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The Search for Swiss Roots 608-527-6565



The first important group from Switzerland to emigrate to America were members of the Anabaptist sect.

They were members of a strict Protestant movement calling for the separation of church and state as well as an end to tithes and rents.

The Anabaptists were viewed as a threat to the established order and severely persecuted by the authorities.

The sect split into the Mennonites and the Amish.

Persecution dispersed them to different parts of Europe. The first organized group of Anabaptists arrived in America around the 1680s. They settled in Germantown Pennsylvania, six miles north of Philadelphia.

In 1709 a number of Swiss Mennonites colonized a portion of Lancaster Many Mennonite families of Swiss origin did not arrive in America directly from Switzerland.

Many Mennonite families of Swiss origin did not arrive in America directly from Switzerland.

They had first settled in Alsace and Lorraine, and in parts of Germany and the Netherlands; after 1870 some even came from Russia where they had moved in the middle of the 18th century at the invitation of Catherine the Great.

Other Swiss seeking religious freedom settled in the Carolinas and Georgia. Most of these immigrants came originally from the cantons of Bern and Zurich.

The Amish, a smaller body of Swiss Brethren, also settled in Pennsylvania. They were the followers of Jacob Ammann, a Swiss Brethren bishop from the Alsace.

In 1736, the first Amish settled along the Northkill Creek in Berks County, Pennsylvania. By 1759 a few Amish began to move into Lancaster County where many Mennonites lived. A letter written in 1773 by Mennonite bishops stated that the Amish "hold very fast to the outward and ancient customs."

The Swiss Volhynian Genealogy Database has more than 27,000 names of Swiss Amish who spent a hundred years in Prussia/Russia before emigrating to South Dakota and Kansas in 1874.
The Swiss Center's Tritt library list of books on Mennonites and Amish include:
  • The Anabaptists (Christianity and Society in the Modern World), Jurgen-Goertz, Hans, 1996
  • Amish Society, Hostetler, John A, 1993
  • Anabaptist and Reformed Walking Tours of the Cities of Zurich and Bern, Switzerland, Wenger, Samuel E, 2006
  • Anabaptist-Mennonite Names in Switzerland, Zurcher, Isaac, 1988
  • Bernese Anabaptists, Gratz, Delbert, 1994
  • Mennonite Quarterly Review, LXXIV, number 2, Furner, Mark, 2000
  • Mennonites in Europe, Horsch, John, 1942
  • Mennonites in Transition from Switzerland to America 1997
  • Spiritual Life In Anabaptism, Dyck, Cornelius J, 1995
  • The Amish in Switzerland and Other European Countries, Miller, Betty
  • The Anabaptist Story, Estep, William R, 1963
  • The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism, Estep, William Roscoe, 1996
  • The Story of the Mennonites, Smith, C Henry, Ph.D. 1941
The Swiss Center's Tritt library Book List on Religion

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