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Mennonite Heritage Centre and MCC Manitoba help Mennonite immigrants


Tina Fehr-Kehler (behind desk) with Maria Bergen (of Oasis Colony, Chihuahua, Mexico) and her infant daughter

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July 20, 2009
-Conrad Stoesz

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Mennonite Heritage Centre is collaborating with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba office in Winkler to assist Mennonites arriving from Latin and South America.

Crossing borders can be challenging for newcomers, but a reversal to Canadian citizenship regulations in spring 2009 offers a new advantage for those who can prove their parents were born in Canada. They are now entitled to a Canadian passport, allowing freer movement across international boarders, and for some, a step towards Canadian citizenship.

Obtaining the proper paper work can be a complex task. Tina Fehr Kehler of MCC is a life long resident of southern Manitoba. Fluent in English and Low German, she helps Mennonites arriving from the South to understand the process, tapping other resources as necessary to bolster her own knowledge.

At times Fehr Kehler calls on the staff at the Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) in Winnipeg. This interdenominational Mennonite archives – a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada – is a treasure trove of church and family records. Using various resources, MHC staff can usually find information to supplement the genealogical evidence that Fehr Kehler receives from newcomers.

“It is an example of how genealogy is more than a pastime of collecting names and dates. Genealogy can make a tangible difference,” says director Alf Redekopp.

The MHC serves Mennonite Church Canada’s 221 congregations and five area churches. It is also the official repository of archival records for organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCC Canada) and the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference. It also houses many family and community collections including the recently acquired large Mennonite Genealogy Inc. collection. Up to 200 people in search of historical records visit the Centre each month.

Redekopp and Fehr Kehler say there is enormous satisfaction in helping a generation of Mennonites return to Canada. As a bonus, says, Redekopp, “We’re helping Mennonite families increase knowledge of their own family history – a history that may have been lost to them but has now become essential in their repatriation process.”