What’s in a name? Among the Amish there are a core group of surnames that make up the foundation of the church: Yoder, Mast, Stutzman, Stoltzfus Hershberger, and various others. The commonality of surnames is not surprising given the insular nature of the Amish church. None of the "lists" in this posting are meant to be all inclusive, because I would inevitably leave some out, it just makes for interesting discussion.
Then there’s a second tier of very common Amish names: Eicher, Slabaugh, Coblentz, Chupp, Troyer, Wengerd, Raber, Petersheim and Miller that seem to be fairly universal across a broad spectrum of settlements.
Not too long ago I met an Amish man by the last name of Martin , an unusual surname among the Amish, but as common among the Mennonites as Yoder is among the Amish. Turns out he was a rare Amish person that left the Mennonite church to join the Amish.
Some names are common mainly in certain areas: Glicks, Kings, and Lapps reign supreme in Pennsylvania, while Bontrager and Lehman reign supreme in northern Indiana.
But then there are some other surname that are more rare among the Amish, probably because of recent conversions or are hyper-local to certain areas. Stuery is an Amish surname that I run into frequently in southern Michigan, while Swarey is a name I see in some Amish settlements in Pennsylvania. Schwartz is quite common among the Swiss Amish of Berne, Indiana and Webster County, Missouri. Lengacher is a common Amish last name in the Grabill-New Haven area of Indiana, but I hardly ever see it elsewhere. I spoke with a Jason Wanner in Conneautville, Pennsylvania recently who said there are only a handful of families with his last name. His great grandfather had joined the church from the Old Order Mennonites.
In Holmes County, Ohio, Bowman’s Harness show stands-out among Amish businesses as a bit of an anomaly. The name Bowman isn’t one you hear all that much among the Amish. The harness shop’s owner explained to me that his grandfather’s family, a similar trajectory as the Wanners, joined the Amish from the German Baptist faith. Duff is a last name found in Oakland, Maryland's Amish settlement from a convert.
A year or two before I really became interested in Amish culture, there was a feature in People Magazine. In 1987, People Magazine ran an article about the abundance of Millers and Yoders in the community and how all the similar names gave the local mailman fits. The article reads:
"This isn't like a regular office you go into and memorize names," said postmaster Terry Hagedorn, with some understatement. "It's trickier."
There are 17 Mary Millers in the Kalona area. Five Marlin Millers. Seven Barbara Millers. Twelve Mary Yoders. Five John Yoders. There is an L. David Yoder and a David L. Yoder. There are Alta and Alva Yoders and Vera, Verba and Verda Millers. There was a Miller Yoder, but he moved away.
Some Amish last names are more common in some communities than others, here’s a quick primer. This list is by no means exhaustive, just gives you a sample:
BERNE, INDIANA: The last name Schwartz is very, very common here and in other Swiss Amish communities like Marshfield, Missouri, but not that common else where.\
LANCASTER COUNTY, INDIANA: Lapp and King are two very common Amish last names here, but they aren’t as common in other areas (unless they are daughter communities of Lancaster, i.e. Wayne County, Indiana). In fact, I never run into the name Lapp, for instance, in sprawling Holmes County, Ohio’s Amish community.
GRABILL, INDIANA: Really interesting last name: Lengacher. It’s interesting because you really, really don’t see this last name anywhere but Grabill, Indiana’s Amish community, but you do see it absolutely everywhere here.
DAVIESS COUNTY, INDIANA - Stoll. The last name Stoll is quite common in Daviess County, Indiana. But the Stolls have moved a lot over the years, so you do run into Stolls in far flung places like Aylmer, Ontario and Unity, Maine, but the Stoll roots are in Daviess County.
HOLMES COUNTY, OHIO: There are plenty of other names in Holmes County, Ohio but a couple that stands out are Keim and Kauffman, you see these names here a lot, and don’t necessarily find it much in other large Amish communities.
“Universal Amish Last Names”: Yoder, Miller, and Bontrager are found pretty much everywhere. There are others: Stutzman, Hostetler, and Coblentz are pretty universal
What are some other common Amish last names that I've left out? And what are some less common ones you've run across?