and seminars for the Allen County Genealogical Society, is organizing the event.

“This is part of a new undertaking to bring in nationally known speakers, since we have the second-largest genealogical center in the United States, if not the world,” Sylvester said.

The Doug and Joni Lehman Charitable Foundation of Fort Wayne is helping defray costs for the event, which is co-sponsored by the library's genealogy center and the county genealogical society.

“We have a very large Anabaptist and Mennonite community in northern Indiana and they wanted to know what we could do for them,” Sylvester said, noting that many with German, Swiss, Russian and eastern European ancestry also have Mennonites or Anabaptists among their ancestors. 

Those interested may register at The fee is $40 for both days or $25 a day, and walk-ins will be accepted on the day of the event.