Ben Goossen’s introduction to Anabaptist digital history in January got me wondering what other Anabaptist history resources were available online. I embarked upon a very unsystematic quest, crowdsourcing the question via Facebook and Google-searching such terms as “Mennonite Database.” I found more than I thought I would and I’m sure I found only a small portion. Many of the sites I found made reference to each other, but there were also closed loops that represented denominational communities. Interestingly, I also found Ben’s post reproduced on the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta (http://mennonitehistory.org/) homepage, presumably because he’d made reference to a partner organization, Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID), near the end of the post.
Consider what follows a brief annotated bibliography of the Anabaptist history online archive. I’ve included mostly resources that are available for free and marked the few paid services with an asterisk. Please use the comments section to add resources I’ve missed.
Mennonite Genealogical Resources: A deceptively simple website, this contains links to a lot of interesting resources from lists of names and places of settlement to other databases. One word of caution: I followed a rabbit trail of links to the Mennonite Genealogy Data Index (http://mgdi.mennonitehistory.org/) which had a lot of dead links and at least one that seemed fishy and sent all kinds of dialog boxes flying at me. Digital history 101: Not all that is put on the internet stays on the internet.
The Mennonite DNA Project: While not really history per se; this resource attempts to use the widespread adoption of tools such as familytreedna.com and 23andme.com to put DNA to work in genealogical quests. While I’ve heard mixed reviews of these sorts of DNA, this could be interesting to some. I’ve included an asterisk because while Tim Janzen’s collection and analysis is free, neither of the DNA tests are.
GRANDMA’s Window: GRANDMA (which is a very convenient initialism) is a project of the California Mennonite Historical Society’s Genealogy Project Committee. It’s a database of Mennonite family lines that go back through Poland and Russia. It costs a little to access it via the web or CD-ROM so I can’t say I’ve tested this out.
Index of Saskatchewan Cemeteries – MHSS: The Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan has links to a lot of other resources (GRANDMA, GAMEO, etc.) but I think the coolest thing I found was their Index of Saskatchewan Cemeteries, which is available online. I think its a good example of a set of data that is easily moved from print to digital.
The Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta has some neat stuff going on: links to censuses in Canada and Mexico, lists of “travesties” committed to Mennonites in Russia during WWI, and a forum for identification of images. Worth more exploration
Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) launched in 2015, is a collaboration of: the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (Winnipeg); the Mennonite Archives of Ontario; the Mennonite Heritage Centre (Winnipeg); the D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation; Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta; Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia; Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan; and Mennonite Library & Archives at Fresno Pacific University (ML&A). It’s got some cool stuff but it also watermarks everything, which for this copyleft guy is kind of a bummer. It does have Dublin Core export functionality, which is pretty cool.
Then there are the Mennonite Church USA Archives, whose Flickr page has “No known copyright restrictions,” which is very cool. I would have gone with a Creative Commons license, myself, but access is awesome. I’ll be pulling from this the next time I have to illustrate a blog post. Oh wait.
German Mennonite Sources Database: Ben talked about this particular resource in more depth in his post but it’s pretty great if you need access to German Mennonite newspapers and books. I can’t read German but a lot of the frontispieces are pretty!
Mennonitische Geschichte und Ahnenforschung: A vast array of sources on Russian Mennonites, mostly in German. The collection includes maps, diaries, magazine and newspaper excerpts, and more.
Archive-it/Mennonite Church USA: This has already been featured on Anabaptist Historians but it’s always worth a mention. The MC USA Archives have been using the Internet Archive (archive.org) to archive Mennonite-affiliated blogs and web content. These various sites and publications, taken together, form a snapshot of mainstream Mennonites in the early 21st century.
Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary library has posted some of their holdings online. Issues of The Mennonite and The Gospel Herald from throughout the twentieth century and published minutes of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities are highlights of this collection.
I should note that this is just one collection available on archive.org, there are also occasional gems that may be of use, such as the Holdeman Mennonite hymnal, copyright 1959, posted by churches or individuals. With the right search keywords, there may be more Anabaptist sources here than first meet the eye.
John Howard Yoder Digital Library: largely consisting of unpublished work. Additional supplemental reading necessary for those studying Yoder: http://mennoniteusa.org/menno-snapshots/john-howard-yoder-discernment-group-2/ and http://www.ourstoriesuntold.com/to-the-next-generation-of-pacifist-theologians/
Martyr’s Mirror images: Reference images (i.e. not print quality) of images from the Martyrs Mirror, courtesy of the Mennonite Library and Archive in Bethel, KS.
Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies: A ministry of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches, CMBS is “preserving and maintaining historical records of churches, schools, and people; assisting in research and writing on topics of historical and theological interest to MBs; and publishing books and the quarterly magazine, Mennonite Historian.” It’s digital collection includes institutional records, church publications, personal papers, genealogies, and more.
Secondary and Tertiary Sources
GAMEO is onto at least its second online iteration and still going strong. Based upon the print Mennonite Encyclopedia, it’s a great reference work for when someone refers to a Mennonite theologian whose name sounds really familiar but maybe it’s just because you have a cousin with that name. And now it’s built on a Wiki structure, which is cool.
Global Anabaptist Wiki was in its infancy when I was at Goshen so it was a little bit on my radar but it seems to have mutated a bit in the time when I wasn’t paying attention (perhaps when it allied with GAMEO) but in really interesting ways, providing primary and secondary sources (in multiple languages!!) as well as encyclopedia entries (which I think have mostly been moved to GAMEO). For instance, there’s full-text versions of Anabaptist Confessions of Faith.
Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission also offers some online reading of published works on Mennonite Brethren history.
I have compiled this list to facilitate use of these resources but the many archives and libraries of the Anabaptist tradition remain the richest sources for historical study. As we make strides in diversifying The Archive, digital repositories present a valuable tool to quickly, efficiently, and cheaply, share sources around the world. However the internet is impermanent (and so it goes) and physical archives have greater longevity. New collections should not only be digitized and shared but added (in some form, whether physical or digital) to the institutions that still form the backbones of our amateur and scholarly historical endeavors.
And there are many such places. Here is a 2015 list of the Mennonite/Anabaptist archives and libraries in North America: 2015DirectoryofNorthAmericanMennoniteHistoricalAgencies
Joel Nofziger is currently on a team working to update this list worldwide, so if you know of any that aren’t on this list, share them in the comments!
Here are a (very) few links to finding aids for Anabaptist archives:
- Mennonite Archival Commons: http://mac.libraryhost.com/
- Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society: http://www.lmhs.org/research/archives/
- Mennonite Archives of Ontario: https://uwaterloo.ca/mennonite-archives-ontario/
- Mennonite Heritage Center Archives: http://archives.mennonitechurch.ca/holdings
- Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania: http://mhep.org/library/collections/
- Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia: http://www.mhsbc.com/holdings.html
- Mennonite Library and Archives (Fresno Pacific): http://fresno.libguides.com/c.php?g=210496&p=1389416