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Hutterite Genealogy Primer

© copyright FEEFHS, all rights reserved

Hutterites are a group of persons who are members of this Anabaptist and pacifist religion that evolved as an outgrowth of the Protestant reformation of the early 1500's. The Hutterites originated in various Anabaptist groups of the South Tyrol, Carinthia and Moravia. They are neither Catholic nor Protestant. The best proof of this is that the Hutterites were persecuted and killed by the thousands as heretics by both Catholic and Protestants alike in past centuries.

They came together into a united group with a fairly common set of anabaptist pacifist and beliefs as a small communal group in Moravia in 1528. They found themselves branded as heritics and persecuted by both the Catholics (who burned them to death at the stake) and by the Protestants (who decapitated them) in Europe.

This religious group was named after Jacob Hutter, a Tyrolean and Moravian Anabaptist leader, who was burned to death at the stake in 1536 as a heretic by order of the Holy Roman Emperor, a Hapsburg King.

The early Hutterites lived in Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Transylvania (then Hungary) and Wallachia (southern Romania) before continuing on to two major locations in European Russia (now the Ukraine). They emigrated to South Dakota starting in 1873 and then went elsewhere to Canada about 1918 and later some returned to America.

Many Hutterite descendants now live in small colonies in western Canada (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) and the north central and western United States (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington State where they still practice their communal living and their pacifist and Anabaptist beliefs. As a closed society with good genealogy records going back for centuries, they have been recognized over a decade ago in the literature by Hostetler and others as an ideal group for genetic research. This is a case of genealogy is helping genetics research.

While Hutterite preachers have been diligent in recording the family histories and vital events of their colonies in church books, to our certain knowledge none have ever been microfilmed nor made generally available. Up until now, it was generally considered that the scanty published genealogy was limited to the two German language books available at the Family History Library (FHL). However a recent literature search reveals that considerably more printed material exists.

The original churchbook extractions, provided to FEEFHS by Evan Eichler, Ph.D. of Livermore California, are a rare new find of major significance to family historians. It proves to be special opportunity for FEEFHS to serve family record searchers worldwide by publishing these extractions of an original Hutterite Church register for the first time on the world wide web.

This material includes the distillation of some excellent genealogy research done by Evan Eichler, a leading human geneticist. Evan discovered his own Hutterite roots by accident almost two decades ago and has visited Canada and Austria in searching for his ancestors since then. His eMail address is posted on his extraction pages for use by Hutterite record searchers

FEEFHS is also fortunate to have received permission from Johns Hopkins University Press, publisher of "Hutterite Society" (1974, 1997) to republish two Appendices representing four lists of related Hutterite Colonies. One list is of locations in Europe where colonies once existed. The other is of places in North America (Canada and the United States) where about 400 Hutterite Schmeideleut, Dariusleut and Leherleut colonies have existed or do exist today.

FEEFHS has been in contact with the author, retired Professor John A. Hostetler, the leading Hutterite scholar. He has encouraged us to make information about his Hutterite writings more widely available through the web and via our printed FEEFHS Newsletter. He is also cooperating with FEEFHS in a joint effort to update the names and locations of colonies from his lists of 1974 to the present day.

In addition, Tony Waldner of the Forest River Community has granted us the right to republish the index to his Russia Record: Hutterite Family Records 1700-1874 (published 1996). and he has copies for sale.

Also, Plough Publishing House of the Bruderhof Foundation has kindly granted us reprinting rights to parts of the The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren - I (published 1984) including Appendix 3: a list of current place names with German language equivalents and Appendix 4: six maps of 16th and 17th century European places of sigificance to Hutterites. Plough also has copies of this book for sale.

Perhaps the most interesting and rewarding aspect of this FEEFHS online collection to us is knowledge of the certain fact that perhaps as many as 100,000 Hutterite ancestors living in Canada, America and elsewhere in the world today are decended from this handful of two dozen unique surnames. Most descendants and record searchers outside of the existing Hutterite communities have no knowledge of this fact.

Thus it seems safe to say that if the surname you are searching for appears in this material, you can be reasonably assured that you are quite probably related to a line of the Hutterite pioneers listed here, perhaps as a fifth or sixth cousin.