The project began back in 1969 and the library opened the following year. This, of course, was my favorite part of the site. This library is strictly for research: they do not loan materials.
A volunteer librarian is on-hand to assist patrons with the extensive obituary card file and family histories. In fact, they have over 72,600 entries collected from five Mennonite periodicals published between 1864 and the present. They have a collection of histories penned by a number of Mennonite families, as well as other books by Mennonite authors.
The site has archives of numerous Mennonite periodicals, listing obituaries and other data. The Society publishes its own quarterly, "The Illinois Mennonite Heritage Quarterly."
The archives contains a Froschauer Bible printed in the 1560's. Also among its holdings are two 1780 translations of the 1685 Dutch Martyr's Mirror and numerous religious books from the 1800's.
A genealogist's dream is the collection of unpublished papers, letters, and photographs. The library also includes more generic research materials such as county histories for states with large Mennonite populations. Some publications are for sale.
This is an up-to-date library with indices to ship passenger lists, census and marriage records on microfilm and microfiche. They have additional research material on CD. Family Tree Maker software is available for patrons to use.
You could bring the whole family along and they would find plenty to enjoy while you're in the library. The Mennonite barn is a historic Mennonite-built barn. It was originally constructed in Delavan, Illinois, on Christian Sutter's property more than a century ago. Over the years, it has hosted a national Amish Mennonite Diener Versammlungen (minister's conference) along with numerous Amish Mennonite worship services.
In 1989, the barn was deconstructed and raised again at the Heritage Center site. Since then, it has hosted a national Amish Mennonite historical conference. It continues to house livestock husbandry artifacts. Volunteers are happy to give tours and explain the history and use of the farm implements inside.
Nearby is the Reeser Arboretum. This prairie was a gift from the family of Amish Mennonite preacher Christian Reeser. It is an example of native grasses, flowers, and trees.
The Grossdawdy Haus, or grandfather house, was also a gift. It was built in 1867 by Christian & Magdalena Schertz. It represents the history of the Grossdawdy Haus . In 1991, it was moved from its original location near Roanoke, Illinois.
The library building also houses the main museum. It features church furnishings, distinctive clothing worn by some congregations, and traditional quilts.
But the library was my favorite and I will certainly be back to use their research services, even though I am not Mennonite. Their resources are so varied I spent a couple of productive hours using their research resources on my first visit.
The site is easy to find. It is only ten miles northeast of Peoria, Illinois, on Highway 116. The address for the Illinois Mennonite Heritage Center is located at 675 State Route 116, Metamora, IL 61548-7732. On my first visit, I noticed a number of visitors from out -of-state. Admission is free and there is plenty of parking.
The Center is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It is also open from 1:30 to 4:30 pm on Sunday, except holidays. Admission is free, but donations are much-appreciated.
For more information, visit their website at http://imhgs.org. You'll find visitor information along with links to more information and their forum at Ancestry.com. You will also find information for requesting that a librarian conduct research for you.
If you're looking for a unique research trip, this just might be it! It is a charming site housing a treasure of research tools.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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