Amish Last Names
Let’s call a spade a spade: the Amish have some interesting last names.
To outsiders, everything about the Amish can appear foreign, almost as if an entire community has been preserved in a time capsule.
That’s by design! The Amish are resilient, fiercely independent, and notably committed to the preservation and protection of their culture. That includes their names. Family last names have remained intact and unchanged for centuries.
In the same ways Amish town names have been safeguarded from outside influence, the traditions and meaning attached to Amish last names have been carefully curated and maintained.
Today we’re going to look at some of the most popular Amish last names and what makes them so unique.
But first, let’s talk a little bit about the Amish in general for some context.
What this article covers:
Who Are the Amish?
To fully understand the tradition and history of Amish last names, it’s important to know who the Amish are and where their values and beliefs come from.
In the 18th century, the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish migrated to Lancaster Pennsylvania, and much of their lifestyle has remained consistent ever since.
The Amish have their own education system, travel via horse and carriage, and generate electricity using solar or wind power.
Modern technological amenities like smartphones and televisions are prohibited, so it’s very unlikely you’ll meet very many Amish couch potatoes.
The Amish are master craftsmen, producing magnificent harvest baskets, and pie carriers that they use to carry their crops and items. No modern technology is needed to produce them and many Amish folks use them as carrier bags.
Since Amish people have such a strong connection with Christianity, one would expect that Amish names are exclusively influenced by their faith. In fact, the most popular names for Amish girls come directly from the bible. However, their last names are mostly inspired by their Swiss-German ancestry.
So, let’s have a look at some of the most popular Amish last names in their community.
Popular Amish Last Names
In Amish history, Sir Nicholas Stoltzfus is said to be the common ancestor of every Amish person who bears the last name.
There’s a Stoltzfus museum and homestead that celebrates history while serving as a relaxing picnic spot for the Amish to enjoy.
As a direct translation from German, Stoltzfus means “proud foot”. This could have many connotations, but the Amish linked it to someone who has wealth.
To this day, this is a very common Amish last name in their community and a historical one too.
No, we’re not speaking about Yoda from Star Wars despite the names sounding extremely similar.
Yoder is not only one of the funny Amish names that Star Wars fans will get a giggle out of, but it’s a very popular one too.
This is a Swiss-origin name that sounds very similar to the name Theodore. That’s because Theodore is an extension of the name Yoder.
There’s a Yoder Road in Pennsylvania, but a more recognizable symbolism in Amish history comes from a figure known as Jacob Yoder.
This was a man who was well-known for his physique, often referred to as Strong Jacob Yoder. He was known in his Amish community for helping those who were physically incapable of doing certain activities.
The definition of Yoder is a gift, whereas the extended version Theodore means gift of God.
Nearly half of the Amish population in Indian bear the last name Schwartz, or Swartz. It’s a Swiss Amish last name that is extremely common for the Amish.
Most Amish people with this last name are descendants of Abraham Schwartz, a bishop of a Mennonite congregation in Pennsylvania.
The direct translation of the name is the color black, but the Amish usually associate the surname with someone who has black or dark hair.
Troyer, also known as Treyer, is our next contender.
It’s the Pennsylvania German form of the German name “Dreier”, and is used to describe someone who lives near a cattle track.
One of the most famous Amish people to hold this surname was John Troyer, a man from Kokomo, Indiana who had quite possibly the largest Amish family of all time. John had 31 children. He had 12 children with his first wife, Catherine, and, following her death, he married a young widow named Caroline (also Catherine’s cousin), and adopted her two children before going on to have 17 of their own children!
Family values are an essential tenet of Amish culture and, as they see their kids as gifts from God, they tend to have very large families. With so many kids and no modern-day technology, it may be difficult for outsiders to imagine how to keep them entertained.
Amish dolls are cherished childhood heirlooms and provide endless entertainment. They’re also individually hand-made, which makes them extra special.
From the outside looking in, Amish last names may be strange, or even funny, but there is great purpose and immensely rich history attached to them.
Every name carries centuries’ worth of stories with it, and each family is proud to bear it.
To bear the name of one’s father is not a tradition that is lost on the Amish and, though pride is an emotion they try very hard not to practice, they bear the weight of their ancestry on strong, capable shoulders.
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