The Stories Of 5 Common Amish Family Names (Part 4)

Back one more time with another edition of five Amish surname histories. If you missed previous posts, you can find them here:

Part 1 (Beachy, Swartzentruber, Lapp, Hostetler, Stoltzfus)
Part 2 (Zook, Gingerich, Troyer, King, Lehman)
Part 3 (Yoder, Schrock, Fisher, Stutzman, Wagler)

These are excerpted from Joseph Stoll’s series “Amish and Mennonite Family Names,” which appeared in Family Life from December 1968 to March 1969.

If you’d like to subscribe to Family Life, an Amish-produced monthly, you can find more info on it here.


5 Common Amish Surnames (Part 4)

1. Miller – The German spelling was Müller, and because there were many Millers in Europe, the name was very common, with no common ancestor for the many people of this name. There were a number of Anabaptists of this name in different parts of Switzerland.

The name Miller is today the most common Amish name, but is largely a Midwestern name. There are only a few families of Millers in Lancaster County.

Christian Miller came to America with his father’s family from the canton of Bern, Switzerland, arriving in Philadelphia in 1763. During the Revolutionary War the father of the family was pressed into military service, and when he returned he learned that his wife had died and his children were living in Amish homes. Christian was placed in the home of Hans Beiler, pioneer Amish bishop in Mifflin County, Penna. In time Christian too became an Amish bishop, settling in the Johnstown, Penna. area. He died in 1845. It is said that in 1924 there were among his descendants 21 bishops, 59 ministers, and 20 deacons.

Pinecraft, Florida

Moses J. Miller (1811-97) was the second Amish child and the third white child born in Holmes County, Ohio. His parents had come from Somerset  County, Penna. in 1810, among the first of the Amish settlers in Ohio. During the war of 1812 they were driven back to Pennsylvania by Indian raids, but in 1812 they returned to Holmes County to stay. In 1834 Moses married Catherine Dunn, an Irish girl who had been raised by the Amish. Moses became a leading Amish bishop, serving for many years. He was known as “Glay (Small) Mose” to distinguish him from another Amish bishop, “Gross (Big) Mose Miller”.

Joseph Miller was the first Amish minister of the settlement in Elkhart County, Indiana. He moved there in 1841 and preached the first sermon at his home in Clinton Township, on Easter Sunday, 1842. He was probably the leading spirit in establishing the Amish settlement in Elkhart and LaGrange Counties. The horse and saddle were his way to travel.

2. Beiler (Byler) – The ancestor of most of the Amish Bylers and Beilers was Jacob Beiler, born in Switzerland, who came to America on the ship Charming Polly in 1737.

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA

He settled in the Oley Valley of Berks County, Penna., but later moved to Lebanon County, and then to Lancaster County, where he died. His son, Hannes Beiler, moved to Mifflin County in about 1795 and became the first and one of the leading bishops in that community.

3. Graber – This name originated at Kirchdorf, in the canton of Bern, Switzerland. It is thought the name started in the fifteenth century among people whose occupation was digging ditches or trenches.

The first mention of a Graber among Anabaptists was Georg Graber who was punished in 1596 by the Bern Council because he was a member of the Swiss Brethren.

Jamesport, Missouri. Photo: Grabers Greenhouse

The Grabers were among the Bernese refugees who settled in Alsace around 1671. There they became quite numerous, and a number of families moved to Stark County, Ohio during the 1840s and 1850s. Six brothers and sisters of one family moved from Europe to Stark County, then to Allen County, Indiana, then to Daviess County, Indiana, where they helped found the new Amish settlement there about 1870.

4. Hershberger (Herschberger, Harshberger) – This is a Swiss name and may have originally meant, “one who lives on Deer Mountain”. The Hershberger family first came into Anabaptist circles in the canton of Basel, Switzerland. There, in the year 1529, a large number of brethren were placed in prison, among them the Hershbergers of Thürnen and Läufelfingen. One of them was Elspeth Hershberger, a midwife who influenced numerous parents not to have their children baptized.

Hans Hersberger, a miller, had taken part in a forbidden communion service, and on Jan. 12, 1530 he was sentenced to death. The sentence was not carried out, however, for Hans and his wife were merely banished from the territory. They soon came back and were once more captured and imprisoned.

Holmes County, Ohio. Photo: Frank

In the summer of 1531 a Jackli Hersberger of Thurnen was arrested because he refused to take part in the military campaign in his community. A few years later he had his tongue and two fingers cut off by the authorities for his failure to remain out of the territory after having been banished.

After that the Hershbergers were frequently listed in the court records as Anabaptists. The family spread from Basel into the Palatinate and other areas.

On Sept. 9, 1749 the ship St. Andrew landed at Philadelphia with a large number of Amish and Mennonites on board. Included in the passengers were Casper and Jacob Herschberger. The ship Brothers on Sept. 30, 1754 had a Johannes Herschberger on the passenger list.

5. Schmucker (Smucker, Smoker) – Christian Schmucker emigrated from Switzerland to Berks County, Penna., the “cradle of the Amish in America”, in 1752. He is the ancestor of perhaps 10,000 descendants living in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

Garnett, Kansas. Photo: Tom Geist

The first Schmucker pioneer to move on westward was a grandson, Christian Schmucker, who settled in Wayne County, Ohio about 1819. In 1841, Isaac Schmucker, an Amish preacher (later a bishop) was among the first settlers in Elkhart County, Indiana.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our article on common first and last Amish names.

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    19 Comments

    1. Romain Speisser

      Other names

      For those who have not found their happiness in the names that Erik put forward, I can suggest a site “tcghs.org” which informs us about the Amish Mennonite names of Tazewell County Illinois., there are also 3 very complete genealogical works available online. They concern families in Tazewell County Illinois. You will find these families under “Research”.

      In the surroundings of my city Rosheim in Alsace (France) the most common names of the Amish Mennonites were and still are for Mennonites: Maurer, Fritz, Kropff, Zehnter, Loesch, Vormwald, Dellenbach, Sommer, Neuhauser, Augsburger, Bacher, Gerber, Wagler, …

      If Erik is interested, and wishes to contact me, I could make articles on the Amish Mennonites who lived and who still live in Alsace today as well as historical places, ….

      1. Romain – thanks for this information, and offer. I’ll be in touch.

        1. Romain Speisser

          Erik
          I would be too happy to let the descendants of families who have their origins in Alsace and those interested in Anabaptite history in Alsace discover the places where their ancestors lived, the charismatic Elders of the Anabaptist movement who lived here and current life of Mennonites who still live there. It’s always cheaper than a plane or boat ticket. 😉

      2. DAWN M GRAYBILL

        Hochstetler family

        I found out my great grandfather was amish from the area. His name was Harry Lloyd Hochstetler later changed to hostetler when he moved to Oregon. Do you know anything about this family?

        1. Romain S.

          Maybe you can learn more about the hochstetler family through this link.

          https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/27078931/amish-mennonites-tazewell-county-genealogical-historical-

    2. BRENDA

      Romain Speisser - I would be interested

      One of my family lines – Graber – has a Daniel and Louisa Graber who came to America from Alsace – Lorraine. It says they left Havre, France in the year 1835. I have their information. But I am wondering about two other family lines that I do not have much information on. One is Bontrager and the other is Slaubaugh. The Slaubaugh I have going back to my great grandparents but nothing beyond. You can email me and I will send you a family tree with more specific names. Thank you so much!

      Erik, is there a way for you to give Romain my email?

      1. Brenda

        Thank you Romain

        Thank you for your help. I will try to do some research with that information. I appreciate it because I had no idea where to look. There may be information on the Ancestry website but I do not want to pay the monthly fee. Plus it is sort of like a treasure hunt doing it on ones own.

      2. Tracie Miller

        My grandmother was a Slaubaugh

        Hi Brenda – My paternal grandmother was a Slaubaugh. Her family was Mennonite that originated in southern Germany near the French border and emigrated to the States and ended up in Iowa. I wonder how close our branches of the Slaubaugh family tree are.

        1. Brenda

          RE: Slaubaugh

          Tracie, it is very likely that the family tree connects somewhere since the spelling of Slaubaugh is different from most spellings. What I have only goes back to my great grandparents. Hopefully I can do more research soon with the information that Romain posted. Here is what I have:

          Simon Slaubaugh: Born in Elkhart, IN 12/9/1885; Died: 2/16/1946 in Daviess Co. Converted from Old Order Amish to Conservative Mennonite
          Lida (Swartzentruber) Slaubaugh: Born in Indidana 3/5/86; Died: 11/26/1952 in Rugby, ND (?) Converted from Old Order Amish to Conservative Mennonite

          They were married on 9/1/1907

          Children:
          Cledus
          Dan
          Joe
          Edith
          Tobias
          Albert
          Mary (Twin. Also my grandmother)
          Sylvia (Twin)
          Elmer
          Vernon
          Calvin
          Elvin
          Dorothy

          If you want to stay in touch my email is brendablack4jc(@)yahoo.com but without the parenthesis.

          1. Tracie Miller

            Slaubaugh

            Hi Brenda, thank you for sharing your information. I’m a step lower than a novice when it comes to genealogy, but it’s so interesting to find new things out. I wish I had time to really dig in, especially while my dad is still alive. He’s not that old, but longevity doesn’t seem to be much of a family trait.

            In any case, I’m glad I found this site and look forward to seeing what everyone learns about their own family trees.

            1. Brenda

              Found more info

              Tracie, I was able to find more information going several generations back. If you let me know your grandmother’s name date and place of birth, who she married and any other information I will see if I she is among any of the relatives. I found a good bit of this information on a website called FindAGrave. I am a novice at this too and have only put my feet into the water, so to speak.

          2. Marcus Yoder

            Amish Genealogies

            Brenda I belong to a Swiss Anabaptist association. I have your Slaugbauh going back to Christian Schlabach from Germany born 1751. We are related several different ways.
            Marcus Yoder

            1. Brenda

              Marcus Yoder

              Marcus, I would love to get that information! Do you have it on a website or any way to email it to me? My email is brendablack4jc(@)yahoo.com without the parenthesis. Where is your family from? I know that some of the Slaubaughs in my family are from Ohio, Indiana and North Dakota. ND is where my parents grew up. They moved to Harrisonburg, VA and eventually to Sarasota, Florida. I married and moved to Maryland. It’s so great to be able to trace these lines back. I have the Gingerich line back to France and Germany. I just got more information on the Graber line but I am not sure how far back it goes. The other two lines from my parents are the Slaubaugh and Bontrager. I haven’t done much research lately. It’s something that I just do occasionally. Most likely I could find a good bit of it on Ancestry but I don’t want to put out the money. Plus it’s fun to look things up, like a treasure hunt.

              Thank you once again Erik for the articles as well as allof the information that you write about. Both of my grandparents were Amish at one time and converted to conservative Mennonite. All of the generations before them were Old Order Amish. It’s kind of nice to have that in my background, but unfortunately there was also physical, mental and sexual abuse as well. I was raised Mennonite. My brother and I were physically and sexually abused by my father. My father was most likely abused by another relative. I wonder how far back in the genealogy the abuses go. I know that there were abusers in the Slaubaugh family. That’s why I stopped going to the reunions. Most of that generation, my grandparents, have died, but I wonder how much of that continues through the generations. That makes me really sad. I am thankful however, for the importance that my family put on church, knowing Christ as Savior and the importance of family. Growing up in my Mennonite Church gave me a love for God’s word and a desire to reach out to the lost and tell them about Jesus. In the end, regardless of what has happened to a person; they alone are responsible for their own actions.

    3. Romain Speisser

      Brenda

      If Erik does not send me your email, you will find online the departmental archives of the Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Moselle and Vosges. It will be essentially in these French departments that you will find Amish and Mennonite families in France.
      For the “Slaubaugh” branch I have the impression that the name has been anglicized. It is very similar to the name “Schlabach” which is very common among Anabaptists in the Bruche valley in Alsace. Bontrager is a name we hear here in Alsace, but it’s not very common.
      You may also find help on French genealogy sites by entering these last names.

    4. Brenda

      Maybe an article

      Erik,
      Maybe Romain could write an article about the Anabaptist history in Alsace for your website.

    5. Romain

      Brenda

      If your ancestors, for example, came to America from Bas-Rhin in Alsace, do your research on the online archives at: http://archives.bas-rhin.fr/registres-paroissiaux-et-documents-d- civil status/
      enter the name of the village where your ancestors come from. If you have the exact date of birth, marriage or death, you can go directly to the year concerned. Otherwise, you have the decade books “cahier décennal” to help you find the dates. But beware, these are scans of the original documents, so either in French or in German depending on the period, see in Latin before 1792.
      You can also find what interests you on http://www.geneanet.org. There is a lot of genealogy of Anabaptist families on the French side.
      The three online volumes on the genealogy of Anabaptist families in the Tazewell Illinois county still remain to be seen. The people who did the research go to the first representative of these families found in Alsace or Switzerland. We find for example the name Schlabach in volume 3/3.
      Hope to have helped you …
      Good research!

    6. Romain

      Brenda

      If your ancestors, for example, came to America from Bas-Rhin in Alsace, do your research on the online archives at: http://archives.bas-rhin.fr/registres-paroissiaux-et-documents-d- civil status/
      enter the name of the village where your ancestors come from. If you have the exact date of birth, marriage or death, you can go directly to the year concerned in “registres d’état civil”. Otherwise, you have the decade books “cahiers décennaux” to help you find the dates. But beware, these are scans of the original documents, so either in French or in German depending on the period, see in Latin before 1789.
      You can also find what interests you on http://www.geneanet.org. There is a lot of genealogy of Anabaptist families on the French side.
      The three online volumes on the genealogy of Anabaptist families in the Tazewell Illinois area still remain to be seen. The people who did the research go to the first representative of these families found in Alsace or Switzerland. We find for example the name Schlabach in volume 3/3.
      Hope to have helped you …
      Good research!

    7. sylvie SCHUBNEL

      Bonjour,

      Est-ce que les noms Bischoff, Kayser, Schubnel pourraient être des noms Amish, merci.

      1. romain S.

        Sylvie

        Bonjour,
        Pour les Schubnel, il faudrait voir du côté de Sarrebourg, où des familles mennonites ont porté ce nom. Les deux autres noms sont tellement courants aussi bien catholique, protestant qu’anabaptiste, que peut-être…
        Si je ne me trompe, vous écrivez en français, donc peut-être êtes vous encore en France, le mieux, c’est de regarder dans les archives départementales en ligne. Si ces familles sont passées dans le Bas-Rhin, les recensements de population des années 1841 et 1846 vous indiquent la religion. Pour les autres régions, Haut-Rhin, Moselle, Vosges, … je crois que ces années ne sont pas disponibles. Le mieux est de regarder sur les registres de l’état civil, là aussi en ligne en fonction du département concerné. Dans les années 1840 à 60 et de 1871 à 1918, on retrouve également la religion. A savoir que sous la période allemande, les anabaptistes sont sous la rubrique Évangélique. Restant à votre disposition si vous voulez en savoir d’avantage.