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About us

This Project is for those whose ancestry is so-called Low-German Mennonite. Note that this is not a surname project. Simply having one of the surnames listed below does not get you into the project. You must provide genealogical information to support the possibility that you have Low-German Mennonite ancestry or have reason to suspect that you have Low-German Mennonite ancestry. There are different types of Mennonites so please read the information provided below before you request to join the project. The Low-German Mennonites are descended from those Anabaptists/Mennonites who settled in northern Poland from the early 1500s to the late 1600s. The majority of these people were from the Netherlands, with significant proportions coming from Switzerland and Germany. In 1772 a large part of Poland was partitioned, with the region where the majority of Mennonites lived going to Prussia. A second partition put nearly all of the Mennonites in Prussian territory. Most of these Mennonites lived in the province of West Prussia. The Prussian government was highly militaristic which clashed with the pacifism of the Mennonites. Eventually the Prussian government tied land acquisition to military service. Since the Mennonites could no longer acquire new property without giving up their pacifism many chose to leave Prussian territory. Between 1788 and 1820 about a third of the Prussian Mennonites moved to southern Russia (at that time known in German as Sud Russland; now known as Ukraine). After a few generations there were also problems in Russia. Aside from a shortage of land the Mennonites were under pressure by the Russian government to assimilate into Russian society (which included joining the military). As a result large numbers of Mennonites began leaving Russia in 1874. Over the next decade nearly a third of the Russian Mennonites had moved to North America. Because the majority of Low-German Mennonites in North America are descended from those who once lived in Russia they are often, incorrectly, referred to as the Russian Mennonites. This group is known as the Low-German Mennonites because during their 200-plus years in Poland/Prussia they developed their own Germanic dialect, known as Plaut Dietsch, also known as Platt Deutsch in German, or Low-German in English.