Hutterite Church in the United States

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History in the United States[edit | edit source]

Limestone House in Bon Homme Colony

Hutterites, also called Hutterian Brethren, are an ethnoreligious group that is a communal branch of Anabaptists who, like the Amish and Mennonites, trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the early 16th century.

The founder of the Hutterites, Jacob Hutter, "established the Hutterite colonies on the basis of the Schleitheim Confession, a classic Anabaptist statement of faith" of 1527, with the first communes being formed in 1528. Since the death of their eponym Jacob Hutter in 1536, the beliefs of the Hutterites, especially living in a community of goods and nonresistance, have resulted in hundreds of years of diaspora in many countries. They embarked on a series of migrations through central and eastern Europe. Nearly extinct by the 18th century, the Hutterites migrated to Russia in 1770, and about a hundred years later to North America. Over the course of 140 years, their population living in community of goods recovered from about 400 to around 50,000 at present. Today, almost all Hutterites live in Western Canada and the upper Great Plains of the United States (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington State). Many believers are of German descent and still use their native tongue at home and in church. "Colonies" share property, practice non-resistance, dress plainly, do not participate in politics, and operate their own schools.

After sending scouts to North America in 1873 along with a Mennonite delegation, almost all Hutterites, totaling 1,265 individuals, migrated to the United States between 1874 and 1879 in response to the new Russian military service law. Of these, some 800 identified as Eigentümler (literally, 'owners') and acquired individual farms according to the Homestead Act of 1862, whereas some 400 identified as Gemeinschaftler (literally, 'community people') and started three communities with community of goods.

Most Hutterites are descended from these latter 400. Named for the leader of each group (the Schmiedeleut, Dariusleut and Lehrerleut, leut being based on the German word for people), they settled initially in the Dakota Territory. Here, each group re-established the traditional Hutterite communal lifestyle.

Over the next decades, the Hutterites who settled on individual farms, the so-called Prärieleut, slowly assimilated first into Mennonite groups and later into the general American population. Until about 1910 there was intermarriage between the Prärieleut and the communal living Hutterites. Source: Wikipedia

Finding Records[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]


Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

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. Writing to the local colony could locate records.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the leader of the colony to make a copy of the record for you.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the colony has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.

Address lists:

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Harold and Wilma Good Library

Mennonite Historical Library
Harold and Wilma Good Library
Goshen College
1700 South Main Street
Goshen, Indiana 46526

Phone: (574) 535-7418
Fax: (574) 535-7438
Email: mhl@goshen.edu

  • Website bibliographies, texts and images on topics related to the Radical Reformation, the Anabaptists, Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish and various related groups. Swiss and Amish emphasis.

Information in the Records[edit | edit source]

Baptisms[edit | edit source]

  • Adult Baptism. Because Christ and his apostles were grown men when they were baptized, Hutterites believe that people must first know and understand the Bible and then request baptism into the faith.
  • baptism date
  • parents' names
  • names of witnesses or godparents, who may be relatives

Marriages[edit | edit source]

Marriage registers can give:

  • the marriage date
  • the names of the bride and groom
  • indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed
  • their ages
  • their occupations
  • parents' names (after 1800)
  • the names of previous spouses and their death dates
  • names of witnesses, who might be relatives.

Burials[edit | edit source]

Burial registers may give:

  • the name of the deceased
  • the date and place of death or burial
  • the deceased's age
  • place of residence
  • cause of death
  • the names of survivors, especially a widow or widower
  • parents' names, or at least the father's name

Membership Lists[edit | edit source]

  • names of members, sometimes listed in families
  • date of joining
  • possibly previous residence

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by gathering in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details


Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.