I met some people of German descent over New Years and we did the usual thing of talking about where our families are from.

My dad @opahorst is from Berlin.

My mom @anneonbowen is from a small village called Limburgerhof, which is in the Rheinland-Pfalz province of Germany. She was raised Mennonite, which got us into a discussion if Mennonites were all like the Amish (not using certain forms of technology).

I wasn’t actually raised religious at all and I don’t really know anything about Mennonites. When my mom’s mother, my grandmother, was still alive and came to visit us, I remember going to a Mennonite church out in the Fraser Valley.

So today I fell down the Mennonites Wikipedia rabbit hole and found a bunch of interesting things which I’ve paraphrased below.

Being a Mennonite seems to be pretty broad — “its most distinguishing feature is the rejection of infant baptism” — related faiths are called Anabaptists. The Mennonite name comes from Menno Simons, who was from the Low Countries now part of the Netherlands.

Amish split off (Jakob Amman being the founder where the name came from), as did the Hutterites (Jakob Hutter).

requiring church membership beginning at birth was inconsistent with the New Testament example. They believed that the church should be completely removed from government (the proto–free church tradition), and that individuals should join only when willing to publicly acknowledge belief in Jesus and the desire to live in accordance with his teachings

(Emphasis mine) — sound like great basic principles!

There are only about 1.6M Mennonites worldwide, with only 65K left in Europe. This got me wondering about the community where my mom grew up:

The 19th century also brought to the region of Limburgerhof the Mennonites from Switzerland. Mennonites have remained in the area since then; and Limburgerhof has the only Mennonite Church in the Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis. —

So, my mother’s family is part of a very small group in the entire area. My great uncle kept a family tree, and apparently we can trace our ancestry back to Martin Luther. Yet another religious figure who disagreed with how things were at the time :)

The “Pfalz” as it is called in German is “Palatinate” in English. And it turns out everybody left there and went to the US:

In the early 18th century, 100,000 Germans from the Palatinate emigrated to Pennsylvania, where they became known collectively as the Pennsylvania Dutch (from the Anglicization of Deutsch or German.)

This “Pennsylvania Dutch” which really should be “Pennsylvania Germans” is something that I brought up during my New Years Eve discussion.

Originally published


Tags: Blog, Family, German

Last modified at