An Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
(2014, Old Order Amish)
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (notably Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana)
Canada (notably Ontario)
|Pennsylvania German, Swiss German, Low Alemannic German, English|
The Amish (//; Pennsylvania Dutch: Amisch, German: Amische) are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships, closely related to but distinct from Mennonite churches, with whom they share Swiss Anabaptist origins. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish.
In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites emigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as "Pennsylvania Dutch," although a dialect of Swiss German is used by Old Order Amish in the Adams County, Indiana area. As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish live in the United States and about 1,500 live in Canada. A 2008 study suggested their numbers have increased to 227,000, and in 2010 a study suggested their population had grown by 10 percent in the past two years to 249,000, with increasing movement to the West. Unlike most Americans who have had a birthrate too low to maintain the population since the early 1970s, the Amish continue to have very large families and benefit from the major decrease of the infant mortality rate in the 20th century. Between 1992 and 2013, the Amish population increased by 120%, while the US population increased by only 23%.
Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage, and once a person has affiliated with the church, he or she may marry only within the faith. Church districts average between 20 and 40 families, and worship services are held every other Sunday in a member's home. The district is led by a bishop and several ministers and deacons. The rules of the church, the Ordnung, must be observed by every member and cover most aspects of day-to-day living, including prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones, and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing. Most Amish do not buy commercial insurance or participate in Social Security. As present-day Anabaptists, Amish church members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service.
Members who do not conform to these community expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated. In addition to excommunication, members may be shunned, a practice that limits social contacts to shame the wayward member into returning to the church. Almost 90 percent of Amish teenagers choose to be baptized and join the church. During adolescence rumspringa ("running around") in some communities, nonconforming behavior that would result in the shunning of an adult who had made the permanent commitment of baptism, may meet with a degree of forbearance. Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world, i.e. American and Canadian society. There is generally a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships. They typically operate their own one-room schools and discontinue formal education at grade eight, at age 13/14. They value rural life, manual labor and humility.
- 1 History
- 2 Religious practices
- 3 Way of life
- 4 Population and distribution
- 5 Ethnicity
- 6 Health
- 7 Amish life in the modern world
- 8 Publishing
- 9 Subgroups of Amish
- 10 Similar groups
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 Bibliography
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
The Amish Mennonite movement descends from the 16th century fellowship known as the Swiss Brethren. The Swiss Brethren were Anabaptists, and are often viewed as having been a part of the Radical Reformation. "Anabaptist" means "one who baptizes again"—a reference to those who had been baptized as infants, but later adopted a belief in "believer's baptism", and then let themselves again be baptized as adults. These Swiss Brethren trace their origins to Felix Manz (c. 1498–1527) and Conrad Grebel (c. 1498–1526), who had broken from reformer Huldrych Zwingli.
The Amish movement takes its name from Jakob Ammann (c. 1656–1730), a Swiss Mennonite leader. Ammann believed Mennonites, the peaceful Anabaptists of the Low Countries and Germany, were drifting away from the teachings of Menno Simons and the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith. Ammann favored stronger church discipline, including a more rigid application of shunning, the social exclusion of excommunicated members. Swiss Anabaptists, who were scattered by persecution throughout the Alsace and the Electorate of the Palatinate, never practiced strict shunning as had some lowland Anabaptists. Ammann insisted upon this practice, even to the point of expecting spouses to refuse to eat with each other, until the banned spouse repented. This type of strict literalism, on this issue, as well as others, brought about a division among the Mennonites of Southern Germany, the Alsace and Switzerland in 1693, and led to withdrawal of those who sided with Ammann.
Swiss Anabaptism developed, from this point, in two parallel streams. Those following Ammann became known as Amish or Amish Mennonite. The others eventually formed the basis of the Swiss Mennonite Conference. Because of this common heritage, Amish and Mennonites retain many similarities. Those who leave the Amish fold tend to join various congregations of Conservative Mennonites.
Amish Mennonites began migrating to Pennsylvania in the 18th century as part of a larger migration from the Palatinate and neighboring areas. This migration was a reaction to religious wars, poverty, and religious persecution on the Continent. The first Amish immigrants went to Berks County, Pennsylvania, but later moved, motivated by land issues and by security concerns tied to the French and Indian War. Many eventually settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other groups later settled in, or spread to Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maine, and Ontario.
The Amish congregations remaining in Europe slowly merged with the Mennonites. The last Amish congregation to merge was the Ixheim Amish congregation, which merged with the neighboring Mennonite Church in 1937. Some Mennonite congregations, including most in Alsace, are descended directly from former Amish congregations.
Most Amish communities that were established in North America did not ultimately retain their Amish identity. The original major split that resulted in the loss of identity occurred in the 1860s. During that decade Dienerversammlungen (ministerial conferences) were held in Wayne County, Ohio, concerning how the Amish should deal with the pressures of modern society. The meetings themselves were a progressive idea; for bishops to assemble to discuss uniformity was an unprecedented notion in the Amish church. By the first several meetings, the more traditionally minded bishops agreed to boycott the conferences. The more progressive members, comprising approximately two thirds of the group, retained the name Amish Mennonite. Many of these eventually united with the Mennonite Church, and other Mennonite denominations, especially in the early 20th century. The more traditionally minded groups became known as the Old Order Amish.
Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut (humility) and Gelassenheit (calmness, composure, placidity), often translated as "submission" or "letting-be". Gelassenheit is perhaps better understood as a reluctance to be forward, to be self-promoting, or to assert oneself. The Amish's willingness to submit to the "Will of Jesus", expressed through group norms, is at odds with the individualism so central to the wider American culture. The Amish anti-individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community. Modern innovations like electricity might spark a competition for status goods, or photographs might cultivate personal vanity.
Way of life
Amish lifestyle is dictated by the Ordnung (German, meaning: order), which differs slightly from community to community, and, within a community, from district to district. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another.
Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. All Amish believe large families are a blessing from God.
Most Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and refer to non-Amish as "English", regardless of ethnicity. Some Amish who migrated to the United States in the 1850s speak Bernese German or a Low Alemannic Alsatian dialect. According to one scholar, "today, almost all Amish are functionally bilingual in Pennsylvania Dutch and English; however, domains of usage are sharply separated. Pennsylvania Dutch dominates in most in-group settings, such as the dinner table and preaching in church services. In contrast, English is used for most reading and writing. English is also the medium of instruction in schools and is used in business transactions and often, out of politeness, in situations involving interactions with non-Amish. Finally, the Amish read prayers and sing in Standard German (which, in Pennsylvania Dutch, is called Hochdeitsch[a]) at church services. The distinctive use of three different languages serves as a powerful conveyor of Amish identity. "Although "the English language is being used in more and more situations," Pennsylvania Dutch is "one of a handful of minority languages in the United States that is neither endangered nor supported by continual arrivals of immigrants."
Amish cuisine is noted for its simplicity and traditional qualities. Food plays an important part in Amish social life and is served at potlucks, weddings, fundraisers, farewells and other events. Many Amish foods are sold at markets including pies, preserves, bread mixes, pickled produce, desserts and canned goods. Many Amish communities have also established restaurants for visitors.
Population and distribution
|Source: 1992, 2013, 2000|
Because the Amish are usually baptized no earlier than 18 and children are not counted in local congregation numbers, it is hard to estimate their numbers. Rough estimates from various studies placed their numbers at 125,000 in 1992; 166,000 in 2000; and 221,000 in 2008. Thus, from 1992 to 2008, population growth among the Amish in North America was 84 percent (3.6 percent per year). During that time they established 184 new settlements and moved into six new states. In 2000, about 165,620 Old Order Amish resided in the United States, of whom 73,609 were church members.[page needed] The Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world, with an average of seven children per family.
In 2010, a few religious bodies, including the Amish, changed the way their adherents were reported to better match the standards of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). When looking at all Amish adherents and not solely Old Order Amish, there were about 241,000 Amish adherents in 28 states in 2010.
There are Old Order communities in 27 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario; Ohio has the largest population (55,000), followed by Pennsylvania (51,000) and Indiana (38,000). The largest Amish settlements are in Holmes County in central Ohio, Lancaster County in south-eastern Pennsylvania, and Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northeast Indiana. The largest concentration of Amish west of the Mississippi River is in Missouri, with other settlements in eastern Iowa and Southeast Minnesota. In addition, there is a population of approximately 10,000 Old Order Amish in West Central Wisconsin. Because of rapid population growth in Amish communities, new settlements are formed to obtain enough farmland. Other reasons for new settlements include locating in isolated areas that support their lifestyle, moving to areas with cultures conducive to their way of life, maintaining proximity to family or other Amish groups, and sometimes to resolve church or leadership conflicts.
The Amish largely share a German or Swiss-German ancestry. They generally use the term "Amish" only for members of their faith community and not as an ethnic designation. Those who choose to affiliate with the church, or young children raised in Amish homes, but too young to yet be church members, are considered to be Amish. Certain Mennonite churches have a high number of people who were formerly from Amish congregations. Although more Amish immigrated to America in the 19th century than during the 18th century, most of today's Amish descend from 18th-century immigrants. The latter tended to emphasize tradition to a greater extent, and were perhaps more likely to maintain a separate Amish identity. There are a number of Amish Mennonite church groups that had never in their history been associated with the Old Order Amish. The former Western Ontario Mennonite Conference (WOMC) was made up almost entirely of former Amish Mennonites who reunited with the Mennonite Church in Canada. Orland Gingerich's book The Amish of Canada devotes the vast majority of its pages not to the Beachy or Old Order Amish, but to congregations in the former WOMC.
Amish populations have higher incidences of particular genetic disorders, including dwarfism, Angelman Syndrome, and various metabolic disorders, as well as an unusual distribution of blood types. Amish represent a collection of different demes or genetically closed communities. Since almost all Amish descend from about 200 18th-century founders, genetic disorders that come out due to inbreeding exist in more isolated districts (an example of the founder effect). Some of these disorders are quite rare, or unique, and are serious enough to increase the mortality rate among Amish children. The Amish are aware of the advantages of exogamy, but for religious reasons only marry within their communties. The majority of Amish accept these as "Gottes Wille" (God's will); they reject use of preventive genetic tests prior to marriage and genetic testing of unborn children to discover genetic disorders. However, Amish are willing to participate in studies of genetic diseases. Their extensive family histories are useful to researchers investigating diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and macular degeneration.
While the Amish are at an increased risk for some genetic disorders, researchers have found their tendency for clean living can lead to better health. Overall cancer rates in the Amish are reduced and tobacco-related cancers in Amish adults are 37 percent and non-tobacco-related cancers are 72 percent of the rate for Ohio adults. The Amish are protected against many types of cancer both through their lifestyle and through genes that may reduce their susceptibility to cancer. Even skin cancer rates are lower for Amish, despite the fact many Amish make their living working outdoors where they are exposed to sunlight. They are typically covered and dressed by wearing wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves which protect their skin.
Treating genetic problems is the mission of Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, which has developed effective treatments for such problems as maple syrup urine disease, a previously fatal disease. The clinic is embraced by most Amish, ending the need for parents to leave the community to receive proper care for their children, an action that might result in shunning. An other clinic is DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children, located in Middlefield, Ohiofor special-needs children with inherited or metabolic disorders. The DDC Clinic provides treatment, research, and educational services to Amish and non-Amish children and their families.
People's Helpers is an Amish-organized network of mental health caregivers who help families dealing with mental illness and recommend professional counselors. Suicide rates for the Amish are about half that of the general population.[b]
The Old Order Amish do not typically carry private commercial health insurance. A handful of American hospitals, starting in the mid-1990s, created special outreach programs to assist the Amish.
Although not forbidden, most Amish do not practice any form of birth control. They are against abortion and also find "artificial insemination, genetics, eugenics, and stem cell research" to be "inconsistent with Amish values and beliefs".
Amish life in the modern world
As time has passed, the Amish have felt pressures from the modern world. Issues such as taxation, education, law and its enforcement, and occasional discrimination and hostility are areas of difficulty.
The Amish way of life in general has increasingly diverged from that of modern society. On occasion, this has resulted in sporadic discrimination and hostility from their neighbors, such as throwing of stones or other objects at Amish horse-drawn carriages on the roads.
The Amish do not usually educate their children past the eighth grade, believing that the basic knowledge offered up to that point is sufficient to prepare one for the Amish lifestyle. Almost no Amish go to high school and college. In many communities, the Amish operate their own schools, which are typically one-room schoolhouses with teachers (usually young unmarried women) from the Amish community. On May 19, 1972, Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller of the Old Order Amish, and Adin Yutzy of the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were each fined $5 for refusing to send their children, aged 14 and 15, to high school. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this, finding the benefits of universal education were not sufficient justification to overcome scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The Amish are subject to sales and property taxes. As they seldom own motor vehicles, they rarely have occasion to pay motor vehicle registration fees or spend money in the purchase of fuel for vehicles. Under their beliefs and traditions, generally the Amish do not agree with the idea of Social Security benefits and have a religious objection to insurance. On this basis, the United States Internal Revenue Service agreed in 1961 that they did not need to pay Social Security-related taxes. In 1965, this policy was codified into law. Self-employed individuals in certain sects do not pay into nor receive benefits from the United States Social Security system. This exemption applies to a religious group that is conscientiously opposed to accepting benefits of any private or public insurance, provides a reasonable level of living for its dependent members and has existed continuously since December 31, 1950. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 clarified that Amish employers are not exempt, but only those Amish individuals who are self-employed.
In 1964 Pathway Publishers was founded by two Amish farmers to print more print material about the Amish and Anabaptists in gerneral. It located in Lagrange, Indiana, and Aylmer, Ontario. Pathway has become the major publisher of Amish material. Pathway publishes a number of school text books, general reading books, and periodicals. There are also a number of private enterprises who publish everything from general reading to reprints of older literature that has been considered of great value to Amish families. Some Amish read the Pennsylvania German newspaper Hiwwe wie Driwwe, and some of them even contribute dialect texts.
Subgroups of Amish
Over the years, the Amish churches have divided many times over doctrinal disputes. The largest group, the "Old Order" Amish, a conservative faction that separated from other Amish in the 1860s, are those that have most emphasized traditional practices and beliefs. There are as many as eight major subgroups of Amish with most belonging, in ascending order of conservatism, to the Beachy Amish, New Order, Old Order, Andy Weaver and Swartzentruber Amish groups.
Conflicts between subgroups of Amish have resulted in instances of "beard cutting" attacks on members of the Amish community. Due to the cloistered nature of Amish lifestyle, they are often reluctant to bring complaints to local police who describe the attacks as "very rare". In September 2012, a group of 16 Amish men and women from Bergholz, Ohio, were convicted on Federal hate-crime and conspiracy charges, including Samuel Mullet Sr., who did not participate in the five hair- and beard-cutting attacks but was tried as the leader of the campaign. Initially Samuel Mullet Sr. was sentenced to 15 years in prison on February 8, 2013, with fifteen others receiving lighter sentences ranging from one year and one day to seven years; after these convictions were overturned in August 2014 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, these sentences were reduced in March 2015.
Old Order Mennonites, conservative "Russian" Mennonites, Hutterites, Old German Baptist Brethren, Old Order German Baptist Brethren and Old Brethren German Baptists are distinct from the Amish. They all emigrated from Europe, but they arrived with different German dialects, separate cultures, and diverse religious traditions. Particularly, the Hutterites live communally and are generally accepting of modern technology. Noah Hoover Mennonites are so similar in outward aspects to the Old Order Amish (dress, beards, horse and buggy, extreme restrictions on modern technology, Pennsylvania German language), that they are often perceived as Amish and even called Amish.
Plain Quakers are similar in manner and lifestyle, including their attitudes toward war, but are unrelated to the Amish. Early Quakers were influenced, to some degree, by the Anabaptists, and in turn influenced the Amish in colonial Pennsylvania. Most modern Quakers have since abandoned their traditional dress.
In popular culture
- Amish furniture
- Amish music
- Barn raising
- Bank of Bird-in-Hand
- Christian views on poverty and wealth
- Fancy Dutch
- Martyrs Mirror
- Northkill Amish Settlement
- Plain people
- Simple living
- The Amish (film) – PBS documentary
- West Nickel Mines School shooting
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Regional hospitals and midwives routinely send whole-blood filter paper neonatal screens for tandem mass spectrometry and other modern analytical methods to detect 14 of the metabolic disorders found in these populations…
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Dobberteen is one of a growing number of people in St. Joseph County who believes that the Amish shouldn't have a say in what happens with a state road. 'Some people are saying, "Well jeeze, you know the Amish people don't pay taxes for that, why are we filling them in" what do you think about that? We pay our taxes,' said Dobberteen. Roads are paid for largely with gas tax and vehicle registration fees, which the Amish have no reason to pay.[dead link]
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On appeal, the Supreme Court noted that the exemption provided by 26 U.S.C. 1402(g) is available only to self-employed individuals and does not apply to employers or employees. As to the constitutional claim, the court held that, since accommodating the Amish beliefs under the circumstances would unduly interfere with the fulfillment of the overriding governmental interest in assuring mandatory and continuous participation in and contribution to the Social Security system, the limitation on religious liberty involved here was justified. Consequently, in reversing the district court, the Supreme Court held that, unless Congress provides otherwise, the tax imposed on employers to support the Social Security system must be uniformly applicable to all.
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- Smith, C Henry; Krahn, Cornelius (1981), Smith's Story of the Mennonites (revised & expanded ed.), Newton, Kansas: Faith and Life Press, pp. 249–356, ISBN 0-87303-069-9 .
- Die Botschaft (Lancaster, PA 17608-0807; 717-392-1321). Newspaper for Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites; only Amish may place advertisements.
- The Budget (P.O. Box 249, Sugarcreek, OH 44681; 330-852-4634). Weekly newspaper by and for Amish.
- The Diary (P.O. Box 98, Gordonville, PA 17529). Monthly newsmagazine by and for Old Order Amish.
- Beachy, Leroy. Unser Leit ... The Story of the Amish. Millersburg, OH: Goodly Heritage Books, 2011. 996 pp. ISBN 0-9832397-0-3
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- Garret, Ruth Irene. Crossing Over: One Woman's Escape from Amish Life, Thomas More, 1998.
- Gehman Richard. "Plainest of Pennsylvania's Plain People Amish Folk" National Geographic August 1965, pp. 226–253 (30 pictures).
- Good, Merle and Phyllis. 20 Most Asked Questions about the Amish and Mennonites. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1979.
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- Igou, Brad. The Amish in Their Own Words: Amish Writings from 25 Years of Family Life, Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1999. 400 pp.
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- Kraybill, Donald B. Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. 224 pp.
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- Schachtman, Tom. Rumspringa: To be or not to be Amish. New York: North Point Press, 2006. 286 pp.
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- Scott, Stephen. The Amish Wedding and Other Special Occasions of the Old Order Communities. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1988. 128pp.
- Stevick, Richard A. Growing Up Amish: the Teenage Years. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. 320 pp.
- Umble, Diane Zimmerman. Holding the Line: the Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. 192 pp.
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- Yoder, Harvey. The Happening: Nickel Mines School Tragedy. Berlin, OH: TGS International, 2007. 173 pp.
- Umble, John (1939). "The Old Order Amish, Their Hymns and Hymn Tunes". The Journal of American Folklore 52 (203): 82–95. doi:10.2307/536013. JSTOR 536013.
- Jackson, G. P. (1945). "The Strange Music of the Old Order Amish". The Musical Quarterly (3): 275–288. doi:10.1093/mq/XXXI.3.275.
- Thompson, Chad L. (1996). "Yodeling of the Indiana Swiss Amish". Anthropological Linguistics 38 (3): 495–520. JSTOR 30028600.
- Buck, Roy C. (1978). "Boundary maintenance revisited: tourist experience in an Old Order Amish community". Rural Sociology 43 (2): 221–34. ISSN 0036-0112.
- Fagance, Michael (2001). "Tourism as a Protective Barrier for Old Order Amish and Mennonite Communities". In Smith, Valene L.; Brent, Maryann. Hosts & Guests Revisited: Tourism Issues of the 21st Century. Putnam Valley, NY: Cognizant Communication Corporation. pp. 201–9. ISBN 1-882345-29-0.
- Chhabra, D. (2009). "How They See Us: Perceived Effects of Tourist Gaze on the Old Order Amish". Journal of Travel Research 49: 93–36. doi:10.1177/0047287509336475.
- Buck, R. C. (1977). "The ubiquitous tourist brochure explorations in its intended and unintended use". Annals of Tourism Research 4 (4): 195–207. doi:10.1016/0160-7383(77)90038-X.
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- Pearce, P. L.; Moscardo, G. M. (1986). "The Concept of Authenticity in Tourist Experiences". Journal of Sociology 22: 121. doi:10.1177/144078338602200107.
- Boynton, L. L. (1986). "The effect of tourism on Amish quilting design". Annals of Tourism Research 13 (3): 451–465. doi:10.1016/0160-7383(86)90030-7.
- Olshan, Marc A. (1991). "The Opening of Amish Society: Cottage Industry as Trojan Horse". Human Organization 50 (4): 378–84.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amish.|
- "Amish" in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
- "Amish America"
- "Amish Studies" at Young Center for Anabaptist & Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College
- "The Amish" from the Missouri Folklore Society