Shank family name

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Shank (Shenk, Schenk, Schenck) a Mennonite family name formerly found in Switzerland in the Emmenthal in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the family immigrated to Moravia in the 1530s, others to the Palatinate, Germany, in the 1670s, among whom was Michael Schenk, of Mühlibach, Emmenthal, who in 1671, at the age of eighty-one, settled in Osthofen in the Palatinate, leaving his wife and 14 children in Switzerland. He was accompanied by one son with his wife and children, and his brother (?) Christian, aged ninety-five, with two daughters. Since 1800 the name is not found among the Swiss Mennonites.

In Pennsylvania a Michael Shank (Schenck) (died 1744) and his son Michael Shank (died 1785) were on the naturalization list of 1729. There was also a Henry Shank (Shenk) on the Strasburg Strettle tract. These lived and died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and are the ancestors of all Mennonites with this name. Some outstanding bearers in the Lancaster Conference were bishops Henry Shenk (1794-1865) of Conestoga Township, and Daniel Shank (1832-1906) in Adams County.

The first bishop in Virginia was Henry Shank (1758-1836), ordained in 1810 to have the oversight over all the congregations in the Shenandoah Valley; his son Samuel Shank (1790-1863) was bishop in the Lower District in Virginia, and the latter's son Abraham Shank (1829-1901) was bishop in the same district. Samuel Shank (1821-1901), a minister, a brother of Bishop Abraham Shank, was a leader in the Virginia Conference, serving a number of years as moderator. Three of his sons, Lewis, Joseph, and Perry, and several of his grandsons followed him in the ministry. Lewis Shank (1855-1942) was bishop of the Lower District in Virginia from 1901 until his death. J. Ward Shank (1904- ) has been serving as bishop in the Lower District since 1954. John H. Shenk (1911- ) is a minister at Denbigh, Virginia, and John F. Shank (1911- ) a minister at Broadway, Virginia.

Deacon Jacob A. Shenk (1900-50) established the successful Shenk Hatcheries at Harrisonburg and was active in church work, especially in missions, serving as president of the Virginia Mennonite Mission Board until his untimely death in a plane crash. Aaron M. Shenk was a bishop in the Lancaster Conference at Myerstown, Pennsylvania.

In Allen County, Ohio, the successor of Bishop John M. Brenneman was John M. Shenk (1848-1935). J. W. Shank (1881- ) was a Mennonite missionary to Argentina 1917-49. His brother J. R. Shank (1877-1958) served as a rural missionary in Missouri from 1905. David Shank, their nephew, is a missionary in Belgium. Stanley C. Shenk (1919- ) was a minister and writer at West Liberty, Ohio, and his brother Charles J. Shenk is now a missionary in Japan. Harvey E. Shank (1887- ) is a bishop at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and G. D. Shenk (1878- ) a bishop at Sheridan, Oregon. Dozens of ministers in the Mennonite Church have borne the name Shank or Shenk. In 1957 there were 32 such, of whom 19 were Shank and 13 Shenk, in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Idaho, Indiana, and Oregon.


Shank, J. Clayton. "Panoramic Pageantry of Shank Family Names." Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 42 (July 1958): 169-74.

Author(s) J. C Wenger
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Wenger, J. C. "Shank family name." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 Jun 2024.

APA style

Wenger, J. C. (1959). Shank family name. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 June 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 509-510. All rights reserved.

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