Mennonite Historical Society of Canada

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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.

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, Man.), J. Winfield Fretz (Waterloo, Ont.), Gerhard Lohrenz (Winnipeg, Man.), P. J. B. Reimer (Winnipeg, Man.), J. J. Reimer (Winnipeg, Man.), Newton Gingrich (Mennonite Conference of Ontario), Orland Gingerich (Western Ontario Mennonite Conference), Wilson Hunsberger (Waterloo, Ont.), Frank H. Epp (Research Director). Canadian Mennonite photo. MAO 1994-14-669. Published in Canadian Mennonite, 1 October 1968, p. 1.

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. The 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- ).

Three major projects and one award series 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 and Mennonite World Conference in January 2007. In 2009 MHSC remained one of five partners on the project's Management Board, but still included GAMEO's finances in its budget. 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. 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.

Presidents of the MHSC have been J. Winfield Fretz of Waterloo, Ontario (1968-June 1975); Ted D. Regehr of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (December 1975-December 1981); Ted E. Friesen of Altona, Manitoba (December 1981-December 1996); Royden Loewen of Steinbach, Manitoba (December 1996-December 2004); Ken Reddig of Winnipeg, Manitoba (December 2004-January 2008); Sam Steiner of Waterloo, Ontario (January 2008-January 2012); and Lucille Marr of Montreal, Quebec (January 2012- ). 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)

Website: Mennonite Historical Society of Canada

Author(s) Sam Steiner
Date Published January 2012

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Sam. "Mennonite Historical Society of Canada." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2012. Web. 22 Apr 2018.

APA style

Steiner, Sam. (January 2012). Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 April 2018, from

©1996-2018 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.