German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story (Interview & 2-Book Giveaway)

Nic Stoltzfus (S. Nicholas Stoltzfus) is a 10th-generation descendant of Nicholas Stoltzfus, one of the best-known figures in Amish and Anabaptist history. Nic is also the author of a book released last year on his ancestor’s family: German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story.

The Stoltzfus surname is one that most who know the Amish are well-acquainted with, as it is the most common Amish surname in Lancaster County, and found in many other Amish places as well. But beyond the Amish, Nicholas Stoltzfus has an estimated one million-plus descendants alive today, meaning that his legacy reaches well beyond Plain circles.

Nic had the help of a few others in this work, mentioned below. Here is the book description, via publisher Masthof:

German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story tells the story of six generations of the Stoltzfus family spanning over 200 years (1624-1832) as they find a path forward from one faith to another, through many different countries and cultures, during times of war and peace, and through love and loss. With over 150 images and original research, the book paints a fuller picture of the Stoltzfus family and how their decisions impacted the lives of their descendants even up to the present day. Also included is a history of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead and how modern-day descendants saved the house from destruction and restored it.

The author, Nic Stoltzfus, is the current caretaker of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead located in Wyomissing, PA. He is a 10th-generation descendant of the Immigrant Nicholas Stoltzfus, who first purchased the property in 1771. The photographer, Elam Stoltzfus, is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker who grew up Amish in Lancaster County.

Nic has kindly answered some questions for us today about the Stoltzfus story and this book. He is also offering two autographed copies of the book to Amish America readers in a giveaway, along with a bookmark.

How to Enter the 2-Book Giveaway

To enter for a chance to win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment on this post. I’ll draw a winner at random and announce it here next week.

Nic Stoltzfus on German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story

Amish America: Who was Nicholas Stoltzfus and why is he important?

Nic Stoltzfus: Nicholas Stoltzfus immigrated to Pennsylvania with his family in 1766 from Zweibrücken, Germany. He was involved with the early Amish church in America, and his son Christian was an early Amish bishop in Lancaster County. He is important because all Amish Stoltzfuses today are descended from him and his wife, Anna Elisabeth (Bachmann) Stoltzfus.

What will readers learn from this book?

In the book German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story, readers will come to understand the rich heritage of the Stoltzfus family. Unlike other Amish ancestors who originated in Switzerland (Smuckers/Yoders/Beachys, etc.), the Stoltzfus line originated in eastern Germany, and our ancestors were Lutheran, not Anabaptists. This genealogy research, spanning from 1624 to 1832, makes up most of the book.

Part of the book is also concerned with the preservation of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead in Reading, Pennsylvania.

How did you research this book? Who was involved?

We were really blessed to have a great team of researchers who helped with this book. The core of the European historical research took place in summer of 2018, when my Dad Elam, Zach Stoltzfus, Lucy Stoltzfus, Rose Beiler, and I went to Germany to do research in the archives there.

17th-century record book for Lutheran ministers in Rottleben, Germany

My Dad Elam is ex-Amish and has a good understanding of what it’s like to grow up in that culture. Zach Stoltzfus is currently working on his PhD in History from Florida State University, and his wife Lucy has her PhD in the field of Musicology. All four of us took our cues off of Dr. Rose Beiler, who is a history professor at the University of Central Florida and who knows how to read the old German handwriting from the 1600s/1700s.

What are some interesting or surprising things you uncovered while researching and writing this book?

Our trip to Germany was really fruitful! By being able to read the archival information, Dr. Beiler was able to better understand the context of what life was like for our ancestors in Germany. She found small details about Nicholas—such as who he had financial dealings with, troubles with certain family members, interactions with the local religious and government officials—that really helped give us a better picture of him. Because of this, we can understand him better as a complex person with struggles and problems, just like us today.

Another big thing we discovered was the name of Nicholas’ wife. This took research both in archives in Germany and here in Pennsylvania. I wrote about this in depth in my upcoming memoir In the Footsteps of my Stoltzfus Family: A Genealogy Memoir (Masthof 2020, Forthcoming).

Which places that you visited or researched were most memorable?

Zweibrücken, Germany. Our research team had the chance to interact with the Mennonites in the area, and they were so good to us! They treated us like family, took us into their homes, fed us, and helped us uncover historical information that we wouldn’t have been able to uncover without their help. It was such a pleasant experience.

Church of St. Andrew in Rudolstadt, Germany. Photo by Elam Stoltzfus

On a more personal level, it really meant a lot to me to travel with my Dad Elam to Passau. We visited this city before we began our research on the Stoltzfus book, and our reason for visiting here was to learn more about the Ausbund, which is the Amish songbook. My Dad remembers singing these songs when he was a child, and it meant so much to him to visit the castle where many of these songs were written by those imprisoned Anabaptists.

What was the transatlantic journey like in the 18th century?

Oh boy—it was rough! I think we are so spoiled today when we travel—planes, trains, boats, cars (even buggies!) are much more comfortable to travel in now compared to travel in the 18th century.

For Nicholas and his family, they would have been crammed into a wooden ship with other passengers—most of them also immigrants from Germany—and it took their ship Polly nearly three months to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Today’s cruises offer the plenty of the world at our fingertips—all sorts of delicacies, clean water, hot showers, and private bathrooms. There would have been no such luxuries on their voyage. Cots were cramped, sometimes families had to share the same bed, the water was murky and full of bacteria, bathing was infrequent, and the food was old biscuits and other foodstuffs that preserved well without refrigeration.

What was life like for Nicholas and his family once they arrived?

Our theory is that Nicholas and his family first lived in Lancaster County, likely working on an Amish farm to save up money to buy their own place. In 1770, four years after they arrived, Nicholas and his son Christian purchased land in Berks County. A year later, in 1771, Nicholas and Christian purchased land which included a house, which is known today as the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead.

Can you tell us something about Nicholas’ children and some of his notable descendants?

Nicholas died in 1774, having lived in Pennsylvania for less than a decade. In the court records after his death, there are record of four children: Anna, Barbara, Christian, and Magdalena. Anna was married to a farmer named Christian Fohrer and they lived in the Oley Valley in Berks County (today, there is a sizeable Old Order Mennonite congregation located here).

Barbara married John Schmucker, and many of the present-day Schmuckers/Smuckers/Smokers of Lancaster County are descended from this couple. Christian—as I mentioned earlier—went on to become a bishop in Lancaster County. As for Magdalena, we have no idea what happened to her—after Nicholas’ death, records of her cease, and we haven’t been able to find anything else about her. In essence, she is lost to history.

Amish historians at the graves of Christian and Elizabeth Stoltzfus. Photo by Elam Stoltzfus

It should be noted that, according to research by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, the surname “Stoltzfus” is the most common last name amongst Lancaster County Amish. Furthermore, most all Lancaster County Amish are able to trace their roots back to this one family.

As you mentioned, part of this book covers the Stoltzfus Homestead. Can you tell us more on the story of this home and site?

The Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead was where the Stoltzfus family lived for three generations, from 1771 to 1801. The house itself dates back to the early 1700s.

By the 1990s, though, the old stone house was in BAD shape: it was dilapidated, falling down, covered in ivy, and in danger of falling apart. Thankfully, a group of dedicated descendants (mostly Old Order Amish) got together and restored the property. This effort was spearheaded by the Pequea Bruderschaft Amish Library, the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead Preservation Committee, the Tri-County Heritage Society, and Country Meadows Retirement Community.

The dilapidated former home of Nicholas Stoltzfus in 1994. Photo by Sam Stoltzfus

In 2016, the Leader Family and Country Meadows donated the property to the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead Preservation Committee. Essentially, the Stoltzfus family now owns and manages the property.

I served as caretaker of the property from 2018 to 2020, and my parents Elam and Esther Stoltzfus came on board earlier this year to serve as caretakers. I currently serve as ambassador for the Homestead, and I am a member of the Committee as the secretary. Our committee is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and we work to preserve the Homestead as a site to share our faith heritage with others. Our largest fundraiser is our annual May benefit auction, always held the first Saturday of May. Our upcoming auction (planned for May 1st, 2021—mark your calendars!) will celebrate the 250th anniversary of Stoltzfuses at the Homestead.

Nic and his father Elam outside the Stoltzfus House 

The Homestead is open for tours-by-appointment and event rentals. For more information about the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead, visit our website at or check out our Facebook page!

What kind of response have you gotten from Amish and other readers?

We have gotten a positive response from the Amish and other readers. Our general readers love the pictures and maps. For the more hardcore genealogist, I also included footnotes with citations to original sources. It was a balancing act, trying to make it a book accessible for both younger readers and professional historians, but we’ve gotten positive feedback that it is a book that really works for all ages.

As far as the Amish go, the book would not have been the same without their help. In particular, I was fortunate to have the help of the Pequea Bruderschaft Amish Library, located in Gordonville. The historians involved with this group are chock full of local knowledge and they have done a good job of keeping records at the library. One of their members, Ben Riehl, also serves as vice-chairman of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead Preservation Committee, and he was a big help in better understanding the life of Nicholas’ son Christian.

Where to get the book

Thanks go to Nic for this informative interview. You can find the book in several places; the preferred buying link is direct from the publisher Masthof. It is also available on Amazon, for the same price.

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    1. Robyn Nichols

      Family Story

      Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this book.
      I love reading about family stories and history.
      I have admired the Amish way of life for many years, and would like to learn more about how they came to the U.S.
      Thank you again,

    2. Sunflower


      Sounds like a wonderful book. It’s so nice to be able to travel to the place where your family started, to collect documents, and learn why and how they immigrated. All our family stories are the history of our great country. May the Lord continue to bless and persevere it until He returns! Aho

    3. Helen von Bargen


      My father in law loves his genealogy but the rest of the family is rather more tepid. How wonderful to be able to have so many involved to reach a common goal!

    4. Sheri Richards


      Having grown up German Lutheran, and my parents live in an Amish community, it would be fascinating to read this book! Thanks for continuing to share interesting information related to the Amish life. I always look forward to it. SHERI

    5. Great read... looking forward to more!

      To my knowledge, the family of my paternal grandmother (née Richter) were not Lutheran or Anabaptist, yet I feel drawn to this story as if we were cousins of the author. I would love to read more! Vielen Dank for this contribution to the literary world!

    6. Miriam Stoltzfus Erb

      Descendent of Nicholas and Christian Stoltzfus / German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish The Stoltzfus Family Story

      Being a direct descendent of Nicholas and Christian I would love to have a personal copy of this wonderful book. My ancestry can be traced back to all three sons of Christian and his first wife five different ways on both the paternal and maternal sides of my father’s family. Our families are so blessed to have this beautiful restored homestead and it’s rich and interesting family history. Thank you for making this book available.

    7. Lydia Good

      Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead

      Thank you Eric for posting this gem. I do have one of Nic’s books and it is very interesting. I pre-ordered it from Nic and still need to get him to sign it for me. BIG HINT for Nic. Since I was originally a Stoltzfus and also involved with the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead for a number of years, I encourage readers of this blog to plan to come to the next auction on Saturday, May 1st, 2021. You will definitely not be disappointed. It is a Bring Something, Buy Something type of auction. All material donations are appreciated. Since 2020 was the year of Covid, no auction was held this year. So hopefully next years auction will be HUGE. The auction provides funds to keep preserving the house, barn and grounds.

      The auction is held in a large tent and is also where PA Dutch food is served by the Amish. Breakfast food is ready by 7 AM. There are tables to sit at to eat. Chairs to sit on for the auction. Although it might be a good idea to bring lawn chairs. Lunch is served too, which usually includes BBQ chicken and all manner of sandwiches, soups, and desserts, including home made ice cream. You can also buy food items to take home.

      You can tour the barn and house, where there is usually someone cooking something at the original walk-in fireplace. Lots of free information about the house and Nicholas can also be found in the house. You can find more information about the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead on Facebook and there is also a web site to explore.

      Sorry Eric, you opened this door and I took advantage of it to do this commercial for the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead! Eric, this would give you something to write about. Hope to see you there next year.

      1. Feel free to broadcast those kinds of events here, Lydia and any others. Glad to pass the word along. I imagine there is going to be a lot of pent-up demand for auctions and auction-going in these communities once the covid situation is under control and things get closer to normal. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a big turnout.

    8. Jody Fowler

      I am a transport for the Amish in Holmes county Ohio

      I am so excited to have the chance for one of you amazing books. I’ve been in this area for 7 yrs. The lord has led me here from being homeless and despite my trying to leave, I come back home. Many families here are my family in faith. We sing and cherish the Lord together. We have Bible study times and dinners. This has become my home. I’m the ‘Mother Hen” of Holmes and tuscarawas counties. I love my life here and together stay grounded in our faith. Thanks so much for the opportunity for a few signed book. I’d love to learn more.

      Mother Hen

    9. Vivian Furbay

      giveaway for Stoltzfus Family Story

      What an interesting book on the history of this family. i am interested in American history and Amish history even though I am not Amish nor have any Amish ancestors. My grandfather came over by boat from Germany when he was 14-16 around 1900 by himself. I lived in Germany for six years and love that country. Would enjoy reading this book.

    10. Jemima A Schinnerer

      Look forward to reading it

      Thank you for giving us the opportunity to win your books.

      Whether I win it or buy it, I’m sure it will be a good read.

    11. Barbara Long

      would love to donate this book to a nursing student

      I have studied the Anabaptists, particularly the Lancaster Amish, for some time now. They are my neighbors, and I feel it is important for non-Amish to understand the culture of their neighbors, over and above seeing them as a “tourist curiosity!” I was born and raised a Pennsylvania German Lutheran; however, my Grandmother lived in Lancaster, and I spent every summer there. Of course it began as a young child’s curiosity, but grew into a serious interest in their beliefs and lifestyle. I now work in a Community College nursing program, and am researching how to respect and treat those with different beliefs in healthcare. I actually have a student with the last name of Stoltzfus in the current class. I would love to present this book to her (as soon as I finish reading it!) Thank you for the opportunity!

    12. Christine McMahon-Chase

      Stoltzfus Family

      Just the snippets reel me in – thank you Eric and Nic!

    13. Linda Vitale

      Another Interesting Amish Story

      I would love to read these books. They sound quite interesting. I have read many Amish non fiction in the past and would love to add these books to my collection. I, as well as my whole family, have been interested in the Amish way of life for decades and have visited several Amish communities. They are fascinating people to be able to live the way they do.

    14. William Cochran

      Stoltzfus Family Story

      Since the time I was a very young boy, I have always been fascinated by the Stoltzfus family and it’s history. My parents often took the family to Lancaster County for a short vacation and I can still remember driving along the back country roads and reading the names on the mailboxes at the end of the long farm lanes. To my young eyes, it seemed like everyone was named Stoltzfus!! I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to own a copy of this book so that I can read further on the history of this amazing Amish family! Thank you.

    15. Susan Campbell

      Stoltzfus Family

      Thank you so much for sharing this article. It is very interesting. I can’t wait to read these books. If I don’t win how can I order them?

    16. Melinda M

      Always interesting to find out the history of a family or a homestead.

    17. Patricia A Spangler

      Thank you

      Thank you for this interesting story. I love reading about the Amish, and was able to travel to Ohio and Indiana with my mother and daughter in the 80’s. We were able to visit several Amish sites and had a wonderful time. A year ago, my husband and I were able to relocate to Ohio and were able to visit the Sugarcreek area before Covid 19 happened. I truly love reading about the Amish way of life and admire them greatly. When horrible things happen to the Amish, I am amazed at the level of forgiveness they practice. I truly admire them.
      Tricia Spangler

    18. Pamela Schall

      Stoltzfus Family Story

      Thank you for the article. Am descendent of Amish families from Somerset County,PA, from John Stevanus, born in 1810. Have done family research for years and still get updates on the Amish families from an Amish cousin.
      Have published a Stevanus history book several years ago.
      Excited about the Stoltfus book, as there are families of this name in my tree.

    19. ann hengst

      Love the Amish stories

      I do genealogy for my family tree. I am German Dutch. I have always been interesting in the Amish as it is interesting history to read for me. Thanks much.

    20. Cheyenne Russo

      I am very interested in reading about the Amish and their history. I would love to win these books.

    21. Carolyn Braden


      One-million plus living descendants…wowzers!

    22. Andrea Woodard

      Stoltzfus Family

      Would love to read more about the Stoltzfus Family. Must have taken quite awhile to do all this research. I would love to win these books.

    23. An Interesting Read!

      My wife, an ardent fan of the Amish and an avid follower of the Lutheran religion would surely be as interested in the new Nic Stoltzfus book as I. While there are numerous Stoltzfus families in the Amish church districts, I am not acquainted with any of them on a personal basis like I am with other Amish families. I figure that if I were able to read Nic’s book, I could introduce myself to some of the local Stoltzfuses and share the information within its pages with them.

    24. Denise Flynn


      I would love to own these books. What a treasure to add to my personal library. My family has German Lutheran roots….York, Co., PA. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to win these books.

    25. Brenda Simmons

      German Lutheran Roots

      My heritage is German Lutheran. I have always been interested in the Amish; too. You’re not only offering one book but two! Thank You.

    26. Different paths

      My family origin is also German Lutheran. Both sides immigrated here to Southern Illinois and the other to Washington,Mo
      I am interested in your history

    27. Roger Skarr

      German Roots

      With my maternal grandparents both being from Germany and their history largely unknown it will be fascinating read for me!

    28. Tylor D’Errico

      Exciting Amish books

      I have been interested in the Amish for a while, and have read a few amish nonfiction books. I love their lifestyle the way of living their faith and everything about them. They are aww inspiring. I would love to learn about that family and learn more about them. I would love to be able to join the amish one day. And honestly I can’t wait to find out how Nicholas was able to join the Amish in the 1760s.

    29. Mariam Cappell

      I would so love to win these books.i have Amish/Mennonite friends,which are from Lancaster area as well as Ohio and Nebraska which now live in Michigan.Also,on my mother’s birth certificate, it reads Pennsylvania Dutch..Mom has passed and we are trying to figure this out.Thank you,and have a blessed day..Mariam

    30. Stephanie H.

      Tracing our Ancestors

      What a joy it must have been to be able to go to Germany to trace your ancestors and their ways of living. I would love to read more about your adventures in Germany and Pennsylvania, as I also have family ties to both places as well.

    31. Janet Hvizdos


      Thank you so much for the opportunity to win these amazingly Amish history books. Just wondering if only one portion of your family or your entire family unit converted from the Lutheran faith to Amish.

    32. Marion Poloka

      German History

      It is really nice to read about the History on a Family.
      I’m from Germany and love to read about this.
      It is fascinating.
      Thank you for offering this information.

    33. Earl Nussbaum

      Book give away

      Love German History

    34. Marcus Yoder


      I have a Stoltzfus who is helping me installing a patio currently. I would probably end up giving him this book as he is a descendant.
      Marcus Yoder

    35. MJ Williams

      Would love to read this book!

      I am just fascinated by our Amish friends! I would love to read this book, for sure! Thank you!

    36. Stoltzfus homestead book

      Eric, I love your website! I met you on Suzanne Wood’s Fisher’s podcast years ago and have followed you ever since. This interview is fascinating, especially since I have spent the last few months going through my own family heritage via documents and photographs. I’ve already got a visit to the homestead planned for the near future. I would love to have the book. Thank you for everything you do on behalf of the Plain community.

      1. So neat to hear that Stephanie. I wonder if that was 8 or even 10 years ago? Sounds like that’s already been a worthwhile family heritage journey, I love old photographs and documents. Thanks for commenting and reading!

    37. Carolsue Ezovski

      German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish

      After visiting Amish Country a few years ago, I have been very interested in their history and customs. This looks like an excellent book.

    38. Stacy Myers


      I love learning about families history. I have been to Lancaster PA many times and have heard that name often!! Thanks for informing us of this book. I look forward to reading it. Also thanks for letting us know about the auction. I would love to go check it out!

    39. Joyce Berry


      What they had to endure throughout their lives. Can’t wait to read more

    40. Barbara Long

      German Lutherans to PA Amish book giveaway

      Just wondering when we will know who won. If I don’t win, I would like to be able to order it! I HAVE to read this!

      1. Just posted the winners five min ago, and an excerpt. Here you go:

    41. Beverly Hilley

      Learn more

      I just started listening to books about the Amish. Their faith, values and way of life. Although they are fiction, I have learned a lot. We all worship God in different ways. And live differently. If I was able I would to spend time with an Amish family. But in my golden years are restricted to books and my paintings.