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Free Mennonite Family History Articles

Serendipity or DNA? A curious Life Path

Posted by Daniel Mast on

by John H. Gindlesberger    This is a story of how the search for my family roots has, in some ways, come full circle. I grew up in Holmes County, Ohio—home to one of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in America. It is an unusual place, however, in that Holmes County is roughly divided into two parts. The Amish and Mennonites live primarily in the eastern portion of the county, while the western portion, where I grew up, is mainly “English.” The Amish have always been seen in the grocery stores, in buggies on the highways, and in the...

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The Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Oberholtzers who Moved to Alverton, Pennsylvania

Posted by Daniel Mast on

by Rodney G. Cavanaugh     The Oberholtzer family originated before the 15th century in the Swiss village of Ober, about 30 miles south of Zurich. On March 2, 1661, Marx/Marcus Oberholtzer, son of Martin Oberholtzer, was hosting an evening Anabaptist church service at his home when they were “visited” by raiders, and the authorities fined the persons who were present. They were also told that they could no longer hold meetings, and if they were caught again, they would lose their homes.    Marcus (1683-1726) and Elizabeth Oberholtzer and their children left their European homeland bound for the “new world.” They...

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Our Ancestor’s Life Experiences in the 1700's

Posted by Lois Ann Mast on

by J. Lemar and Lois Ann Mast    Upon arrival in present-day Berks County, Pennsylvania, what was life like for our Amish ancestors? Did they stand in awe among the tall trees and lush brush—the land that they would soon own?   What a relief these immigrant families must have exprienced after remembering the long difficult journey from their homeland that took more money from them than they had planned! It included passage fares on the boat down the Rhine River past 26 different toll stations where they were required to pay a sum to the municipalities on their way to...

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Grist Mills

Posted by Lois Ann Mast on

  Grist mills became essential to the early pioneer families even though they were not yet built for most of our immigrants. Flour and cornmeal was a needed ingredient in every home to make bread, and the work of hauling wheat and corn to the mill and back was much preferred over laboriously grinding one’s own grain.       Pennsylvania was well known as the breadbasket of the thirteen colonies with more mills than in any other state. Many of the early mills were built by our Mennonite and Amish ancestors—some pictured on this page. Most are no longer working today,...

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Using Journals to Learn About the Past

Posted by Lois Ann Mast on

Journals are an amazing source of information. I was recently amazed to read an old journal written in the 1860s by Christian K. Nissley who lived in East Donegal Twp., Lancaster Co., Pa.   Christian was a single man who was only 14 years old when his mother died, and then he died at the young age of 28. His journal is an amazing window into the Civil War time period. In reading his journal, one can easily describe him as self-educated as he wrote in beautiful German Script, but also could write in English.   Christian chose to join...

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