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Brethren Gathering

Brethren Genealogy Mailing List

The Brethren History & Genealogy Mailing List (listserv) began May 9, 1996, and one year later moved to its present address at It has grown from a few dozen friends to more than 600 subscribers located throughout the US, with others in Canada, Europe and other foreign countries, but strives to maintain the same friendly, helpful “personality.”

The term “Brethren” as used on this List alludes to all people and places that now, or in the past, have any type of connection to the denominations that descend from the movement started by the Alexander Mack group during 1708 at Schwarzenau, Germany. Among others, names associated with this group include Neue Täufer, Tunker, Dunkard, German Baptist, The Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, Dunkard Brethren, Grace Brethren, and Old German Baptist Brethren. Three approaches, characterized as progressive, conservative, and old order, resulted in a major division in the 1880s. These terms have sometimes been applied informally to specific Brethren denominations.

This list does not include information and discussion of other groups such as the United Brethren or Brethren in Christ. Membership is open to all who share these interests, but potential subscribers should remember that this List is for the discussion of Brethren History and Genealogy. Care should be taken not to initiate or engage in discussions on issues and topics that are unrelated to or would detract from such research.

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Because this list is for the discussion of Brethren history and genealogy, members are encouraged to ask questions and raise issues within that framework. Thus, the standard kinds of genealogical questions regarding ancestors who are known or thought to have been Brethren are welcomed. So are questions regarding migrations during various historical periods; extinct church congregations and their related cemeteries; major societal changes which might have affected Brethren thought and practice, etc.

In contrast, although questions and answers regarding past customs and practices among the Brethren groups are welcome, this list is not a place for the advocacy, criticism or comparison of religious doctrines. Members are expected to refrain from the expression of personal opinions regarding social customs and the lifestyles of others.

Further, members are expected to be careful when including obituaries, that they are in response to a request for genealogical information, or that the individual was a prominent member of the Brethren community. The List is not the place to post obituaries of recently-deceased individuals.

Members are encouraged to freely post as many Brethren-related queries as they wish. If unsure whether they are Brethren-related or not, go ahead and submit them. Someone else may be able to provide an answer or information that will clarify the uncertainty. Brethren family and church-related histories are also welcome.

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Protocols & Procedures

How This List Works

As part of the RootsWeb network, the Brethren List sends all of its messages in “plain text” only, in addition to refusing to accept attachments. A message sent to the Brethren List that is written in HTML code, or which contains graphics or other non-standard “plain text,” is likely to “bounce” — be rejected and returned to the author.

The Brethren List is set to automatically direct all readers’ reply messages to a return address of But sometimes that fails, particularly when using the “Reply Button” on the screen. Watch the “Send To” and “Reply To” lines in the header of outgoing messages to be sure they read

Sending “carbon-copy” or “forwarded” messages to the Brethren List is strongly discouraged and should be done with extreme moderation. Further, because attached files cannot be sent over the list, they must be sent to a correspondent's private e-mail address (Mail containing attachments is rejected by RootsWeb).

If for whatever reason a reply to a Brethren List message should be sent to a private e-mail address, the “Send To” line in the header of the reply should be changed before it is sent.

Thoughtful List Practices

1. As long as the topic is related to Brethren genealogy or history, members are encouraged to answer on this list rather than by private e-mail. In that way others with similar questions or knowledge may become interested and join in the discussion.

2. Please remember to update the subject lines of messages. Many people scan only the subject lines for topics that catch their interest. The subject line is the statement in the header of the message that tells what the message is about.

3. Edit replies judiciously to reduce the amount that is being quoted from a previous message. It is often helpful to see a sentence or two — or even an entire paragraph, if pertinent — but others shouldn’t have to re-read the entire original message before they get to the reply! Likewise, snip off the taglines at the bottom of the previous message.

4. While the Brethren virtues of “caring and sharing” are strongly encouraged, it is preferred to refrain from sending a “Thank You” message to the list unless it contains new material that is being shared. A simple thanks for what has been received should be sent privately.

5. Edit the signature line! The words and phrases following a signature sometimes contain more text than the message itself! A general rule of thumb is to have no more than three lines following your name, and to include only information relevant to the list you are addressing.

A Few Forbidden Things

Depending on the nature of the incident, individuals who engage in any of the following actions will receive a warning from the Brethren List administrator, and may, in severe or repeated instances, have their posting privileges revoked.

1. Disrespect. Most persons interested in genealogy are very helpful and caring people; however, for the occasional “contrarian” the following is included: quarreling, soap-boxing, foul language, flaming, etc. will not be tolerated.

2. Social and/or political advocacy. While it is rare that an entire message is posted that is this far “off-topic,” people sometimes forget that their signature lines may contain statements of such a nature. Remember the purpose and intent of this list does not include such controversy-inducing topics.

3. Violations of RootsWeb's Acceptable Use Policy. An important point in the AUP is this: “Content submitted for the purpose of commercial use, advertising or fee for service is prohibited.” You can find that sentence in its context by going to RootsWeb's Acceptable Use Policy and scrolling down to the paragraph which begins with the sub-head “User-Provided Content.”

This kind of violation most generally occurs when a subscriber who is author of a book refers to his/her own publication in a message, providing the details for ordering copies. It is permissible to cite one’s own work in answering a question someone else has posted, including mention of one’s authorship, but no mention of price or publisher should be made. A simple “contact me privately for further details if interested” is acceptable.

4. Posting general notices and warnings. The world of e-mail is filled with many kinds of general messages and warnings. Such messages are not appropriate here no matter how well-intentioned. This is especially true for virus warnings: most of those received are hoaxes, the moderators are in nearly-continuous contact with other List administrators and RootsWeb staff, and they will make announcements to the List if they feel there is urgent need to notify everyone.

Should anyone personally feel concerned by any message received from the Brethren List, he/she is welcome to send a private message to any of the moderators, explaining the situation, and requesting assistance.

Joining the List — Subscription

Important Note: As is true with most mailing lists, the subscribe/unsubscribe commands are sent to one address and regular daily posts are sent to another address. If you subscribed using the ‘digest’ mode, you cannot unsubscribe using the ‘regular’ address and vice-versa

To Subscribe or Unsubscribe, please visit RootsWeb’s Brethren Mailing List web page established for that purpose. There is no membership fee of any kind.

Subscription Problems

The RootsWeb list server is set up to automatically drop any subscription from its list if messages sent to the subscribing address start bouncing (can not be delivered) for any reason. Examples include: the mailbox is full and won't take any more messages, or the Internet Service Provider has slightly changed the e-mail address or has had an equipment failure, or any number of other reasons.

If this happens, it is not a reflection on the member in any way. It is just the way the RootsWeb server works. Simply sign back on by the usual subscription process. In a few cases, it may be necessary — at least temporarily — to subscribe with a different e-mail address, until the problems can be worked out.

In extreme situations, members may contact the Moderator at to explain the problem and specify what help is needed.

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As much as possible, this List is governed with a very gentle hand, and is open for suggestion at all times. Suggestions should be sent as e-mail to: and not directly to the List. If such suggestions seem to have merit they may be put into use.

Most of the time, subscribers will be unaware of the Moderator's presence, but be assured that every message is read and, when necessary, acted upon. In keeping with the Brethren way, however, these cases are generally taken care of via private messages

If for any reason you need assistance with the daily operation of this list, please first send a message to If after a few hours you have received no response to your message, you may contact one of the group's co-moderators:

Larry E. Heisey
Gale E. Honeyman
Ron McAdams
James Shuman

“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”
Proverbs 22:28