Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Amish People

The Amish are a very traditional subgroup of the Mennonite churches.  They are known for their simple living, plain dress and reluctance to adopt modern conveniences. Their communities are usually very laid back, a calm relaxed atmosphere, where everyone helps everyone else.

The Amish began in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists and was led by Jakob Ammann.  The followers mainly came from the German speaking parts of Switzerland, the Alsace of France and the Palatinate of Germany.   Many Amish and Mennonites emigrated to Pennsylvania.  Even today the most traditional descendants of the Amish speak Pennsylvania German also known as Pennsylvania Dutch.  There are those who still have the dialect of Swiss German, in the Old Order Amish communities, especially in Indiana. The Amish, like the Mennonites, have split many times over the years.

In the Amish religion, babies are not baptized. Baptism usually occurs between 16 and 25, and is a requirement for marriage.Once a person has affiliated with the church, they may only marry within the faith.

Many Amish church members may not buy insurance or accept government assistance, such as Social Security.  As Anabaptist, members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service.  There is a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships. They have their own schools, usually a one room school house and discontinue formal education at 8th grade. They value rural life, manual labor and humility.  Due to intermarriage, among their relatively small original population, some groups have increased incidences of certain inheritable conditions.

The Amish are among the fastest growing populations in the world with 6.8 children per family.  From 1992-2008 the Amish in North America population growth was at 84% and they established 184 new settlements and moved into 6 new states.  There are 27 Old Order communities in the U S and Canada. Pennsylvania and Indiana, central Ohio, Lancaster Co in Pennsylvania, Elkhart and La Grange in Indiana are the largest concentration of Amish.   West of the Mississippi  river in Missouri, then into eastern Iowa and Southern Minnesota.

Amish are mostly of Swiss German ancestry. The first Amish to America went to Berks Co, PA but later moved, motivated by land issues and by security concerns tied to the French and Indian War. Many eventually settled in Lancaster Co, PA.  Others spread to Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas. Kentucky. Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Maine, as well as Canada.

The majority of the Old Order Amish congregations do not have church buildings but meet in private homes and because of this are sometimes called “House Amish”.  Congregations are made up of 25-30 neighboring farm or related families. Their properties are adjacent and are encircled with a congregations physical boundary and is the only congregation available for membership. Therefore, each member is a neighbor!   Congregations meet every other week for the entire Sunday at a member family’s farm.  

They are very humble people, placing  into practice  their rejection of pride, arrogance and haughtiness and place high value on calmness, composure and placidity… often translated as submission or “letting be”  they are reluctant to be forward, self promoting or to assert oneself. They submit to the Will of God.

They prefer to work at home, although many have now had to work in construction and manufacturing in in some areas where there is good tourist trade to engage in shop work and crafts for profit.  The Amish quits are a genuine cultural inheritance. Amish lifestyles vary and sometimes not only between communities but within communities. Some are conservative, others allow automobiles but require they be black, some of the Old Order groups may even vary over the type of suspenders that males are required to wear, if any or how many pleats there should be in a bonnet or if one is required at all!  

Some of the strictest Old Order Amish are the Nebraska Amish (“white top Amish”) Troyer Amish and the Swartzendruber Amish. Most Old Order Amish still speak Pennsylvania German in the home, with the exception of several areas in the Midwest where a variety of Swiss German is spoken.

In both Adams Co and Allen Co Indiana, the old order Amish use only wooden grave markers which eventually decay and disappear making it difficult to locate graves.  They are usually buried in Amish cemeteries. More recently, they  purchase gravestones that lay flat on the ground, are uniform, of modest and plain design, and thankfully are now inscribed in English.

 Marriage to a 1st cousin is not allowed among the Amish and a second cousin relationship is frowned upon, though they may occur.  Marriage to a “Schwartz” (1st cousin once removed) is not permitted in Lancaster County. Weddings were typically held on Tuesday and Thursday in November to early December after the harvest was in. The bride wears no makeup, and will not receive an engagement or wedding ring because the "Ordnung" prohibits personal jewelry. In colonial days, newlyweds spend the wedding night at the home of the bride’s parents.

Elderly do not go to a retirement facility; they remain at home. If the family house is large enough they continue living with everyone else. Often there is an adjacent dwelling called the "Grossdaadi,"  where grandparents take up residency.  Retired people continue to help with work on the farm and in the home, working at their own pace as they are able. If the aged become ill or infirm, then other family members take care of them.

The Older Order Amish are known for their avoidance of certain modern conveniences. Electricity is used in some situations when it can be produced without access to outside power lines. Batteries are sometimes acceptable. Electric generators may be used for such things as  welding, recharging batteries, and powering milk stirrers in some communities. They will use  have non-electric versions of appliances, such as kerosene powered refrigerators while others may allow thermal solar panels. The Amish will use chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which I find strange!

If a person becomes disabled, they are allowed to use motorized wheelchairs and electricity is allowed in the home for medical equipment.  Most will not drive cars, but will hire drivers and vans for visiting family,or other trips that might take them off the farm. Regular bus service between Amish communities has been established in some areas and train travel is accepted. In some areas it is not uncommon to see their traditional buggies going down the road. 

Depending on what community of Amish you are in, some groups limit color to black trousers and dresses and white shirts, while others allow muted colors. Dark blue denim work clothing is common within some groups as well. The old order Amish often sew their own clothing . Even today, hook and eye or straight pins are used on dresses, rather than buttons, zippers or Velcro. Snaps are used on everyday clothes, whereas plain buttons are used on work shirts and trousers.

Women wear calf length plain cut dresses in a solid color. Aprons are often worn at home, usually in white or black and are always worn when attending church. A cape, consisting of a triangular piece of cloth is usually worn, beginning around ten years and pinned into the apron. In colder weather, a long woolen cloak may be worn. Heavy bonnets are worn over the prayer coverings when Amish women are out and about in the cold Strange as it may seem, the Nebraska Amish women do not wear bonnets. Girls in some areas wear colored bonnets until age 9, older girls and women wear black bonnets. During the summer many children go barefoot even while attending school.

Men usually wear dark trousers, some with dark vest or coat, suspenders (in some communities) broad rimmed straw hats in the summer and black felt in the colder months. However, some, mostly teens, may deviate from these customs to convey someone’s individuality. Married men and those over 40 grow a beard, although mustaches are forbidden. A beard may serve the same symbolic function, in some Old Order Amish settings as a wedding ring, and marks the passage into manhood.

Amish have higher incidences of some genetic disorders,which may include dwarfism, various metabolic disorders and unusual distribution of blood types.  Since all Amish descend from about two hundred 18th century founders, genetic disorders form inbreeding exist in more isolated districts.  Some are quite rare or unique and are serious enough to increase the mortality rate among Amish children.


This is among the Anabaptist religions, starting in the German and Dutch speaking parts of central Europe. They were relentlessly persecuted during the 16th century and then by the 17th century some of them joined the state church in Switzerland. Mennonites ouside the state church were divided about whether to stay with those who had joined the state church or not and they broke away and became the Amish, so named by their founder Jacob Amman.

Their teachings were founded on their belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, which they held to with great conviction despite persecution by  various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. One of the reasons they were persecuted so was because of their belief in adult baptism and do not believe in infant baptism, which was far from the belief of the Roman Catholic church who believed one should be baptized and become a member of the church at birth. The Mennonites feel that there should be complete separation of church and government.  Rather than fight, many sled to neighboring states in order to survived. They believed in nonviolence.  They are often called “plain people” although some dress just as the general population does.
There was a group of Quakers and Mennonites that came to American  under the solicitation of William Penn who was looking for settlers for his new colony.  The first permanent settlement of Mennonites in the colonies consisted of one Mennonite family and 12 Mennonite-Quaker families of Dutch extraction who arrived from Krefeld Germany in 1683 and settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Early settlers were William Rittenhouse, a lay minister who was the owner of the first America paper mill, Jacob Gottschalk, who was the first bishop of the Germantown congregation.  They were the first group of Mennonites.

In the 18th Century, Germans from the Palatinate, known as Pennsylvania Dutch, emigrated to Pennsylvania,. among these were Mennonites and Amish.  And they settled in Lancaster Pennsylvania.   Christopher Dock was among this group.

During the colonial period, Mennonites were distinguished from other Pennsylvania. Germans by their opposition to the American Revolutionary War, resistance to public education and disapproval of religious revivalism.

From 1812 to 1860 more immigrants settled in Ohio , Nebraska,Illinois, and Missouri.. They were Swiss-German speaking Mennonites, and Amish and came from Switzerland. Later moved on into Kansas.


Also known as The Church of the Brethren and sometimes confused with the Moravians which were totally different. Dunkards were formed in 1708 in Schwarzenau, Wittenburg Germany by Alexander Mack.
This group came to America and settled in Pennsylvania.

The Swiss/German sect, much like the Mennonites, Moravians, etc. were called Dunkards or Dunkers, because they believed in baptism by dunking or total immersion rather than just the sprinkling of holy water on the head.
They wore plain clothing, coats with standing collars for men, plain bonnets and hoods for women. Men were urged but not required to wear beards; they should not wear mustaches alone. Women should not wear jewelry. They were to avoid narcotics, including tobacco and didn’t use instruments of music in the house of God.

The observed the Lord’s Supper (full meal, with soup eaten from a common dish) and communion of the bread and cup after the meal. This was usually held once in the spring and once in the fall.  They did not celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.

The were to obey civil government as far as it’s laws didn’t conflict with their religion. They were not to participate in politics and not allowed to affiliate with secret societies or lodges. They would not take nor subscribe to an oath and considered slavery abhorrent. They believed in nonresistance, and would not participate in the Revolutionary War.

Indians learned Dunkards wouldn’t resist so they raided their homes.

They stayed to themselves and spoke only German and stayed out of trouble

Prior to1800 Dunkards could be excommunicated for obtaining a marriage license or bond. Hence locating marriage bonds prior to  1820 for both Dunkards and Mennonites is very difficult.

They mainly lived in PA., VA and the Carolinas, eventually moving some to OH and MS valleys

Part of the group of religions known as Anabaptist communities; Hutterites, Amish, Dunkards,  Apostolic Christian and Old Order Mennonites are all Anabaptist. They believe in the simple life and reject some or most of the modern world.


Also known as The Society of Friends
Migration began between 1675 and 1725, leaving the North Midlands of England and coming to American to the Delaware River area of Pennsylvania and West Jersey. Some were in New England earlier, they weren’t Quakers when they arrived.  They came as Puritans and were converted a to Quakers
 In the 1650-1660’s  they were driven out of  Massachusetts Bay Colony and went to Rhode Island and places beyond.   The ones coming in 1675, came as Quakers from England because they were being persecuted but more so because they felt called to a spiritual pilgrimage. Quakers came from the lower middle class of English society. They were farmers, craftsmen, laborers and servants.
There was no “in-law relationships. If you married into the family, you became son or daughter or cousin!
Quaker families were a bit smaller than Puritan families there were fewer servants. Their communities were comprised of only Quakers. They were pacifists.

A Quaker could not marry a non Quaker, if the did they were disowned. For this reason, there were more of them that did not marry than in other groups. First cousin marriages were not allowed, but they often married relatives of a lesser degree of closeness.  Marriage was a community affair. Parental consent was required but had to be approved by the community as well!  Quaker wedding had 7 steps. Most involving the community. The wedding ceremony itself was very plain. Average age at marriage was similar to Puritans, 26 for men and 22 for women. They married for Christian love not for sexual attraction.

In keeping with their belief of equality, they named the first son for the wife’s father and the first daughter for the husband’s mother. Then reversed the process on the next son and daughter.

About 50% of Quaker children were given Biblical names. …. Most common: John, Joseph, Samuel, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Anna/Hannah, Ester/Hester.  They also used Teutonic names such as George, Thomsa or William  and plain English names such as Jane, Catherine, Margaret or Phebe, Grace names were popular with Quakers… ie: Grace, Mercy , Chastity, Preserve, Restore, Increase.

Famous Quakers:
Quakers were abolitionists, wanting freedom for the slaves, believing women were equal to men and did much with the equal rights for women … Susan B. Anthony and he under ground railroad.. Lucretia Mott.
Benjamin Lundy, organized the first formal antislavery society.
Elizabeth ( Betsy) Fry was the daughter of Joseph Gurney and Catherine Gurney. Dob 5/21/1780  Norwich
  She Married Joseph Fry……8/18/1800  had a daughter Katherine and 11 more children. She did lots of work in prison reform and mental asylum reform and welfare reform.


Called the United Brethren and from Bohemia and Chen country, many lived in the Village of Herrnhut Germany.  Persecution caused many  to flee from Saxony, Germany.  They came to the US in 1735, settling in Georgia, PA and then many migrated to North Carolina. Other Moravian settlements included Salem Mass, many there in the (1766) 18th century, Bethlehem PA and Nazareth PA .You had to be Moravian to live in Bethlehem and Nazareth.

This is a Christian based religion but do not live as a family unit.
Families lived separately…. Divided by age groups and lived in separate houses which they called “choirs.”

The were distinguished by their simple clothing. Dresses were brown or gray with white for special occasions. They were plain with tight laced bodices, white kerchiefs and full skirts. Capes were worn outdoors when the weather got cold. They wore tight fitting white caps, known as Schnepplehaube, came to a point in the middle of the forehead and were tied under the chin with a bow. Red bows for little girls, rose for older, pink for unmarried women, blue for married and white bows for widows.  At Nazareth, the caps had a crimped border with scallop shells to cover the ears.

The men were all were clean shaven, wore broad rimmed hats with low crowns, straight dark coats without lapels, and the 18th century knee-buckled breeches.

They were great lovers of music… They would play instruments and sing while plowing fields, doing chores, cooking etc.

Monrovian cemeteries are laid out just as they lived, in “choirs” Families are not buried together. All are buried according to the group that they lived with. Tombstones are not upright, but are called breastplates and lay flat on the chest of  the person’s grave. All stones were the same size, for all were equal in the eyes of the Lord.

The only exceptions were the un-baptized babies, all the little baby boys were buried together with headstones that said “blessed” but not named and the same with the baby girls, “blessed’.“ The German word was BEATUS so when doing your research, if you see this on a tombstone you will know that this is the grave of a Monrovian baby boy or girl.

Around 1817- the “lot system” for marriage was abandoned and in 1818 the women revolted and said they were no longer going to wear the traditional bonnets but were going to wear English hats. They didn’t ask… they told! At this time the towns opened up and anyone could move in, no matter what their faith was.

Migration continued and the Monrovians established towns in Green Bay Wisconsin and Utica New York .


Palatinate  were the Germans who migrated to America from  two different parts of Germany. The Upper Palatinate was located in Northern Bavaria, on both sides of the Naab River as it flows south toward the Danube. And eastward to the Bohemian Forest.

The Lower or Rhenish Palatinate was in southwest Germany between Luxembourg and the Rhine River. It included lands on both sides of the Middle Rhine River. Heidelberg was it’s capital until the 18th century. 

Many of the early German settlers were refugees from the Palatinate.
In 1723 a band of 50 Palatinate families fled from NY (where they were only given 10 acres of land per family and went to Pennsylvania at the invitation of  the PA governor, Governor William Keith.  They settled along the Tulpehocken Creek in Eastern Berks County. By 1734 more families joined them after petitioning the Governor. And they settled in what became known as Lancaster Co.


The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France from the 16th and 17th centuries. Today they are also known as French Protestants.

They were driven out of France under religious persecution and relocated in England Switzerland, Holland the German Palatinate and elsewhere in Northern Europe as well as  in South Africa and north America.

Religions of the Early Colonies

One thing we must remember when researching the history of our ancestors, is that many of them came to this country out of necessity in order to get away from religious persecution or wars in their homeland. Most of they were not coming because of it being explorers like Christopher Columbus. Many came with little to nothing in the way of belongings, either because of limited space on the ships they came in or because they were on the run for their lives!  The other thing we need to remember is that not always did families travel together. Sometimes the father and sons would come first to establish a home and secure jobs so that they could have enough money to send for the wife and daughters or small children in the family. Most of them were of average to low income people, who had to travel down in the holes of the ships where living conditions were crowded and consequently when illness struck caused many to die because of the cramped quarters.

When doing your research, consider the possible religious backgrounds of your ancestors. Many of the names we have for our religions nowadays, are not the same as they were back in the days when this country was being formed.  The countries that your ancestor came from can give you a good clue as to what their religious affiliations were at that time and it is possible to locate church records in many instances where you will find their names recorded. Remember also that many surnames have evolved into different spellings than they were back then also!

Puritans, Dunkards Huguenots, Mennonites, Moravian, Palatinate, Quakers, Amish 

In order to simplify your search for various religious work, I am going to make a page for each of the main religions of the time and attempt to give you some background information on each of them. If you happen to have any additional information that you feel would be helpful to know about any of them, or if I have any incorrect information listed, please feel free to contact me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Ending of Family Trees

Today as I reflect back to September 11, 2001 a day etched into the minds and hearts of many Americans, my sadness overwhelms me as I think of generations that will never be.

It also makes me mindful of all the past wars, civil uprisings and needless acts of terror worldwide in other countries where thousands upon thousands lost their lives. Needless, senseless killings, along with destruction of land and livelihoods for those who managed to survive.Years and years of wars, that seem to ebb and way with time.

Have you personally taken time to sit silently and think about your own family name and its place in history? As generations come and go, a family surname can pass into oblivion in just a few generations. For example, if you are female and have no brothers, your family surname dies with you generation. If you happen to have a brother, but he has no male children, the surname also dies with him. If your father has brothers, who have only daughters or sons who do not have sons, the family name dies with that generation.

For example, my father came from a family of five siblings; he was the oldest of the four sons and a daughter. Of the four boys, my father has two sons, two of his brothers have a son, and the other brother had all girls. Their sister never married, but of course if she had, the surname would have ended anyway.

Of my father’s sons, one has never married and my half brother did marry and has a son and a daughter. His son has never married. Unless something changes this will be the end of the family surname on my father’s line of the family.

The one uncle who has a son did marry but never had a son, so that ends his line. The other uncle who had a son, we have lost track of and we do not know if his son ever married and had any male heirs.

Now you can see how a family surname that had been around for hundreds of years, tracing back into Germany and Prussia is about to become extinct. Out of a family of four boys, there are now only two possible heirs to carry the name.

I also have a half-brother from my mother’s second marriage. He has the ominous distinction of being the last male to carry the family name. When he dies, his father's family lineage dies with him because he only has daughters.

So once again, my mind wanders back across the years gone by, thinking about all those lives lost, not to natural causes but to man-made ones; of the generations that will never be and the people who could have been. All of the industrious and inventive people who comprise our world that we will never know because they either were killed senselessly or never were born to begin with.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Down the Path to the Past

Recently a friend of mine was in the process of helping her parents get ready to make a major move from their  home that they had lived in since she was a child.  The move wouldn’t be far, from one city to another, only a short 35 minute drive away.  In the process of boxing up their home, her dad came across some old keepsakes that he had put away on the top shelf of the closet.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, with his daughter by his side, and opened the box to try and make a decision as to whether he wanted to throw everything away or move it to the new house, where it would probably once again be relegated to the top shelf of the closet. Upon examining the contents of the box, there were letters and post cards from years gone by, containing both happy and sad memories of his youth. There was a death certificate and military metals along with a few photographs. As they sat there together, talking about the past, he confessed to his daughter that he really wished he knew more about his mother, maybe it would help him understand her more if he knew about her family and her past.

She happened to know that genealogy is one of my passions, I enjoy the excitement of looking for ancestors. It is like 4th of July and Christmas all wrapped up with a big red bow when the pieces begin to come together and you build your family tree! I felt so honored that she would ask me for my assistance and we began our journey down the path to the past, putting the pieces together. 

One thing that is interesting is that there are documents that were in the box indicating family member’s on her father’s dad’s side of the family saying that one of his relatives was dubbed a knight by the Queen of England. We have been able to take her family tree all the way back to the first recorded entry (at least on the internet) of her father’s family the one who had been dubbed a knight by the Queen and further!

 On her dad’s mother’s side, we have been able to go back to the early colonial days of Georgia  We made contact with several relatives through  the Ancestry and Roots Web message boards and have now been able to trace the mother’s side all the way back to England as well.

Collectively, we hit several stumbling blocks along the way but have managed to iron all of them out except for two generations where there were multiple marriages with children born of those marriages; many of them having identical names! We have pretty much determined the actual direct line for her particular ancestors by a process of elimination and by looking at census reports where we could locate them as well as researching historical publications in libraries locally and publications on the Internet.

During our search, I personally found that I could locate most of the census reports all in one place, easy to search and easier still to read, were located through heritage quest.  By using my library card, I was able to sit at my computer in the comfort of my own home and spend hours going back, year by year, as well as researching many different states all from one website.

I also found  some wonderful help with local histories written at heritage quest .  I also I became familiar with Google books, a resource I had not used before.  I was not aware that they had so many historical publications available in their depository.  I just plugged in the surname I was wanting to research and all types of wonderful references popped up!  Some were not her direct line but were certainly secondary branches of her family.

Another thing that I did at Google books, I input the names of actual publications that were used as references and of the ones I checked, they were all there. I did not locate any of the genealogical magazines that were used as references though.

My friend has learned how to install a software family tree program and input all her data and how to correct mistakes we made along the way.  She is uploading pictures into her program and adding interesting notes as well as stories about different people that she has heard. I think now she is as addicted as I am to doing genealogy. she has found it to be both exciting and frustrating, just like the rest of us! But we continue always on our quest, no matter what.

The final product will be a wonderful gift for her father, all put together in a book and the smile on his face will be priceless! I wish I could be there for the grand unveiling!