Largest Amish family ever?

With an average of around seven children, Amish families are hefty by modern standards.

Farm families tend to be the biggest.  A dozen or more children is not rare.

But the largest Amish family ever?  Read on to learn about one possibility:

John Troyer, who lived near Kokomo, Indiana, had an unusually large family, perhaps the largest of all time among the Amish or Mennonites.  John was first married to Catherine Schrock who bore him twelve children.  Following her death he married her cousin Caroline (Schrock) Kendall, a young widow with two children.  John and Caroline in turn had seventeen additional children.  This made a total of 31 children.

No word on whether John needed name tags to keep track of them all.

(Source:  Joseph Stoll, “Amish and Mennonite Family Names”, Family Life, March 1969)

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    1. Marcia Treadway

      Ha! What a wonderful blended family story. I love it! My husband and I thought we were doing good by raising five children. Can you imagine the number of grandchildren?

    2. Growing up in the Kokomo area I am surprised that I had never heard of this before. Looking in the SAGA databases, I only see 22 of his children listed. Troyer is a somewhat common name in the area, but not nearly as common as you would think given 31 children.

    3. Dave Carrig

      I’m amazed they found time for intimacy. I have three kids and its hard….

    4. Hey, Kokomo is my old stomping grounds! Their names sound familiar, actually. My mother’s mother was a Troyer, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re related. Um…well, duh, all the Amish and Mennonites are related one way or another. lol!

    5. Hey Reid,

      Interesting, I wish I had a date on that.

      Since Kokomo, despite its small size, is actually a mid-1800s community, it could have been far in the past. I wonder if there was another John Troyer with a large family?

      I’m curious, is Troyer common in the non-Amish community?

    6. Marcia, Dave, would be a challenge. I’ve heard it described that in these really big families people tend to get closer to the more immediate siblings than to parents. Makes sense.

      Joan, yes these could be cousins!

    7. Mathew

      I understand from local Amish that the Milroy Indiana and Kokomo groups are closely related to each other, as well as the group in West Union, OH. There are a number of Troyers in Milroy. One of the families with this name owns a bulk food store off the state highway.

    8. It is kind of a misnomer to say the group is from Kokomo. Kokomo itself is probably 40,000 to 50,000 people, it is mainly a auto factory town. The Amish live mostly in north eastern Howard County and southern Miami county. Troyer is a somewhat common name around home as are many other Amish/Mennonite names like Otto, Swartzendruber, Bontrager, Miller, Hochstedler, Sommers, Yoder, …

      The local Amish community moved from Holmes county, OH to the Howard-Miami area in 1848. I have a whole hand-written “History of the Amish in Howard and Miami Counties” somewhere at home, I can get you a copy if you like.

      The John Troyer I am referring to lived between 1830 and 1912 and apparently moved to Howard County sometime before 1874.

      1. Gretchen Troyer H

        Do you know John Troyer’s father and/or grandfather? My great great grandfather was Gideon Troyer, who lived in Howard Co in the 1850s but left the Amish in the 1860s. He and his family eventually moved to Missouri, and on to Kansas and Oklahoma.

        1. LYLE TROYER

          Great Grandson of John Troyer

          Am one of the Great Grandsons of John Troyer of Kokomo IN and my Mother
          Hilda Troyer wrote the “Troyer Family History” book in 1984
          that shows the relatives of John Troyer.

          Books are available from Lyle Troyer Box 72 Archbold OH 43502

    9. Linda

      John Troyer was a brother to my great-grandmother. When looking up information about him for my family history, I was amazed at the size of his family. Here’s his obituary as published in the Gospel Herald magazine:

      Text of the obituary as it appears in the March 21, 1912 Gospel Herald:

      Troyer.-John Troyer was born in Holmes So., O., July 14, 1830; died in Howard Co., Ind., Mar. 5, 1912; aged 81 y. 7 m. 21 d. At the age of 22 he was married to Catharine Schrock. To this union were born 12 children, four preceded him to the spirit world. In April, 1873, he with his family moved to Howard Co., Ind. In May, 1874, his first wife died. Later he was united in marriage with Caroline Kendall. To this union were born 17 children. Seven of these preceded him to the spirit world. Bro. Troyer united with the Amish Mennonite Church in his early life, and lived a consistent life until death. The family lost a loving father, the church a wise counsellor, the community a good neighbor. He leaves a wife, 18 children, 2 step children, 60 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, 3 brothers, a sister, and a host of relatives and friends to mourn his departure, but their loss is his eternal gain. Funeral Mar. 8 at the Mennonite Church, where a very large concourse of people had gathered to pay their last tribute of respect. Services conducted by Bros. E. A. Mast (Text, II Tim. 4:6-8) and N. M. Slabaugh (Text, Job 5:26). Burial in the Mast Cemetery. Transcriber’s note: counsellor is not a typo, it is spelled as written.

      1. Monte Anderson

        John Troyer 1830-1912

        John Troyer is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. Check out www.
        geni.com and you will find the whole family.

    10. Reid, Linda, thanks for sharing this info, very interesting. Reid I may be up for one of those sometime, just curious, how large is it?

    11. Calleen Troyer

      I am married to the grandson of the 31st child of John Troyer’s family. Yes it is true he raised 31 children, most of us are still Mennonite but not conservative. We often wonder what happened to all the cousins and where they have all moved off to and how many of them are there.

    12. Calleen thanks for commenting. Constructing that family tree would not be a small project, I imagine.

    13. Marjorie (Troyer) Harr

      This John Troyer was my great grandfather. As you see in the obituary 11 of the children died at birth or shortly after.So 20 children actually grew up- that was still a lot! In 1984 a genealogy book written by Hilda Troyer ,was published. it was a lt of work and took years to gather the information. It was called Our John Troyer- 61 Feet Under the Table”.
      Calleen’s Father in Law, the 31st child, was a doctor and he and his family spent many years as missionaries.
      My Dad was also named John Troyer-he died in 1984. His father was Joseph.

      1. Patsy

        Info on John Troyer

        My Mother who is 94 and still has a pretty good memory tells a different story about the children of John Troyer, who was her Great Grandfather. She says there were 3 wives and the the last wife was Caroline who was a cousin but that the sister of Catharine Schrock also married John and she too died in childbirth and Mother wasn’t sure how many children she had. I don’t know that this is true I have no evidence that there was another name. I will keep searching and see if I find anything else. Also does anyone know for sure who John’s parents were, was it Michael Troyer and Barbara Miller? Any help would be appreciated. Guess I can say I am a descendent of the largest family around.

        1. Marcus Yoder

          I looked up John Troyer on a site called SAGA and came up with 2 wives. First wife was Catherine Schrock and they had 12 children. His next wife was Caroline Schrock and they had 17 children.His Parents were Michael Troyer and Barbara Miller. Michael and Barbara were both born in Somerset Co. Pa. and died in Holmes Co. Ohio.John Troyer and both of his wives were born in Holmes Co. Ohio and died in Howard Co. In.
          Marcus Yoder

      2. Becky Berger

        Troyer geneology

        I am looking for the Troyer Family History book. copyright 1984 Hilda Troyer. Do you know where I can get it? It was interesting finding these comments. Distant cousins we are! I was at the Jerry and Eva (Mast) Troyer Family reunion today in Shipshewana, IN! And I read about the settling of John Troyer at Kokomo


          Copies of TROYER FAMILY HISTORY book by Hilda Troyer
          (Family Tree Outlined and “Our” John Troyer’s 68 Feet Under the Table)

          are still available if you want to buy a copy.

          Hilda Troyer is my Mother and I have copies of her book available.

          For more information go to the website at: ctcompany.net

          Lyle Troyer Box 72 Archbold OH 43502-0072

    14. Deb Bonner

      Just a correction on the book compiled by Hilda Troyer- It was subtitled “68 Feet Under the Table”. I am currently researching the Troyer family and this book is a good source of information.

      1. Patsy

        68 Feet Under the Table

        Does anyone know where I can get a copy of this book? I tried Amazon.com and they show it but not available.

    15. Calleen Troyer

      Deb, I would like to hear about your research into this large family. My husband grandfather was Dr.George Troyer, he spent many years on the misson field as did his oldest son Nortell. I am just amazed when I look at the pictures of Caroline and John in old family photos how to cloth, feed all those children. I realize that many where married and in their own homes but children come home for Sunday meals, picking of the fields etc. I have heard stories at family reunions of Grandma Caroline bakeing bread 7 loaves at a time in outside woodburning ovens during the summers. This was in the Howard-Miami area of Indiana.

    16. therese


      Hi i live in australia and ide like to no if u r the same as brigam youngs church how many wives do the men ha e thanks

      1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

        Better late than never (wives)

        I know this person replied back in 2011, but I think it is fair to reply even a long time after.

        Being conservative Christians, the Amish typically follow what we might call the Catholic model in terms of how many wives a man can have. Traditionally, an Amish man will only have one wife during his lifetime and an Amish person, following Biblical commandments (mostly New Testament, following Jesus), will not, or at least is not supposed to, become divorced.

        An Amish person, I think it was stated here on Amish America, is allowed to remarry after a spouse’s death, as it is (from what I’ve read anyway) NT Biblically lawful.

        The Amish do not (to the best of my knowledge) follow the teachings of Joseph Smith Jr., Brigham Young, the Book of Mormon or any related text, nor are the Amish associated main-stream Mormonism or Latter Day Saints Fundamentalism.

        It might be fair however to say, because of the anecdotes in the original post and the replies since, that some of the Amish do take seriously and personally the commandment that compels people to “be fruitful and multiply”.

    17. Lance

      I know of 1 Amish family with 18 children from a single set of parents. Just across the hill from them is a family with 19 children!

      In the community I was in, there is a couple that were widowers and married. They had 2 children together for a combined total of 22. There was a marriage of step-siblings.

    18. Karen Lange


      I guess they have a lot of help around the house! Many hands make light work…:)

    19. Katie King


      @Reid Hochstedler- Do you still have a copy of the book? I am hoping by some miracle you will get this comment 🙂 My family stemms from Amish and Mennonite in Howard and Miami counties (we are of the Absolom King family among others of course)and I would love to read the book. I will gladly pay for copies and shipping.

      Coincidentally, we also have Schrock and Kendall names in the family. There are two cemeteries with their names not too far from one another in (I believe) Amboy, IN. They are filled with my ancestors. Anyone know if these are the same Schrocks and Kendalls?

      1. Reid Hochstedler

        RE: Ancestry

        @Katie King,
        Sorry, I don’t check this thread very often. My grandmother’s sister married a King. Her name was Leona, her husband’s name was Milphert King. Any relation to you?

        Regarding the small booklet I have, if you send me an e-mail, reidhoch@yahoo.com, I can get you a copy.

    20. Lisa King

      Troyer/Shrock/Kendall families

      Calleen – My husband’s family has Schrock and Kendall family names in it. I was wondering if you know more about the connection of those families. I can’t find a connection on Ancestry.com and was wondering if you know. Both are from the Liberty, Greentown and Amboy areas. One ancester is Nathanial Kendall from Liberty, and his grand daughter Kathleen Kendall married into the King family from Amboy. If anyone reading this has any information, I would appreciate hearing from you.

    21. Calleen Troyer

      Schrock and Kendall

      Lisa, just following up on your question, I will check with my hubby when he gets home this evening. I do believe I have heard the Kendall name at reuions, Caroline or Catherine was a Kendall before they married Great Grandpa John. As for the Schrocks, yes to that name also espically around Amboy, Greentown, Kokomo area.

      therese:To answer your questions me are not at all the same as the Mormans, Mennonites have one wife at a time. John Troyer married Cahterine first then she passed. The church Bishop’s saw that John needed a wife and Caroline needed a husband, the rest is story. Each was married to only one person at a time not several.

      A good many of the family is buried in The Mast cemetery outside of Kokomo. There are several Troyers, Schrocks and a couple Kendalls rest there.In fact another name with Schrocks and Troyers is Sommers. many of these families have married second cousins or even thrid.

      1. Walter Troyer


        Calleen. From reading your posts your husband and I are related. His Grandmother, Katie, and my mother, Esther, were sisters. They were both daughters of Daniel and Lizzie Sommers and both of them married Troyers. You mentioned Nortell and wondering if your husband was his son or from Dana or Weldon?

        We lived in the Amboy/Wapecong area until the early 60s then moved to Goshen.

        1. Calleen Troyer

          Daniel and Katie Troyer Sommers

          Walter ,
          Thats is great, you should come to the Sommers reunion the last full weekend in August. We meet in Sommercet at the community center, we are just cousins now that Clayton past last October from falling out of a tree at almost 98. Email me I can hook you up with Grace Whitehead for more information. Yes you are correct we are related. Great to hear from you.

      2. Lisa King

        Largest Amish Family

        Calleen, I’m just now going back and catching up on some comments here! Thanks for mentioning the Mast cemetery in Kokomo. I looked it up on Find A Grave and found several family names there that I will have to check out. I haven’t finished the research on the King/Kendall side of the family, so anytime I see anything that looks like it might fit in, I grab it! It’s kind of hard though when there were so many with the same name but not related. Or the same family but different spellings from Pennsylvania to Ohio, then Indiana. Do you know of any Zerbes in the area or families? I can find Kings and Kendalls easily enough but I don’t hear the Zerbe name at all. They were Mennonites from Germany, whereas the Kings on our side came from Switzerland. Thanks for your contributions to this article!

        Lisa King


      Am the great-grandson of John Troyer
      and the son of Hilda Troyer.

      Have copies of the Troyer Family History Book
      copyright 1984 by Hilda Troyer which list the names
      of all 32 children and descendants.

      Every year on the last Saturday in August there is a
      Troyer family reunion.

      1. Calleen Troyer

        Troyer reunion

        Sorry I’m behind in this thread of The Troyer history. Lyle Troyer where does the Troyer family meet for their reunion? We are already in the Kokomo area for the Sommers reunion the next day, I’m sure George (hubby) would enjoy meeting cousins from The Troyer side of the family. Please email @ Herc207@msn.com for the details of the reunion, it would be great fun for us.

        1. LYLE TROYER

          Largest Amish Family Ever-Troyer Reunion

          The Troyer Reunion for direct descendants of the John Troyer (1830-1912) family who had 12 children with his first wife Catherine (who died) and then married his second wife (a widow with 2 children from her first husband who died) Caroline and they had 17 children, was called the Troyer Cousin Reunion and was held for many years
          in the Kokomo IN area.

          Although that reunion no longer is held, the 107th Troyer Reunion
          for descendants of Henry the Bear Killer Troyer, will be held at
          Bear Creek Farm near Berne IN the last Saturday of August in 2013.

          Both John Troyer and Henry Troyer descend from Michael Troyer.

    23. Carolyn B

      Wow, Erik, thanks for sharing this thread on Facebook. Loved reading the article and every comment.

      1. Gladly Carolyn. This is a 4 year old post but one that seems to pop up frequently.

        Before I read this, the largest Amish family I had heard of had a children count in the low-20s (widow/widower marriage). You can see some pretty big families if older widowed individuals get married, but if the children are all adults, it seems a different story than if all were still at home.

        1. Shelia Michael


          I am copying this to you particularly as you seem to have much knowledge about the Plain People. Thanks for any enlightment you can provide.

          I have a family tree that includes the German Baptist but don’t know of Amish branch or not. I do have a picture of a great-great aunt from the late 1800’s that shows her in a family group and she is wearing a plain, dark caped dress with a white head covering. Her father was John Bargerhuff (or Bargerhoff) in Miami County, Peru area and I believe she married a West. Samuel Fiant was another name in the Peru, Miami County area and they were German Baptist.

          I am interested in history of German Baptist and the Amish and Mennonite. My early ancestor was in PA around Reading and his name was Martin Gaby (Gauby) and he was preacher and was from Sweden I believe. He married a Priser (Pricer). A daughter, Salome, married Daniel Fiant who was son of Martin Fiant and a Bobbenmyer (several spellings). Martin Fiant was a Hessian solder who deserted and found refuge with the German population in PA. I believe his desertion was about time of Battle of Brandywine.

          Interested in finding out more about these early churches and people.

          Shelia Michael

          1. Shelia the genealogy is not really my area, particularly concerning other plain and Anabaptist churches besides the Amish. I hope someone who reads this will be able to offer more. But thanks for contributing your story here.

    24. Lori Harding

      I can’t imagine supporting that many kids from the mans view, and to his wonderful wife that bore him 17 , I feel so sorry for her, and her body, but what a amazing women

    25. Erin

      When visiting Amish Country (MN) this past summer, I asked an Amish woman what the average family size was in their area and she looked at the other woman she was with and said they never get together and ask one another. I thought that was cute! The largest Amish family I have met had 17 children and I have also met another couple that did not have any children.

    26. Janet

      I love reading your post. My mother is one of four. Her dad passed away when she was a young girl. Her mother,several years later, remarried a man who had 13 children, one dying shortly after it’s birth. When he and my grandmother married they had a blended family of 16 children. My mom said that sure was a lot of biscuits, lol. I love having a gazillion cousins!

    27. Velda M

      I know of a family in Shipshewana, IN the Will Yoder family that had 18 children. 3 sets of Twins tho.

    28. Adair

      I’ve had some nice chats with Mr. and Mrs. Gingerich, of Ethridge, Tennessee, who have 14 children and 105 grandchildren (probably more by now!). You see a LOT of Gingerich mailboxes in the area, and I think some of them have pioneered the relatively
      new community in Mississippi.

    29. Sharon

      My husband and I visit the Etheridge, TN Amish community. The Danny Gingerich family is very open to talking to the English and we have had a lot of conversations over the years. Jacob Gingerich and his wife Elizabeth were the ones with a few more couples that moved to Mississippi to start the community there. Jacob and Danny are very distant cousins. Jacob’s daughter and Danny’s son married and they are living in the house that Jacob and Elizabeth used to live in which is by one of the schools. Jacob was a school teacher. We actually were in Mississippi researching my family roots and we visited Jacob and his family while we were in the area. Sadly to say Elizabeth passed about a year and a half ago.

    30. Twenty

      One of our Amish friends here in southern Michigan has 20 living children from the same husband and wife. Hard to get my mind around that number!

    31. Sharon

      We were in Etheridge, Tn a couple of weeks ago and visited with Danny and Annie Gingerich, who have 16 children and 110 grandchildren. Jacob and Elizabeth Gingerich, who lived in Etheridge for years moved to Mississippi. I know they had 19 children, but I don’t know how many grandchildren. Jacob has moved in with one of his sons or grandsons now that Elizabeth has passed.

      1. Amish Girl - Rebecca

        Three of my great-aunts had large families- 15 in one family, 16 in the other, and the largest was 18 – Wow! Coming from a family of 6 I can’t imagine that.

    32. Shelia Michael

      Indiana plain folks

      I have a family three that includes the German Baptist but don’t know of Amish branch or not. I do have a picture of a great-great aunt from the late 1800’s that shows her in a family group and she is wearing a plain, dark caped dress with a white head covering. Her father was John Bargerhuff (or Bargerhoff) in Miami County, Peru area and I believe she married a West. Samuel Fiant was another name in the Peru, Miami County area and they were German Baptist.

      I am interested in history of German Baptist and the Amish and Mennonite. My early ancestor was in PA around Reading and his name was Martin Gaby (Gauby) and he was preacher and was from Sweden I believe. He married a Priser (Pricer). A daughter, Salome, married Daniel Fiant who was son of Martin Fiant and a Bobbenmyer (several spellings). Martin Fiant was a Hessian solder who deserted and found refuge with the German population in PA. I believe his desertion was about time of Battle of Brandywine.

      Interested in finding out more about these early churches and people.

      Shelia Michael

    33. Aodh Mor MacRaynall

      larger possibly

      I believe is was Adam Borntrager who, when he died at 91, had over 500 living descendants

    34. Beverly E Bowers

      Largest Amish family

      John actually had a total of 29 biological children. The other two were Caroline’s before they were married. So…She had 19 total, just like “Michelle Duggar” from the TV show series “counting on”