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One of the persistent interests of family historians is where their birth surname originates. That includes the geography of the original use of the name as well as the circumstances which triggered it’s first use, and how the specific name got chosen.

Lots of research indicates that surnames – family names – generally arose from a need to distinguish a growing population from each other. If a small village had seven Peters – that would be a problem. They could be distinguished, however, by various characteristic aspects:

  • personal appearance
  • affiliation with an employer
  • expression of a particular occupation
  • location at a particular geographical feature
  • etc.

We’ve set out to identify the core resources that can help you identify the roots of your surname and capture discussions of dedicated family historians regarding what their findings have been. This discussion isn’t restricted to MHSA members, so do consider passing along your research findings for publication here, or point us to online resources that we can link to. We’ll dedicate a page to each surname (and its variations). If there are disagreements – we won’t pick a winner, we’ll publish the alternative accounts. But, DO cite your sources (parenthetical DNA haplogroup details come from the Mennonite DNA initiative)!

  • Barkman
    See Mennonite Family History , Oct 1990
  • Bartsch (yDNA: R1b)
  • Bergen (yDNA: R1b)
  • Bock
  • Doerkesen (yDNA: G)
  • Dyck (yDNA: R1b)
    See Mennonite Family History, Oct 1985
  • Enns/Ens (yDNA: R1b)
  • Epp (yDNA: R1b)
  • Esau
    (Mennonite Family History, Jul 1991
  • Friesen
    Mennonite Family History, Oct 1990
  • Froese (yDNA: R1b)
  • Gerbrandt
    See Penner, Glenn. (2004) “The Early Mennonite Gerbrandt Family”, Heritage Posting, No. 43 & 44. Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
  • Goertz
    See Mennonite Family History, Jul 1991
  • Goertzen
  • See Mennonite Family History, Oct 1988
  • Groening
    See Penner, Glenn. (2003) “The Early Mennonite Groening Family”, Heritage Posting, No. 40. Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
  • Hiebert (yDNA: R1b/E3b)
  • Hoeppner
    See Penner, Glenn. (2003) “More on the Mennonite Hoeppners in West Prussia”, Heritage Posting, No. 42. Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
  • Hildebrand/t
  • Janz
    Mennonite Family History, Apr 1986
  • Janzen (yDNA: J2/J2a1k)
    Mennonite Family History, Jan 1989
  • Klaassen (yDNA: E3b) (Mennonite Family History, Apr 1994)
  • Krueger (yDNA: R1b1)
  • Lehman
  • Letkemann
    Mennonite Family History, Oct 1991
  • Loewen (yDNA: R1b1)
  • Nickel (yDNA: R1a)
  • Pankratz (yDNA: R1a)
  • Penner (yDNA: E3b)
    Mennonite Family History, Jul 1987
  • Peters (yDNA: R1b)
  • Regier/Regehr (yDNA: R1a)
    Mennonite Family History, Jan 1988
  • Reimer (yDNA: R1b)
  • Rempel (yDNA: R1a)
  • Rempel > Peters > Stobbe > Fischer > Werner > Gabriel (mtDNA: J1)
  • Ruediger
    Mennonite Family History, Jul 1987
  • Schellenberg (yDNA: R1b)
  • Schroeder (yDNA: R1b)
    See Penner, Glenn. (2005-2006) “The Bergthal Colony Schroeders”, Heritage Posting, No. 47, 48 & 52. Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
  • Teichroeb
    See Penner, Glenn. (2007) “The Mennonite Teichroebs”, Heritage Posting, No. 57. Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
  • Toews (yDNA: R1b)
  • Unruh
    Mennonite Family History, Jul 1985
  • Warkentin
    Mennonite Family History, Apr 1984
  • Wiebe (yDNA: R1b1)
  • Wieler (yDNA: R1b/R1b1)
    See Penner, Glenn. (2007) “The Mennonite Wieler Family”, Heritage Posting, No. 56-61. Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
  • Winter (yDNA: R1b)

For Russian Mennonite Surnames

  • Mennonite Brethren Publishing House (1955-1990). The Mennonite Encyclopaedia: A Comprehensive Reference Work on the Anabaptist-Mennonite Movement. Hillsboro, KS: Author.
  • Penner, Horst. (1940). Ansiedlung mennonitischer Niederländer im Weichselmündungsgebiet: von der Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts bis zum Beginn der preussischen Zeit.
  • Peters, Victor & Jack Thiessen. (1987). Mennonitische Namen/Mennonite Names. Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1987
  • Reimer, Gustav E. (1940). Die Familiennamen der westpreussischen Mennoniten Weierhof, Pfalz: Mennonitischen Geschichtsverein.

For Swiss Mennonite Surnames

Contributed by Don Kauffman

  • Gratz, Delbert L. (1997). Was Isch Dini Nahme? What is Your Name? – A Collection of Swiss Family Names. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press (catalog  No. 1574)

Names are grouped according to the following derivations:

  • First Names
  • Place Names
  • Characteristics
  • Animal Names
  • Occupations

Details of names are:

  • Name
  • Meaning of Name
  • Swiss Family Name
  • American Spelling(s)
  • Heimat (original location)
  • Also, in some categories:
    • Place
    • Translation into English
    • Occupation or Office

Don will do lookups, on a limited basis.

Note: some of the above links lead to scraps of discussion on the MHSA e-list. Additions are welcome.

© 2009 Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Last Updated 9 Apr 2009

General Queries/Comments: Contact MHSA