The Mennonite family name Yoder is originally of Swiss origin. The Swiss encyclopedia (Historisch-biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz) locates this "ancient family" in the village of Steffisberg on the edge of the Oberland in the canton of Bern, while another authority on Swiss families traces them to the village of Muri, nearer Bern. A history of the Emmental lists Joders among the early residents. The name Yoder evidently is derived from the Christian name "Theodore." For example, Saint Theodore, a missionary in the Swiss Alps in the Middle Ages, was abbreviated to "St. Joder." August 16 has still recently been listed as "St. Joder's Day" in the Swiss Reformed church almanacs. Joder first appears as a family name in the canton of Bern in the 14th century. At Steffisberg the Joders began to appear in the records as early as 1529 and at Muri slightly later.
Although some of the Swiss Joders became members of the Reformed Church and eventually brought this faith with them to North America, others became Anabaptists. Heini Joder was imprisoned at Basel in 1531 for spreading the Anabaptist faith. The Bern records show that other Joders became Anabaptists in the 17th century. In the same century members of the Joder family migrated to the Palatinate. Among the Palatinate estates on which Joders lived were Branchweilerhof near Neustadt and Vogelstockerhof near Annweiler. In 1717 a Mennonite Jost Jodter lived in Lachen. The Palatine Mennonite census list of 1724 names a Johannes Joder at Mussbach, while the 1738 census named a Jost Jother in Oggersheim. A Johannes Yother lived at Mussbach in 1759. The 1940 list of Mennonite family names in South Germany shows 34 Jothers in 6 congregations. In 1951, seven persons with the name Yoder, Ioder, or Jother were members in three churches of the French Mennonite Conference.
Yoders of the Reformed Church came to Pennsylvania as early as 1710, settling in Berks County. In 1742 Christian Jother, Christian Jotter, Jr., and Jacob Yoder, all apparently Amish Mennonites, arrived in Pennsylvania. It is inconclusive as to whether the widow Barbara Yoder, who supposedly arrived in 1714 and who is often mentioned among Amish immigrants, was actually one of the early Amish settlers in Pennsylvania. Jacob Yoder, who arrived in America in 1742, is generally referred to as "Strong Jacob Yoder." Legends have developed around Jacob Yoder concerning the feats of this early Amish member. He is also the ancestor of a large number of Amish and Mennonite descendants. Christian Yoder, Jr., is likewise the ancestor of many Amish and Mennonite descendants. Yoders continued to immigrate to America, some arriving in the first half of the 19th century.
From Eastern Pennsylvania the Amish Yoders migrated westward to Somerset and Mifflin counties, and from there to Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and other midwestern and western states. A file of Yoder obituaries in Mennonite church papers (1864-1951) lists the following numbers by state: Ohio, 200; Indiana, 180; Pennsylvania, 176; Iowa, 53; Missouri, 38; Kansas, 28; Oregon, 22; and Illinois, 17. Sixteen additional states and provinces are included in this list. The family name is also widely represented among the Church of the Brethren. In 1957 the more than 180 ordained Yoders serving in Amish and Mennonite churches were represented in these groups: Old Order Amish, 99; Mennonite Church (MC), 58; Conservative Amish Mennonite, 14; Beachy Amish, 11; and General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM), 3. Thus the Yoder family has been the second most widely represented family in the ministry of the American Mennonite churches, being surpassed only by the Millers, who had 237 ordained men in 1957. These two family names have also been the most numerous in the Goshen College student body. Leaders among the Mennonite (MC) have been Abner G. Yoder, A. I. Yoder, C. Z. Yoder, David S. Yoder, Edward Yoder, John K. Yoder, Joseph W. Yoder, and A. B. Yoder, who was a leading elder in the Mennonite Brethren Church. The following is a list of some of the better-known representatives of the Yoder family in the early and mid 20th century. Allen Yoder (GCM), was a minister in the Central District Conference, while his son Harry Yoder was part of the Bluffton College faculty. Sanford C. Yoder was president of Goshen College and former secretary of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities as well as a bishop in the Mennonite Church (MC). Walter Yoder was a professor of music at Goshen College. Jonathan G. Yoder (MC) was a medical missionary in India. Samuel A. Yoder (MC), was a Goshen College professor. Bishop D.A. Yoder (MC) served as president of the Mennonite Board of Education. Edwin J. Yoder (MC) was a Mennonite bishop in Indiana. J. Otis Yoder was an Eastern Mennonite College faculty member. Gideon G. Yoder, was both a bishop and a Hesston College faculty member. Ray F. Yoder of Indiana, Elmer E. Yoder, Paul Yoder, and Stephen A. Yoder of Ohio were also bishops.
Contrary to a common presupposition, not all the Yoders are of Amish descent. Of the people listed above, the following are Yoders of Mennonite descent: D. A. Yoder, Paul Yoder, Stephen Yoder, R. F. Yoder, and A. B. Yoder. Yoders can be found in the Franconia Conference (MC) area. Exactly when the first Mennonite Yoders arrived in North America was still not determined in 1959.
Mast, C. Z. and Robert E. Simpson. Annals of the Conestoga Valley. Elverson, PA, 1942: 267-74.
Yoder, Don. "Origins of the Pennsylvania Yoders," in The Yoder Family Reunion Book. N.p., 1954.
Cite This Article
Gingerich, Melvin. "Yoder (Ioder, Joder, Jodter, Jotter, Yoeder, Yother, Yothers, Yotter)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 26 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Yoder_(Ioder,_Joder,_Jodter,_Jotter,_Yoeder,_Yother,_Yothers,_Yotter)&oldid=113693.
Gingerich, Melvin. (1959). Yoder (Ioder, Joder, Jodter, Jotter, Yoeder, Yother, Yothers, Yotter). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 May 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Yoder_(Ioder,_Joder,_Jodter,_Jotter,_Yoeder,_Yother,_Yothers,_Yotter)&oldid=113693.
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