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Manitoba Mennonite Homestead Files Project

The Plett Foundation offers a grants program that supports research and projects relevant to its mission. Successful applications focus on some aspect of the history of the Dutch-Russian Mennonites who came to Manitoba in the 1870s.

In 2015 the Plett Foundation awarded the Mennonite Heritage Archives and WestMenn Committee of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society $6,355. The grant supported the digitization of the Manitoba homestead files related to the lands inside the Mennonite East and West Reserves. 

 

As the Mennonites of the 1870s began arriving on their land in Manitoba (1874-1880), each head of the household applied for a homestead. These homestead records provide an unparalleled window into the early years of Mennonite settlement, as they contain application forms, correspondence, naturalization papers, records of people, building, animals, implements, out-buildings, land broken, crops harvested, etc. 

 

Also included in this project is the digitizing of documents produced internally by Mennonites, including a registry of members and census materials, among other records. 

 

Both the government-and Mennonite-produced sets of records are rare; the originals of the homestead files have been destroyed, leaving only microfilm copies available and the originals of the Mennonite-produced records migrated with the Old Colony Church to Mexico in 1922. 

 

This digitization project, facilitated by the Mennonite Heritage Archives, made these rare records accessible to the public and ensured the long-term preservation of rich historical resources. 

 

The finished files are available at the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg, Manitoba and at the Winkler Heritage Museum in Winkler, Manitoba through Bruce Wiebe and the WestMenn Committee of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.