Early Mennonite Church Records

Written by Joel Alderfer on March 26, 2021

This article was published in the MHEP Newsletter in November 1995, and has been updated to include church records added to the collection since that time.

Researchers at the MHC Historical Library often ask, “Where are the early Mennonite church records?” or “What church records do you have?”

This is not a simple question. First of all, what does the researcher mean by church records? There are membership, baptismal, ministerial, burial records, alms records, property and land records.

I explain that generally,

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Ember Day Lore

Written by Forrest Moyer on December 10, 2020

Each of the four seasons has an Ember Day (image source: Wikipedia).

Several years ago, while transcribing a Bucks County Mennonite family register, I came across an unfamiliar phrase noting that Henry Angeny was born December 20, 1843 “auf den quatember [on the Quatember]”.

The Quatuor Tempora “Four Seasons” (called in German “Quatember”) were four groups of “Ember Days” or “Embertides” in the church year that were set aside seasonally for fasting and prayer. Early in Roman church practice they were instituted

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Lydia Gross’s forgotten marriage

Written by Forrest Moyer on May 15, 2020

(Updated 9/17/2020)

The first part of this post, about Lydia Gross’s leadership in the Doylestown Mennonite Sewing Circle and proposed Women’s Missionary Society, was written by Mary Jane Hershey and published in the MHEP Newsletter in March 1996.

The rest of the post, written by myself, is about Lydia’s brief marriage to a tattooed ruffian named Henry Howlett, and how the marriage was intentionally forgotten by her Mennonite church and family. Though divorced, Lydia retained the respect of the church and

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1896 preaching tour of John Coffman

Written by Forrest Moyer on November 6, 2019

John S. Coffman (1848-1899) of Elkhart, IN was one of the first evangelists to hold a series of meetings in Franconia Mennonite Conference, in November 1896. His tour lasted three weeks, during which he preached in all but one congregation in the conference. In his diary, he recorded impressions of the places and people he met, giving us a rare view of local Mennonite culture. The diary is archived at the Mennonite Church USA Archives in Elkhart and was published

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Bishop Jacob Gross (1743-1810)

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 6, 2019

It’s been 15 years since I dove down the rabbit hole of genealogy. My interest continues to be piqued by my own ancestors, but has expanded to the stories of many others through my work at the Heritage Center and everyday conversations with folks from diverse backgrounds. The interesting characters among our ancestors are endless!

As a child, I knew that my grandmother Ruth was descended from an early American Mennonite bishop, Jacob Gross of Deep Run, Bucks County; but my

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Walking to Ohio in the 1820s

Written by Forrest Moyer on January 9, 2019

The following is a translation of a Pennsylvania Dutch story submitted to the Souderton Independent newspaper by local historian Henry Hagey and printed December 22, 1933. It appears to be a true story, collected by Hagey from deacon Jake Freed (1851-1929) of the Franconia Mennonite congregation. The story was told to him by one Martin Bechtel, presumably Martin G. Bechtel (1797-1890), buried at Blooming Glen.

While only the barest details flesh the story, it does give some idea of what traveling

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A Pioneer of Gospel Broadcasting: William G. Detweiler

Written by Forrest Moyer on July 11, 2018

Republished from the MHEP Newsletter April 1977. Author unknown; if anyone can identify the author, please contact MHC archivist Forrest Moyer at moyerf@mhep.org.

Editor’s note (1977): In the July issue (Vol. 3, No.4) of the MHEP Newsletter, several acquisitions from Mrs. Detweiler Stolzfus [Anna Landes Detweiler Stoltzfus] were noted. Among them was the following biography of William G. Detweiler, founder of The Calvary Hour in 1936. The title page from the biography is missing so that we do not know who

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Derstine

Written by Forrest Moyer on October 23, 2017

This series of posts highlights families descended from 18th-century Mennonite immigrants to eastern Pennsylvania, in connection with the MHC’s exhibit Opportunity & Conscience: Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania, on display through March 31, 2018. The stories reflect the enrichment brought to communities over centuries by the descendants of immigrants.

European background

The Derstine family of eastern Pennsylvania (one branch uses the spelling Derstein) is descended from Michael Dierstein (1712-1777), an immigrant who came to Philadelphia with a group of Mennonites on the ship

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Hunsberger

Written by Forrest Moyer on August 30, 2017

This series of posts highlights families descended from 18th-century Mennonite immigrants to eastern Pennsylvania, in connection with the MHC’s exhibit Opportunity & Conscience: Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania, on display through March 31, 2018. The stories reflect the enrichment brought to communities over centuries by the descendants of immigrants.

Hunsberger roots of Franconia and Souderton

Brothers Ulrich, Jacob, and John (Hans) Hunsberger were some of the first settlers in the area that became Franconia Township. They each at one time owned parts of

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Funk

Written by Forrest Moyer on August 11, 2017

This series of posts highlights families descended from 18th-century Mennonite immigrants to eastern Pennsylvania, in connection with the MHC’s exhibit Opportunity & Conscience: Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania, on display through March 31, 2018. The stories reflect the enrichment brought to communities over centuries by the descendants of immigrants.

Henry Funk, miller and author

The Funk story is one of strong influence, within and beyond the Mennonite community, from immigrant Henry — the first American Mennonite author — to descendants Annie and John

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