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Old 03.03.2014, 13:42
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Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

Currently reading a book, in French- from local French author, descendant of an Mennonite community, German dialect speaking, from Eggiwil, Emmenthal- who escaped Bernese Protestant rule to the village of Bonfol, near Porrentruy, in the northern Jura. It is very interesting. I personally come from a Huguenot family, that also escaped from Catholic France to the same Jura (also Catholic, but very tolerant of both Huguenots and Mennonites)...

Fascinating, and was wondering if others here come from such Communities, either anabaptist (Mennonites, or Amish) or Huguenots, like me.

The book is called 'Heureux les Doux' (Happy are the meek) by a French retired Vet, Guy Girard. I bought the book direct from him the other day. Families in the book are the Müllers, Bechler (or Baechler), Klopfenstein (always thought it was a Jewish name), Sommer, Froehli, Gut, and many more.

Pardon my ignorance on the subject- I'd always associated the Mennonites and Amish as being German communities, not Swiss.

Last edited by Odile; 03.03.2014 at 14:32.
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Old 03.03.2014, 14:10
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

Meek! You must be kidding.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_Mafia

Seriously, anyone who believes any "reality" show is actually real and not scripted/staged from start to finish needs their heads examined.

I'm sure there must be quite a lot of lapsed Jews around who're either just non-believers or have taken up another faith. After all St Paul was a Jew who managed to come up with what we now know as the Christian religion because he wasn't accepted by the Pharisees. Didn't care much for James the Just's teaching of the authenic early Christian church either.
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Old 03.03.2014, 14:28
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Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

Lots of Jews didn't have last names till the 18th or 19th century - at least in Eastern Europe. Last names are often descriptive of what people did and they don't distinguish well between religions. Yeah, there are lapsed Jews but for people living in Europe it's also likely they changed their names to protect themselves from waves of extermination - inquisition, pogrom, final solution etc.
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Old 03.03.2014, 15:17
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

I had no idea either, that the Amish are a split group led originally by another Bernese, Amann- who felt that the Memonites were not strict enough any longer. In the Jura, co-habiting with Catholics who had welcomed them, and Portestant Huguenots also recently arrived (in the book a Huguenot is the teacher for the Memonite children at their own school)- some Degree of tolerance had to go both ways, understandably.

The young couple in the book had to leave their elderly parents behind in Emmenthal- at the mercy of Bernese persecution- and had no idea what had happened to them, which was terrible. Made me think of so many of us on EF, worrying so much about elderly parents a long way away... and yet at least we have news anc can fly to visit. And of course the distance between Emmenthal and Jura was so short- in modern terms- and yet could have been on the other side of the world.

Again, I do apologise about my ignorance on the subject. I left for the UK as a teenager (just) and only returned a few years ago- and had only heard of the Amish in the USA.
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Old 03.03.2014, 15:39
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

The Amish are orginially Swiss? haha this made me LOL, thanks for making my day!
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Old 03.03.2014, 15:42
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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The Amish are orginially Swiss? haha this made me LOL, thanks for making my day!
Might make you LOL, but it is true, at least for some of the Amish that wound up in the U.S. Read all about it on Wikipedia. or read about it on swissinfo
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Old 03.03.2014, 15:48
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

thanks, I'm not doubting the fact. sorry for the misunderstanding
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Old 03.03.2014, 15:49
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

I didn't know they were Swiss either till we moved here. But their story is interesting.
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Old 03.03.2014, 15:54
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

OH's father's family lived near Berne, Indiana, home to the 'Swiss Amish'. (Who I think might actually be Mennonite...)

As a young man OH's grandfather apparently cut all ties with his family, so we know very little about earlier generations or family origins.

But when OH's father came to visit us here in Switzerland he was surprised at how much Dialekt he understood, especially when we traveled around canton Bern. He said the Swiss German he heard there sounded a lot like the 'secret language' he remembered his parents speaking to each other when he was a child.

Which got us to wondering whether OH's grandfather might have been an Amish (or Mennonite) lad who left the fold...

But we'll never know.


(Or it could have been one of the southern German dialects OH's father recognized. We have no idea where the family really comes from.)
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Old 03.03.2014, 16:02
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

this is a great show:

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Old 03.03.2014, 16:09
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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OH's father's family lived near Berne, Indiana, home to the 'Swiss Amish'. (Who I think might actually be Mennonite...)

As a young man OH's grandfather apparently cut all ties with his family, so we know very little about earlier generations or family origins...
If grandpa came through Ellis Island (possible) then there would probably be a record of where he came from on a site like ancestry.com. Have you ever searched your last name in an online phone directory to see how many others in CH have your name, and where they are located?
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Old 03.03.2014, 16:27
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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If grandpa came through Ellis Island (possible) then there would probably be a record of where he came from on a site like ancestry.com. Have you ever searched your last name in an online phone directory to see how many others in CH have your name, and where they are located?
Some years ago OH's father got the geneaology bug and did a fair amount of research, but could find nothing going back farther than his father. There's a family story that OH's grandfather might have changed his name at some point, so even the family name hasn't been all that helpful.

We are typical rootless Americans.
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Old 03.03.2014, 16:30
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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The Amish are orginially Swiss? haha this made me LOL, thanks for making my day!
Don't be harsh MG, they're just a bit mish-understood.
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Old 03.03.2014, 17:15
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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Which got us to wondering whether OH's grandfather might have been an Amish (or Mennonite) lad who left the fold...

But we'll never know.
I always thought Memmonite and Amish communities had been very serious about keeping records of births, marraiges and deaths long before most other communities started. So actually you might have it easier than many others in tracing your family tree?
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Old 03.03.2014, 17:40
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

There was a huge exodus of German mennonites to Russia in the mid 1800's. Russia was offering cheap land and exemption from military conscription to German settlers. Later communism would hit Russia and the mennonitic Germans were stuck there.

It wasn't until the early 1980's (for some even the late 1970's) that some of them were allowed to return to Germany, after some kind of political agreement.

However it was problematic since in Russia these Germans never really mingled much with the local Russians, and in Germany they were now no longer being accepted as German by the German folk.

These Germans are know all over Germany today as "Russlands-Deutsche" and a large portion of them still fit under some kind of mennonitic banner albeit they are often usually just referred to as "baptisten" but have similar customs such as not allowing the females to wear pants, and girls who have "lost their innocence" have to wear head scarves.

There are large communities still in Bonn, Bielefeld, Paderborn, Gifhorn, Gumerbach and other smaller communities scattered around Germany.

My descendants were amongst the above.
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Old 03.03.2014, 17:57
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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I always thought Memmonite and Amish communities had been very serious about keeping records of births, marraiges and deaths long before most other communities started. So actually you might have it easier than many others in tracing your family tree?
Ah, but we don't know if OH's grandfather came from the Adams county Amish/Mennonite community, or not. Just a guess, based on geography, a bit of family gossip, and snippets of language remember decades later. OH's grandfather cut off all ties with his family, there are no records. Anyone who might have any info is long dead.

But trying to find pieces of the puzzle has been an interesting exercise for OH's father.
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Old 03.03.2014, 18:53
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

Was Ellis Island in operation in the 17th Century, when so many mennonites left Emmenthal and Bern, due to Protestant persecution? Of course, Bernese were Protestants- but they strongly objected to Mennonites (anabaptists) not baptising young children- saying they would be 'lost' if they died. I suspect there was a lot more to their prejudice though. We visited Ellis Island a dew years ago, and it is a very very moving place. My Swiss relatives are not registered there, as they were lucky enough to have a second class ship ticket - which meant they could avoid this reception centre.

Strange then for those who escaped to the Jura, as in the book I am reading- that they sought refuge in a Catholic Canton- where they were better tolerated and even, accepted. Same for the Huguenots.

Later of course, the Catholic Jura was given to Bern (without asking the Jura people hos they felt about it)- who not only imposed the Bernese language, but took the land and also imposed... their own form of Protestantism- which still today creates so much resentment.

My Huguenots ancestors, actually converted to Catholicism in the Jura. I really would like to find out after how many generations- and if it was for love, or to 'fit in' and advance in business and trade- or for whatever reason/s and when. Research beginning soon ...
My dad's family became staunch Catholics, and when he wanted to marry my mother, a divorced protestant with a child, and from a very Bourgeois background- all hell let loose from both sides. I only discovered about 10 years ago, that our family name comes directly from Huguenot- when I tried to discuss this with dad, he just could not accept it!!! He was made to feel really guilty by his family, the Priests, etc, for choosing love instead of the 'true' religion- and suffered about this all his life. Sometimes we forget that it is not tha long ago that different Christian groups despised, hated, tortured and killed each other (my parents got married in the mid 1940s).

Those who left the fold of any very traditional fundamental Christian group were shunned and much worse, sadly, Meloncollie. Mind you, same for those who left the Islamic faith, or the Jewish one, etc.

Last edited by Odile; 03.03.2014 at 20:35.
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Old 03.03.2014, 19:28
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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Later of course, the Catholic Jura was given to Bern (without asking the Jura people hos they felt about it)- who not only imposed the Bernese language, but took the land and also imposed... their own form of Protestantism- which still today creates so much resentment.
It is interesting that this phase of history is still so important to many Jurassians, and gets talked about so much, seeing places like Aargau were similarly ruled by the iron fist of Bern but the people there don't harbour the same resentment. In fact many don't even know about that particular episode of their history.

Maybe it has to do with people using language as a building block of class and ethnicity? It is interesting to look at Flanders for example. They first fought against the Dutch, resenting their protestantism, and sought refuge by voluntarily placing themseles under Francophone rule although the Waloons never respected their traditions and frequently trampled their rights. Middle class Flemish families would often adopt French names and start speaking French as a symbol of their class, effectively accentuating the perception of the Flemish language as inferior and rustic. But they didn't really start complaining about being the underdog in a big way and seeking to reverse the trend until during the last 30 years or so - coinciding with the economic downfall of francophone Belgium and reversal of fortunes in their favour. The new generation of people rising up into the middle class refused to convert to French speaking, and so effectively broke down the language - class bond but strengthened the language -ethnicity bond. I can see certain parallels to the Jura here, on a much smaller scale of course.
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Old 03.03.2014, 20:04
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

I don't mean to lower the cultural level of the thread, but...they make awesome furniture and very tasty pies (we've got them in nearby Pennsylvania).

Seriously, every time I am in Lancaster I could swear I hear a language that sounds like some version of Swiss German (I was told before that SG and Dutch are fairly similar, so it is quite possible it might also be some version of a Dutch dialect).
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Old 03.03.2014, 20:29
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Re: Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish communities

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Was Ellis Island in operation in the 17th Century, when so many mennonites left Emmenthal and Bern, due to Protestant persecution?
Ellis Island (the 'clearing point' where so many immigrants first landed and registered) was established in 1892 and ran through 1954. This was a time of high immigration from Europe to the US, so many of us look here first for info.

Prior to that one needs to look at the various ports, or at ship's manifests, etc.

The first Amish settlers to the US arrived in the early 1700s. The largest wave, though, came 1800-1860.

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Seriously, every time I am in Lancaster I could swear I hear a language that sounds like some version of Swiss German (I was told before that SG and Dutch are fairly similar, so it is quite possible it might also be some version of a Dutch dialect).
The Pennsylvania 'Dutch' are actually (mostly) of Germanic descent. Dutch is often said to be a misunderstanding of Deutsch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_Dutch

(But according to Wiki, "This folk etymology is however not supported by the historical record" so go figure... )
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