of Alberta

Introduction to Mennonites in the Mexican Census of 1930


About the Geography

Mexico is comprised of 31 states, in which Mennonite colonies can be found in six. The Mennonite Historial Atlas (Schroeder, William and Helmut T. Huebert, 1996) identifies the colonies in each of those six as follows. And in each, there are Mennonite villages. In addition to these places, Mennonites have moved to other places, including cities. The Census indexes presented here concern three colonies and those Mennonties living in the city of Cuahtémoc. See Chihuahua entry in GAMEO for more background.

  • Campeche
    • Neuevo Progreso
    • Yalnon and Chavi
  • Chihuahua
    • Buenos Aires
    • Buena Vista
    • El Capulin
    • El Cuervo
    • El Eden
    • La Sombra
    • Las Virginias
    • Manitoba (1922)
    • Nordkolonie
    • Quellekolonie
    • Sabinal
    • Santa Clara (1926)
    • Santa Rita
    • Swift Current (1922)
  • Coahuila
    • Monclova
  • Durango
    • Durango (Hague)
  • Tamaulipas
    • Neueva Padilla
    • Villa de CasasGonzalez
  • Zacatecas
    • La Honda

The Census of 1930 was taken by Mennonite (volunteers?) in the Manitoba und Swift Current Colonies. In the small Santa Clara Colony and those families living in Cuauhtémoc, it was made by Mexicans. That means that the latter show a tendency to translate names into their Spanish equivalent (e.g., Juan is Johan, Enrique is Heinrich, etc.) and spell last names poorly (I believe that the “Goesen” family of Santa Clara was a Goertzen family).

The register sheets have a front and a back page. Each one has 50 rows, so in each sheet up to 100 persons could be registered. On the front page there is a title, a number of sheet, and the name of the registrar. Additionally, the name of the location, and what specific part of the town/city is given. In the Manitoba colony the name was given as “Menonitas” only, but luckily the census enumerator wrote the name of the village on many pages. On the back pages there is a series of instructions how the papers were to be filled out.

The sheet has 18 columns. The first two contain the street name and house number which, in our villages, is left completely blank. In the third one, the person had to be indicated with an “X” if he/she was the household head. In the fourth one is the name; in the fifth and sixth, the gender – one had to be marked with an “X” for males, the other for females. In the columns seven to nine age in: years, months, days. For people over one year old, only years had to be written in; months and days only for babies under 1 year/1 month. However, in the Swift Colony the census enumerator worked hard and calculated years months and day of age for every person. I processed it as much as I was able to read the data, because a supervisor crossed the unnecessary data with a wide black marker. However, I think that the details could be helpful for some researchers.

Columns 10 to 15 record marital status with five possibilities: 10) single, 11) civil marriage, 12) married by the church, 13) living together, 14) widowed, 15) divorced. Columns 13 and 15 were not real options for Mennonites and most Mennonites were registered as married by church.

Columns 16 and 17 captured literacy details and the next four were for how they made a living. All women over 12 were dedicated to homemaking, males of that age were farmers; children from 6 to 12 were school children and younger children as just as that – children.  The next six columns dealt with birthplace, citizenship and language; columns 28 to 30 with owning of land and house. Those columns show if the person 27) owned farming land or 28) a property on the city, villa or village, and if he /she 29) lived in his/her own house. Since pretty much all of the Mennonite households owned farming land and a house in the village, the census enumerators put an “X” in all three columns, but a supervisor annulled the middle column.

The last four columns deal with physical and mental limitations, religion and unemployment. The first of these asked whether the person was “deaf, mute, deaf-mute, one-armed, lame, cripple, hunch back, idiot or crazy” and if that was the case, whether he was able to work or not. With regard to religion, all our people were shown as “Menonita”. Nobody was registered as unemployed.

So, in my opinion I took only the data that could help our researchers today. I don’t think anyone cares about the literacy or language skills of our deceased forefathers. Still in 1930, pretty much every Mennonite family owned their own house and farming land – as it should be in Mennonite utopian community. So I hope my selection of data was correct.
While you look at the data take into consideration:

  • Last names: In the Swift Colony the wife and mother was registered with her maiden name, not so in the other colonies.
  • Writing of names: I tried initially to write names as they appear in the sheets, however while the work was progressing I tended to standardize. Example: Sara was given as Sahra, Sarah or even Sahrah; mostly I kept those names like they were. Johann was mostly written that way, so I might have standardized the few times Johan appeared. Clear misspellings were corrected: Tiessen to Thiessen.
  • A question mark (?) means that data was  possibly incorrectly written, e.g., a person aged 15 could not have born in Mexico; Mennonites started coming to Mexico in 1922.
  • Initials: I am not sure I did not overlook some, and some were hard to read, so I might be off on some.
  • Errors: I cannot assure I did not commit involuntary mistakes.

Manitoba Kolonie

The Manitoba colony had at that time 35 villages.  They were numbered from 1 to 25; however, villages numbered 2, 3, 6, 7, 12 and 14 each had A and B as well.  In addition, there was Thalbach (today it is known as #1C), Neuendorf (which today is  #1B did not exist at 1930), Rosenheim #15 (I suppose it was the beginning of what we know today as Lowefarm #6 1/2), Rosenbach (today #205), Weidenfeld (#28) and Heuboden (#30). See Heuboden #30 below for its particular status. See also scans on the LDS Family Search Website: 4 to 107 of Menonitas> Cuauhtemoc> Chihuahua> Mexico.

Village #30 – Heuboden

This village, as well as the later #31 and #32 were called Hoffnungsau and were founded partially by Mennonite families from Kansas.  Over time they merged completely with the Altkolonier groups from the Manitoba and Swift colonies. The village was considered part of the Manitoba Colony until the creation of the North colony, where it was then integrated. See scans on the LDS Family Search Website: 110, 111 of Menonitas> Cuauhtemoc> Chihuahua> Mexico.

Swift Current Kolonie

The Swift Colony was created in 1922 by families from the Reinlaender or Altkolonier Gemeinde from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, with the founding of 14 villages: Neustaedt, Blumenheim, Blumenhof, Rosenhof, Neuanlage, Schoenfeld, Burwalde, Gruenfeld, Neuhoffnung, Neurecht, Grossweide, Schoeneberg, Hoffnungsthal and Schoendorf. These were numbered with #101 to #115 (#108 and #116 were held for villages that were supposed to be settled later at the northern part of the colony. They were unused in the end because the colonists were not able to make the payments and the land was given back to the vendors. Later the villages were founded on the south on newly purchased land). In the census sheets, neither of the villages Blumenheim #102 und Hoffnungsthal #114 appear. I suppose that the first one was placed together with Blumenhof, since otherwise that village would have been twice as big as any other. The second one could have been considered as part of any of the two neighbours, Schoeneberg  (Hoffnungsthal  and Schoeneberg are still today confused with each other) or Schoendorf. See scans on the LDS Family Search Website: 108, 109, 116-154 of Menonitas> Cuauhtemoc> Chihuahua> Mexico.

Santa Clara Kolonie

This small colony, consisting originally of four villages #51-54, was founded in 1922 by people of the Sommerfelder Gemeinde who wanted to leave Canada but did not see Paraguay as an option. The census enumerators were non-Mennonites, so the names are hispanized or very poorly spelled. See scans on the LDS Family Search Website: 4-11 of Santa Clara y Ojos Azules > Namiquipa> Chihuahua> Mexico.

Halbstadt Village # 55

This village too was settled 1922 by Sommerfelder people. Although it lies way south from the Santa Clara Colony it and has always had a cultural-religious unity with it, it was later integrated with the North Colony created by Altkolonier families. After some time a second village, Bergthal, was created and part of the original land was sold to some people from the “Holdemann” group, who established a tiny village, #45 Cordovana.  They built a hospital there and tried to do mission work among Mennonites first and Mexicans later. These facts might explain the existence of a few Coehn/Koehn families with names not so typically Mennonite. The census itself was take by Mennonites from the Manitoba colony. See scans on the LDS Family Search Website: 112-115 of Menonitas> Cuauhtemoc> Chihuahua> Mexico.


In 1926, 129 Mennonites came to Mexico from the USSR. The leaders of the Mennonite churches who were newly arrived from Canada did not want to receive immigrants directly from Russia into their newly-created colonies. After a few efforts at creating a colony of their own and constant losses to Canada and USA, a few families made their home in Cuauhtémoc Town. Their liberal views soon attracted others dissatisfied Mennonites from the colonies – just as the leaders had feared. The census of 1930 shows about 12 families in the area of Cuauhtémoc and on private farms around it; surprisingly, most of them are from Canada. They appear on scans on the LDS Family Search Website: 4, 6, 9-11 of Rancho de Julio>Cuauhtemoc>Chihuahua>Mexico.

Prepared by Cornelius Heinrichs

© 2010 Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Last Updated 25 Mar 2010

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