The Ongoing March of Historical Writing

The task of historical writing never comes to an end. This is not only because new historical events keep taking place, but also because new research and writing sheds better light and new perspectives on events of the past.

This week I’d like to highlight a recent important article by Kerry Fast, a scholar who has done extensive work on the Low German Mennonites in Ontario. Her article on “A Brief History of the Migration of Mennonites to Ontario and the Formation of the Old Colony Church” appeared in the latest issue of Preservings, a historical journal published by the D. F. Plett Foundation in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Old Colony Church, Aylmer, Ontario

Old Colony Mennonite Church in Aylmer, Ontario. Photo by Sam Steiner.

Fast made use of oral history interviews available at the Mennonite Archives of Ontario that were also accessible to me. But she explored them at much greater depth than I was able to do for a survey history. From these interviews she created a narrative that I wish had been available to me for my writing.

This is by no means the only new piece of historical writing on Ontario Mennonites that I wish had been available to me. Among others, some of Royden Loewen’s writing on Low German Mennonites was published too late in my process. Roy is the Chair of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg. And there was an interesting genealogical publication about Pennsylvania Germans in York County, Ontario (Pioneer Footprints in York County: Pennsylvania German Families who arrived in York County in the early 1800s compiled by Ruth Burkholder) that would have shed greater light on early settlement there. I could name others.

These are not causes for mourning, but rather are good reminders that no historical monograph is definitive or final. I’m grateful for the new light of each of these publications.

Nonetheless, for setting the larger context of Ontario Mennonites, you will want to read In Search of Promised Lands!

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