Genealogy and Family History
North America became the destination of choice for Mennonites as early as 1683. The appeal of religious freedom and free farmland influenced their decision to leave south Germany and Switzerland to seek out the “New World” in the State of Pennsylvania.
The arrival of Mennonites in Canada goes back to the late 1770s. The Swiss Mennonites left Pennsylvania and crossed the Niagara River to settle in Canada. During that same time period, about 2,000 Pennsylvania Dutch, as they became known, left the United States to settle in Canada. Free land and avoiding military service in the American Revolution were motivating factors to head north to Canada.
One group settled in the Niagara District in the present-day counties of Welland, Lincoln and Haldimand; a second group settled in Whitchurch in York County; a larger third group founded the Grand River settlement. In Perth County, the communities of Milverton and Millbank are home to Canada’s largest Amish settlement, a group named after Bishop Jacob Ammon, a conservative leader in the late 17th century.
In 1807, Benjamin Eby founded Ebytown (now Kitchener) in Waterloo County. In the late 1800s, 18,000 Dutch Mennonites fled Russia to seek refuge in North America. A large wave of Mennonites from Ukraine were the first settlers to arrive in the new province of Manitoba in 1870. Within the next decade, more than 7,000 settled the regions of the East Reserve and West Reserve.
The Dominion Lands Act of 1872, which granted inexpensive and free land to settlers, the aggressive immigration policy publicized in Central Europe, and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway all contributed to furthering the establishment of Mennonite communities in Central and Western Canada. Over the last century, both the First World War, chiefly the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and the Second World War encouraged the mass migration of conscientious objectors to settle in North America.
Today, almost 200,000 Mennonites call Canada home. In 2010, the largest urban concentration of Mennonites was located in Winnipeg (20,000) making it one of the largest Mennonite cities in the world. Elsewhere in Canada, the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, Vancouver and Saskatoon are home to many Mennonites.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
General Correspondence, Department of Agriculture (RG17)
- Jacob Shantz, Berlin. Prospects, Mennonite Immigration, 1876 (RG17, vol. 153, file 15997) (MIKAN 1981762)
Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG76)
- D.S. Bender, Milford, Nebraska, United States. A colony of Amish Mennonites to be located in Alberta, 1906 (RG76 I-A-1, volume 367, file 484379, microfilm C-10268) (MIKAN 1433482)
Library and Archives Canada holds other records pertaining to Mennonite and Amish immigrants to Canada. Consult
Collection Search using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.
Research in Published Sources
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