Mennonite Historical Society of Canada

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Joint Meeting of the Ontario and Manitoba Historical Societies, with some conference representatives to plan for the Mennonites in Canada history book in Winnipeg on 27 September 1968. Clockwise starting at bottom left: Vern Ratzlaff (Winnipeg, Man.), Henry Dueck (Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference), Henry H. Epp (Conference of Mennonites in Canada), Ted E. Friesen (Altona, MB), J. Winfield Fretz (Waterloo, ON), Gerhard Lohrenz (Winnipeg, MB), P. J. B. Reimer (Winnipeg, MB), J. J. Reimer (Winnipeg, MB), Newton Gingrich (Mennonite Conference of Ontario), Orland Gingerich (Western Ontario Mennonite Conference), Wilson Hunsberger (Waterloo, ON), Frank H. Epp (Research Director).
Canadian Mennonite photo. MAO 1994-14-669. Published in Canadian Mennonite, 1 October 1968, p. 1.

The Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC) was established in 1968 (initially under the name Joint Committee on the History of Mennonites in Canada), and was convened by the Mennonite Historical Societies of Manitoba and Ontario to sponsor the writing of a history of the Mennonites in Canada. It formally organized as a national society in June 1974, when the Saskatchewan-Alberta and British Columbia societies joined the Manitoba and Ontario societies in forming the MHSC. La Société Mennonite Historique du Québec was the last to join in December 2005. The Mennonite Historical Society of Canada in 2012 was composed of board members from provincially-based Mennonite historical societies, Canadian Mennonite denominations, Mennonite Central Committee Canada and other Mennonite-related institutions such as the Chair of Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg. It has served as a coordinating body for projects of national or international scope that encompass Canadian Mennonite history. The Society holds one board and annual meeting each year. Various subcommittees have been appointed from time to time, including an Archives Committee (1970s-1988, 2011-), Database Committee (1988-1996), Encyclopedia Editorial Committee (1996- ), Genealogy Committee (2011- ) and Divergent Voices of Canadian Mennonites Project Committee (1999- ).

The major projects that have dominated MHSC's history:

  1. MHSC published a 3-volume history of Mennonites in Canada authored by Frank H. Epp and Ted D. Regehr, in 1974, 1982 and 1996. For each volume the Society provided a subsidy toward publication with a national publisher, and appointed a reader's committee to work with the author. Although initially envisioned as a one-volume project, it expanded to include three volumes. After Frank Epp's death in early 1986, the Society engaged Ted D. Regehr to complete the series.
  2. Its Database Committee launched the Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia On-line (CMEO) in 1996, later known as Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO). The CMEO emerged from a congregational database created by Marlene Epp for the three-volume Mennonites in Canada history series that contained basic information on over 1000 congregations. Later the Society obtained permission from Herald Press in Scottdale, Pennyslvania to copy and modify entries of the four-volume Mennonite Encyclopedia published in the 1950s, and a supplemental fifth volume published in 1990. In 2005 two partners -- the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission and the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee -- joined the project, and expanded it to become an English-language Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO). Mennonite Central Committee joined the partnership in early 2006, Mennonite World Conference in January 2007 and the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism in October 2011. In 2014 MHSC remained one of six partners on the project's Management Board, but GAMEO's finances then administered by Mennonite World Conference. A Canadian Editorial Committee appointed by the Society continued to provide advice to the project.
  3. In 1999 the Society, with the support of Mennonite Central Committee Canada, organized multi-year conference and writing projects to address gaps in the historical research under "Divergent Voices of Canadian Mennonites. Early projects included academic conferences on the history of Aboriginal-Mennonite Relations;  The Return of the Kanadier Mennonites; Mennonite Hosts and Refugee Newcomers: 1979 – the Present; and War and the Conscientious Objector. Marlene Epp's history of Mennonite women in Canada and Esther Epp-Tiessen's projected history of Mennonite Central Committee Canada were also part of this series. Later academic conferences included Mennonites, Family, and Sexuality in Historical Perspective and Mennonites and Money: Wealth and Poverty in the Past and Present. Most conferences have been held at the University of Winnipeg in cooperation with the Chair of Mennonite Studies.
  4. The Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) is also a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, through the MHSC Archives sub-committee. MAID, an on-line photograph database, was launched in 2015 by seven partners: the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (Winnipeg), the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, the Mennonite Heritage Centre (Winnipeg), the D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, and the Mennonite Historical Societies of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. Mennonite Library & Archives at Fresno Pacific University joined the projected in 2016, and the Evangelical Mennonite Conference joined in 2017.
  5. In 2004 MHSC initiated an annual "Award of Excellence” to a person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Canadian Mennonite history by way of research, writing, organization or the dissemination of Mennonite historical knowledge. Recipients of the award are listed on the Society's website.

The Society has also provided some support funding for international projects including the Global Mennonite History Project of Mennonite World Conference.

Ted E. Friesen served as Secretary of the organization from 1968 to the beginning of his service as President in 1981; thus he served 28 years as either secretary or president of MHSC.


Mennonite Historical Society of Canada Publications (Sponsored and Directly Published)

Baerg, Anna, and Gerald Nicholas Peters. Diary of Anna Baerg, 1916-1924. Winnipeg: CMBC Publications, 1985.

Epp, Frank H. Stories with meaning : a guide for the writing of local congregational histories. Winnipeg : Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, 1976.

Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada, 1786-1920: The History of a Separate People. Toronto, Ont. : Macmillan of Canada, 1974. Reprinted 1990 by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada.

Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada, 1920-1940: A People's Struggle for Survival. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1982.

Epp, Marlene. Mennonite Women in Canada: A History. Studies in immigration and culture, 2. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2008.

Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO)

Regehr, T. D. Mennonites in Canada, 1939-1970 ; A People Transformed. Toronto, Ont: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

Additional Information

Archival Holdings: Mennonite Heritage Centre (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

Websites: Mennonite Historical Society of Canada
Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID)

Presidents of MHSC

Name Years of Service
J. Winfield Fretz 1968-June 1975
Ted D. Regehr December 1975-December 1981
Ted E. Friesen December 1981-December 1996
Royden Loewen December 1996-December 2004
Ken Reddig December 2004-January 2008
Sam Steiner January 2008-January 2012
Lucille Marr January 2012-January 2016
Richard D. Thiessen January 2016-January 2018
Royden Loewen January 2018-November 2018
Laureen Harder-Gissing November 2018-present

Author(s) Samuel J. Steiner
Alf Redekopp
Date Published November 2018

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. and Alf Redekopp. "Mennonite Historical Society of Canada." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2018. Web. 4 Aug 2021.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. and Alf Redekopp. (November 2018). Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 August 2021, from

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