Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Identity area



Authorized form of name

Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Parallel form(s) of name

Other form(s) of name


  • Community
  • Religious
  • University

Contact area


Laureen Harder-Gissing Primary contact




Street address

Conrad Grebel University College 140 Westmount Road North





Country name


Postal code

N2L 3G6


519-885-0220 x24238




Description area


The Mennonite Archives of Ontario has its origins in the research undertaken by Lewis J. Burkholder in the early 1930s for his book "A brief history of the Mennonites in Ontario." The rare documents he gathered were placed in a "Mennonite box" at the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.

In 1941, the box was returned to Mennonite hands and placed in a dedicated archival room at a Mennonite-owned bookstore in Kitchener. In 1958, the collection was moved to Rockway Mennonite School, and in 1965 it found its current home under the administration of Conrad Grebel University College. Also in 1965, the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario was formed by interested members of the Mennonite community. Among its purposes is to be an advocate of Archives programs and services. The Archives underwent a dramatic expansion in 2014, doubling the size of its facilities and tripling its storage capacity.

Geographical and cultural context

Mennonites and Amish originated as related but distinct religious identities in various parts of Europe during the 16th century. The practice of adult baptism , the refusal to swear oaths, and an adherence to a peace stance are common identifiers.

Mennonites first arrived in Canada in the late 18th century, settling primarily in the Niagara, Markham and Waterloo regions. Mennonite arriving in Waterloo were the first settlers of European origin in that region. These early settlers, commonly called "Swiss Mennonites," came largely from Pennsylvania. The 1820s saw Amish immigration directly from Europe, mainly to Wilmot Township.

Due to the autonomous nature of Mennonite congregational life, many divisions have occurred in Ontario Amish and Mennonite communities. The larger distinctive groups in existence today are Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonite Church, and the Old Colony Mennonite Church of Ontario. Some groups, such as the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (now the Evangelical Missionary Church) no longer identify as Mennonite.

Mennonites of Dutch/Prussian descent immigrated to Ontario from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1940s. Another group of so-called "Russian Mennonites" began arriving in Ontario in the 1950s via Manitoba (1870s) and Mexico (1920s). These groups settled mainly in the Niagara, Waterloo, Leamington and Aylmer areas.

Many Mennonites in Ontario have since gravitated to urban areas and are growing increasingly diverse in ethnic and cultural backgrounds, while other groups continue to see rural life as central to their identity. Mennonite and Amish congregations counted approximately 40,169 members (baptized adults) in 2012 (source: Mennonites in Ontario / Marlene Epp. - Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, 2012).

Mandates/Sources of authority

The Mennonite Archives of Ontario collects and preserves archival materials that reflect the religious, cultural and organizational life of Mennonite, Amish and other related groups in Ontario and makes them available to anyone with a legitimate research interest. The Archives strives to be community-oriented, making Mennonite history and culture accessible to all, while also offering the benefits of doing research within a university setting. The Archives is a member institution of the Archives Association of Ontario.

Administrative structure

The Archives is administered by Conrad Grebel University College, a Mennonite liberal arts college affiliated with the University of Waterloo. The Archives is located within the College's Milton Good Library and overseen by an ALA-accredited administrator, the Archivist-Librarian. The Archivist-Librarian reports to the College's Academic Dean. The Archives' financial resources are solicited from the community by, and provided through, the College.

Records management and collecting policies

The Archives policies can be found on our website.


The 1976 building that houses the College's academic program, the Library and Archives underwent a dramatic renovation and expansion in 2014.. Archives' public and administrative spaces doubled in size; archival storage capacity tripled to approximately 1 368 linear meters. The storage facility was equipped with the latest storage, climate control, and fire suppressing technologies. The building is now accessible and houses an archival reading room and gallery.


The Archives serves as the official repository for Conrad Grebel University College, Mennonite Central Committee (Ontario), Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Christian Peacemaker Teams (Canada) and Conscience Canada. Other Mennonite institutions, organizations, congregations and individuals also have collections here.

These collections come in many forms including letters, diaries, meeting minutes, photographs, films, audiotapes, artwork and clothing. Our growing collection currently consists of 780 linear meters of personal, congregational, and institutional records in a multitude of formats.

The Archives also houses the Mennonite Historical Library (catalogued through the Milton Good Library), which is the largest Canadian collection of Anabaptist/Mennonite published materials, dating from the 16th century to the present.

Finding aids, guides and publications

The Archives' website constitutes the primary finding aid. A guide to peace research at the Archives is located at

Access area

Opening times

Regular hours:
8:30-4:30, Monday to Friday
Closed statutory holidays and between Christmas and New Year's Day. Making an appointment in advance is highly recommended; not all staff are able to assist with archival reference questions or retrieve archival materials.

Access conditions and requirements

Patrons under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
We reserve the right to limit access to archival materials for legal, privacy or preservation reasons. Our complete access policy can be found on our website.


The Archives is accessible by elevator, and has an accessible washroom.
A digital microform reader, available in the Archives Reading Room, has magnification capabilities.

Services area

Research services

Reference services are available from the archivist; an appointment is highly recommended.
Remote queries will be answered as staff time allows. Direct your questions or comments to the archivist. Generally, questions that take more than 15 minutes to check will not be searched.

Reproduction services

A photocopier, scanners and microform scanning equipment are available on site. Please check with the archivist before copying any materials.
Photocopying charges are payable by cash or WatCard.

Public areas

The Lorraine Roth Reading Room serves Archives patrons.. Public access computers with Internet connection are provided. Lunch service is available at the Conrad Grebel University College dining hall. The Archives Landing is a gallery that hosts temporary exhibits featuring materials from the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion




Maintenance notes

Access points

Access Points

  • Clipboard

Primary contact

Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, Ontario
CA N2L 3G6