Gerber (Gärber, Garber, Garver) family

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Gerber is a Mennonite family name which originated near Langnau, canton of Bern, Switzerland. The name denotes the occupation of tanner, and there are two very old tanning establishments in Langnau. The Langnau Gerber family is one of the most numerous in the canton of Bern.

Members of the Gerber family who were Mennonites left the Emmental for the Jura as early as the middle of the 16th century. This family figured in all of the Swiss Mennonite migrations and especially in the one directed to Wayne County, Ohio in 1817 and the years following. Some of the leading Mennonite farmers and preachers of the Jura have been Gerbers.

Wälti Gerber of Röthenbach was one of the earliest and most prominent Anabaptist ministers in the Emmental, taking part in the disputation in Bern in March 1538. He preached fearlessly, although forbidden to do so by the state, and baptized many. He was imprisoned at Burgdorf, escaped, but was captured and executed in Bern on 30 July 1566.

In July 1711, when a large number of Bernese Mennonites were expelled to the Netherlands, there were a number of Gerbers among them. Hans Gerber, a preacher of the Reist congregation in the Emmental, refused to go; he was arrested and sentenced to the galleys. Peter Gerber of Langnau left the ship at Breisach, Germany, returned to Switzerland, was arrested there and chained; apparently he was also sent to the galleys. One of the Swiss Mennonites who came to the Netherlands was Claas (Nicolaas) Gerber, who served the "Nieuwe Zwitsers" as preacher from 1739-61.

The name has been represented in the ministry in the Jura and Emmental from early times. Michael Gerber, a deacon living in the Jura, immigrated to Wayne County, Ohio, in 1822 and became the ancestor of most of the Gerbers in that area. Christen Gerber from Giebel near Langnau, ordained to the ministry in 1821, became influenced by the preaching of Samuel Fröhlich and helped lead half of the Emmental congregation to form the first congregation of Neutäufer (later known as the Apostolic Christian Church).

About 1735 three Mennonite Gerbers came to North America from Switzerland and settled in Lancaster County, PA and in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where the name was changed to Garber. In York County, PA the Garber Church was erected in 1814. In Virginia many members of this family have united with the Church of the Brethren.

The name Gerber was common among the Amish of Alsace during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their descendants (some of whom use the form Garber) have been found in Ontario, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Illinois and Missouri.

As of 1954, there were seven Mennonite ministers in Switzerland with the name Gerber and the president of the Swiss Mennonite conference was Elder Samuel Gerber.

Seven brothers named Gerber who lived at Les Joux near Les Genevez in the Bernese Jura became outstanding farmers and leaders in their community from 1870 to 1930. Their story and their pictures were published in several Swiss agricultural periodicals at the beginning of the century.


Christlicher Gemeinde-Kalender (later the Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender) (1924-1925): 33:77 and 34:87.

Gerber, E. P. Descendants of Deacon Michael Gerber, 1763-1938. Kidron, Ohio, 1938.

Gratz, Delbert L. Bernese Anabaptists. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1953, passim (see index, 210.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 1317, 1322, 1334, 1352-54, 1358f.

Huizinga, J. Stamboek van Samuel Peter (Meihuizen) en Barbara Fry. Groningen, 1890, see Index, 124.

Kauffman, Daniel. Mennonite Cyclopedic Dictionary. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1937: 119-20, 125-26.

Mennonitisches Lexikon, "Gerber."

Author(s) Delbert L. Gratz
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Gratz, Delbert L. and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Gerber (Gärber, Garber, Garver) family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 19 Dec 2018.,_Garber,_Garver)_family&oldid=121095.

APA style

Gratz, Delbert L. and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1956). Gerber (Gärber, Garber, Garver) family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 December 2018, from,_Garber,_Garver)_family&oldid=121095.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 478. All rights reserved.

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