Mennonite Genealogy with Michael Penner

Kleine Gemeinde (now E.M.C.)


The Kleine Gemeinde, now called the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, was formed in the Molotschna Colony by a group of Mennonites dissatisfied with the Mennonite Church in South Russia. Their first elder was Klaas Reimer (1770-1837).


The Kleine Gemeinde began in 1812 and two years later had a membership of 18 or 20. By 2006, the membership had grown to 7,300 members. They changed their name from Kleine Gemeinde to Evangelical Mennonite Church in 1952, and to Evangelical Mennonite Conference in 1959.


I was raised in a predominantly E.M.C. community in southeastern Manitoba and became a member of the E.M.C. in 1987. My paternal side has a history of Kleine Gemeinde involvement since its inception: I am a descendant of its first elder, Klaas Reimer.


Find out more about the Kleine Gemeinde / E.M.C.:



E.M.C. official website

Steinbach Bible College, an E.M.C. sponsored institution.




Kleine Gemeinde entry in Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO)

Kleine Gemeinde history, a good introduction, published in 1962 by P. J. B. Reimer

Klaas Reimer and His Times, published in 1958 by P. J. B. Reimer



Research Aids:

 The most prolific author on the history of the Kleine Gemeinde is the late Delbert Plett (1948-2004). His seven volume Kleine Gemeinde Historical series lays out a detailed history for the period from 1812 to 1882. Plett presents a sympathetic view of the Kleine Gemeinde and is often criticized for harsh treatment of other Mennonite groups. If you are looking for a balanced treatment of the Kleine Gemeinde history, I suggest you look elsewhere. That said, Plett towers above all others in terms of his detailed and thorough treatment of Kleine Gemeinde history. Highly respected Mennonite historian James Urry, professor at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, presents an early critique of Plett in the Journal of Mennonite Studies, vol. 4, 1986, entitled "All that glisters..." Delbert Plett and the Place the Kleine Gemeinde in Russian-Mennonite History.

 Volume One: History and Events, 1982, 166 pages.

 Volume Two: The Golden Years, 1985, 355 pages.

 Volume Three: Storm and Triumph, 1986, 337 pages.

 Volume Four: Profile of the Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde 1850-1875, 1987, 312 pages.

 Volume Five: Pioneers and Pilgrims, 1990, 604 pages.

 Volume Six: Leaders of the Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde in Russia, 1812-1874, 1993, 932 pages.

 Volume Seven: Dynasties of the Kleine Gemeinde in Imperial Russia and North America, 200, 767 pages.

 Preservings, a publication first started by the Hanover Steinbach Historical Society, with Delbert Plett as its first editor. Preservings was initially devoted to the East Reserve in Manitoba, but later had the broader scope of conservative Mennonite people from various regions of the globe. During Plett's tenure as editor, his views on Mennonite history pervade. Back issues are available online.

 Saints and Sinners: The Kleine Gemeinde in Imperial Russia 1812 to 1875, by Delbert Plett, 2009. A synthesis of his earlier writings. Not intended as a balanced history, Plett is up front about this within the preface. Read a review.

 Seeking to be faithful: the story of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, by Harvey Plett, 1996.







Bergmann / Wiens



Landmark, Manitoba

Kleine Gemeinde

Periodicals & Obits


Forstei List of 1908

Ukraine Trip 2007

Related Links