About MennObits --- | About the Index Lists |
To make available online the obituaries that were published in the Herald of Truth (HT), the Gospel Witness (GW), and the Gospel Herald (GH) since the first magazine started publishing in 1864. And, now in the second phase, adding obituaries from The Mennonite (1998- ), and the Mennonite Weekly Review (1929- ).
The Herald of Truth was first published in 1864 by John F. Funk of Chicago, Illinois (1864-1867) and then of Elkhart, Indiana. In 1907/08 the newly formed Mennonite Publishing Board bought the magazine from Funk, combined it with the Gospel Witness, which a group in Scottdale, Pennsylvania had published (April 5, 1905 to March 25, 1908), to create the Gospel Herald. From 1908 to 1998 the Gospel Herald was published by Mennonite Publishing House (MPH), Scottdale, PA. as the official church paper of the Mennonite Church (MC).
MPH holds the copyright on these obituaries, but permission has been granted to publish an online version here. Family researchers are welcome to use selected portions of this collection to tell their family's story. Commercial reproduction of this collection is forbidden.
A prominent feature of these publications was the obituary section. At the congregational level, correspondents were appointed to write accounts of the life of congregations, including marriages, births and obituaries. Family researchers may find details of their ancestors here--if their ancestors were in some way connected to the former Mennonite Church (MC) with Swiss/South German roots, or African American and Hispanic. Those with Dutch/Russian/Prussian or Native American or Asian roots in the former General Conference Mennonite Church will find more of their ancestors' obituaries in the Mennonite Weekly Review, most of which are still to be posted. All of these groups, now comprising Mennonite Church USA, will be represented in the obituaries of The Mennonite and the Mennonite Weekly Review.
Frequently Asked Questions about the MennObit Project
Q. There are several groups of Mennonites. Does this MennObits Project cover them all?
A. No. Phase one of this collection is mostly about members of the former Mennonite Church (MC) and Amish or Amish-Mennonite groups. Phase two will include obituaries from the former General Conference Mennonite, the Mennonite Brethern churchs, or the other smaller groups that use the name "Mennonite". Phase two will include obituries of all the diverse ethnic groups, which comprise Mennonite Church USA.
Q. Where are collections of these old magazines: Herald of Truth, Gospel Witness, and Gospel Herald kept?
A. Some of the church colleges and schools, the larger Mennonite libraries and archives, and the Mennonite Publishing House at Scottdale, Pennsylvania, have archived copies of the complete sets. Some conference archives also have copies. Some congregations have partial sets of these magazines in their church libraries. And check with the people who live in "century houses" in your area. Ask to visit their attics!
Q. How reliable are obituaries as sources?
A. Every "fact" gleaned from these obituaries should be checked against other sources. Treat these obits as secondary sources. Consider the chain of events, and the possibilities for errors :
- Step 1: someone died
- Step 2: someone, likely in an emotional state, wrote the obituary; from memory, from family Bible records, diaries, etc.
- Step 3: the obituary arrived at the magazine's publisher, where typesetters transformed the often-hand-written text into linotype
- Step 4: the magazine was published and now transcribers type, or OCR scan, the printed text into computer readable textfiles. Often the copies the transcribers use are less than perfect.
Every effort was made to ensure that transcribers' errors did not occur. We have attempted to maintain the integrity of the obituary as printed, but also check details with other sources as available.
About the index lists:
MAIN INDEX - 74,624 entries:
- online, includes hyperlinks to the obituary
- arranged alphabetically by surname at death; dates in this index are "date of publication", not "date of death".
- also includes "other married names" for women with more than one marriage; ......... look for these names "inside" the obituary, not first-word names
- also includes alternate spellings if used in the same obituary
- now includes the Herald of Truth, 1864
- 1908 -- 17,571 entries
- now includes the Gospel Witness, 1905 - 1908 -- 802 entries
- now includes the Gospel Herald, 1908 - 1998 -- 52,598 entries
- now includes The Mennonite, 1998 to end of November, 2002 -- 3,336 entries
- now includes parts of the Mennonite Weekly Review: -- 317 entries
------------ 1987, complete year
------------ 2002, July to December
Note: the term "entries" is used rather than "names" or "individuals" because there is some duplication of "individuals". Some individuals are listed in Gospel Witness AND in Gospel Herald during the over-lapping years. Some married women have two or more entries, under each married name. A few people have two entries if the surname was spelled differently in the same obituary.
MAIDEN NAMES INDEX: a subset of the Main Index
- arranged alphabetically by maiden surname; about
20,000 names; look for these names "inside" the obituary,
not first-word names
- the people listed here are also listed in the Main Index; the obituaries do not give the maiden name for many of the married women; this index was created to access those for whom a maiden name is included
YEAR INDEXES: subsets of the Main Index
- separate aphabetical lists of names published in each year
Note: People known to have died in December
of 1924, for example, will have their obituary published in the
1925 year, probably. Dates are "date of publication".
It usually took from two to eight weeks for the obituary to get
published after a death.
About the Index lists:
There is a "Gospel Herald Everyname Index - 1905 to 1998". That original index was created by Ralph Shetler and Charles Hunsecker; it exists as texfiles and as a printed, paper document. Those files are no longer available here.
The Main Index of Mennobits was created from the Shetler/Hunsecker index and is an enhanced version of the original index and contains the following changes:
Copyright 1999 - All rights reserved - Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, PA Used with permission by the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee, Goshen, IN Permission granted to private family researchers to use selected portions of these images to tell their family stories. May not be mass-produced in any form for commercial purposes.