Johns Family Research Group - German Johns Ancestry

Johns Family Research Group - German Johns Ancestry


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German Johns Ancestry

Origin of German Johns in America

The Dunkers of Germany (1)

The information that follows is derived from Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia™ and pertains to the location and history of the Palatinate area of Germany and to the early formation of the Church of The Brethren also known as the Dunkers or Dunkards and sometimes the German Baptist Church. It appears that in this area there lived people who bore the surname John or Johns or perhaps the names were used interchangeably. The John or Johns names may have been derived from the German Jahn or Johan. I am not sure whether the name spelled John or Johns actually existed in Germany or whether the German version was anglicized when the Dunkers immigrated to America in 1719-1729. It is also interesting to note that in early times ca. AD 600 this part of Germany was occupied by barbaric tribes known as the Angles and the Saxons who invaded the British Isles and conquered the Celts who had lived there from some prehistoric time. This intermixture of Germanic tribes resulted in the formation of the English Language and the basis for present day people of English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish descent being termed Anglo-Saxon.

Church of the Brethren

Church of the Brethren, one of the historic "peace churches" in the United States. It is of German Pietistic-Anabaptist background and shares many Baptist characteristics. Members of the church are known also as Dunkers or Dunkards (from German tunken, "to dip"), because of their baptismal ceremony. During this ceremony the believer is dipped three times, face forward, once at the mention of each name of the Trinity, according to the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19.


The Dunker movement was an offshoot of the German Pietist movement of the late 17th century. The first Dunker congregation was organized at Schwartzenau, Germany (now in North Rhine-Westphalia), in 1708. Persecuted by the state church in Germany, the Dunkers immigrated to America from 1719 to 1729. Their first church in what is now the United States was organized in 1723. The Dunkers are most numerous in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and North Dakota. Many of them are farmers. In recent years the denomination has expanded to include many prosperous city churches. The denomination supports a number of colleges, notably Ashland College, at Ashland, Ohio.

Doctrine and Organization

In doctrine the Brethren adhere to the New Testament and accept no creeds. They hold the Bible to be the inspired and infallible word of God and accept the New Testament as their only rule of faith and practice. They believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and in future rewards and punishments. Faith, repentance, and baptism are held to be the conditions of salvation. In practice the Brethren closely follow the teachings of the Bible and observe the primitive simplicity of the Apostolic church.

At the basis of their belief is a commitment to peace. They enjoin plainness of dress, settle difficulties among themselves without civil law, affirm instead of taking oath, oppose secret societies, and advise against the use of tobacco and the manufacture, sale, and use of intoxicants. As early as 1782 the Brethren prohibited slavery and vehemently denounced the slave trade. A traditional ban on participation in politics has been relaxed somewhat in recent years.

The Eucharist is celebrated in the evening, after the serving of a simple common meal. Before this meal the ordinance of foot washing is observed, and afterward the members extend the right hand of fellowship and exchange the kiss of peace. Bishops (or elders), ministers, and deacons are elected by the congregations. Congregations are organized into state districts; both units elect delegates to the annual conference.

Later History

In 1881-83 the church lost about 8000 members by a division in its ranks; the split resulted in the secession of two parties, known as the Old-Order and Progressive Brethren. The former group objected to the attention the church was paying to educational, missionary, and Sunday school work, and the latter insisted that the church was too conservative. After several years of contention these parties withdrew from the parent church and formed separate organizations. The parent church is known today as the Church of the Brethren (Conservative Dunkers) and according to recent statistics has 172,115 members in 1061 congregations.

The Progressive Brethren divided again in 1939. According to the latest available statistics, one group, the Brethren Church (Ashland, Ohio) has 15,082 members in 122 churches; the second group, the National Fellowship of Brethren churches, has 34,000 members in more than 275 churches. Another Dunker sect is composed of the Seventh Day Baptists (German).

Palatinate (2)

Palatinate, in German history, name of two imperial regions not related geographically, the western Rhenish, or Lower Palatinate (German Rheinpfalz or Niederpfalz) and the Upper Palatinate (German Oberpfalz) of northeastern Bavaria. The Rhenish Palatinate, which historically comprised territory for the most part west of the Rhine River in central Germany, was in 1947 incorporated into the State of Rhineland-Palatinate in West Germany (now part of Rhine-Pflaz, Germany). The Rhenish Palatinate region is bordered to the south-west by the land area of Alsace-Lorraine, France. The Upper, or Bavarian Palatinate is the region west of Bohemia and north of the Danube River. The name Palatinate is derived from the ancient and medieval office of Count Palatine, a nobleman who held judicial powers and had charge of the various imperial castles where Holy Roman emperors stayed while traveling; hence the term became associated with the districts where the counts palatine were sovereign representatives.

North Rhine

North Rhine-Westphalia, state in west central Germany, bounded on the north and northeast by the state of Lower Saxony, on the east by the state of Hesse, on the south by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, and on the west by Belgium and the Netherlands. Düsseldorf is the capital. Other important cities are Essen, Cologne, Dortmund, and Bonn, the German administrative capital. The northwestern part of the state is a lowland, which rises in the northeast into the hilly Teutoburger Wald. The eastern, southern, and western parts are rolling uplands, which in the west reach an elevation of 800 m (2625 ft). The uplands are cut by a series of valleys-namely, the Rhine, Ruhr, and Möhne. The Rhine, Ems, and Weser rivers, the main rivers in the state, flow in a southern to northern direction. Area, 34,069 sq. km. (13,154 sq. mi.); population (1990 estimate) 17,349,700.

(1) Comments by Robert R. Johns based on additional readings from the "Encarta", 24-Oct-1997.
(2) "Palatinate" , Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. (c) Funk & Wagnalles Corporation. All rights reserved.



Released 12.16.1999
Revised 01.02.2007 09:30 PDT Version 3.3.
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