When culling non-fiction at BPL a week ago, ran across a lot of non-circulating stuff that looked good. Checked out _Through Fire And Water_, a history of the Mennonites published by Herald Press, a Mennonite publishing ministry but one which is broad-enough in scope to be at the liberal end of the Mennonite spectrum. This would be very different from my Mennonite relatives.
Great, readable history. Lack of rigor in spots, and a fair amount of how-does-this-relate-to-your-faith sidebars (given the publisher to be expected). I skipped the Jesus-1500 section at the beginning so I cannot comment on how good (or bad) that was.
In several spots (not findable via the index, dammit), there are lists of family names associated with various communities/migratory groups/denominations. This was really great. In conjunction with the Johan Toews 1829-1895 (if you find this thru google and are related to me, drop me a line!) Family Register, and the stories passed down within the family, I was fairly certain this meant the following:
Back in the 16th century, those family names were Flemish Anabaptists who fled persecution first to the Netherlands and then to Poland/Prussia (this was before toleration in the Netherlands).
They later went to Russia where my family group was a bunch of whack jobs who felt everyone had gotten entirely too comfortable. Disapproving of attending weddings (too much of a party atmosphere), funerals with hypocritical eulogies and assorted other forms of harmless social fun, my ancestors in the Kleine Gemeinde were the kind of paranoid killjoys who leave town when political winds start to turn. Which in this particular case, was a good thing.
Because the Mennonite community is insular and prone to excommunication, in the past, once you were out it was hard to figure out anything. But the Age of Google means everyone can get in touch with each other via the internets. That plus the LDS standardized genealogy file standard (GEDCOM) all adds up to some amazing resources. I ordered GRANDMA 5, but, impatient, I started looking for Johan online (not personally, but trees and records and such). Where I found this:
On Page 2, Johan Toews is my great-great grandfather (I miscalculated and fixed it). The 2 year old, Corn (Cornelius) is my great grandfather.
(Johan, Cornelius, William, Phyllis, me)
Gruenfeld was the town he would settle in and ultimately die and be buried in; now called Kleefeld just outside of Steinbach, Manitoba. And a nice little confirmation that he was, indeed, Kleine Gemeinde.
Further support for my family migration theory comes from the name Toews:
If you chase down some of those congregation names, they are largely Flemish.
So this settles a series of questions I had. My cousin Gerry asserted we were German, not Dutch (which of course wouldn't be true for me, given my father). I asserted we were Dutch but in fact, we could be called lots of things but are probably Flemish, now Belgian. Which is a bummer. I was holding out for Frisian, which would have mean my parents re-united two strands of Frisian descendants in the US, unknowingly. Not so, however. I now have a long list of places to visit on some hypothetical roots tour in the future AND I've identified the probable language spoken by those ancestors: Plautdietsch, often called Mennonite Low German but more accurately Low Dutch but really it's own weird thing. I have a book about it backordered.
There's a Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach. Hmmm.
Oh, and I now have a derivation for Toews: corruption of Matthews/Mattheus! And if you think about that (gift of god) Toews basically is a corruption of Theo or God. And I named my firstborn son Theodore. That is so circular it's frightening.
This tells me my family came from Borosenko colony:
(And I need to find Delbert Plett's book, apparently.)
Last comment for now: the register gets J.'s dates wrong; other sources say he was born in 1826 not 1829 and on a very different date. *shrug*