Genealogists Hear from Emmert Bittinger, Receive Report on Brethren Digital Archives

Photo by Regina Holmes
Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists hear from Emmert Bittinger via video, due to health reasons, during their annual meeting. The event was a pre-Annual Conference meeting on Saturday, July 2, in Grand Rapids.

By Karen Garrett

The Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists (FOBG) held their Annual Meeting on July 2, 2011. Featured speaker Emmert Bittinger is one of the persons working on studying nearly 300 families of Rockingham County, Va., and their experiences during the Civil War. Their research is being published in a six volume set.

The project is co-sponsored by the Brethren-Mennonite Center in Virginia. Bittinger was not feeling well enough to travel to Grand Rapids so he recorded his presentation so those in attendance could hear and see it electronically.

Bittinger’s presentation included the following facts and stories. In 1861 the Confederacy enforced a draft with no exemptions. For nonresistant Brethren and Mennonites the choices were, move to the north, flee across the mountains and hide, or join and refuse to fight. Those who joined the military but refused to bear arms called themselves nonresistors.

Bittinger related the following story. An officer asked one of the resistors if he had fired his gun. He replied that he had not seen anything to shoot at. The officer replied, how can that be? Didn’t you see all the enemy over there? The resister replied, ‘Those are people, and we don’t shoot people?’ Brethren and Mennonites were simply not good soldiers. Some of Emmert Bittinger’s research has also been published in the FOBG newsletter “Brethren Roots.”

The FOBG program also included a report by Larry Heisey Chair of the Brethren Digital Archives (BDA) committee to update their work. The BDA committee is made up of persons representing the periodicals, libraries, and archives of all Brethren bodies that trace their history to Alexander Mack. Many of the copies of these periodicals especially from the late 1800s and early 1900s are almost too brittle to handle. Digitizing will make all these periodicals accessible and searchable.

The BDA committee was able to take advantage of a grant that covers 90 percent of the production costs and assures that the printed material will be accessible on www.archives.org  free to all. The first shipment of periodicals will be taken to the digitization site July 11, and should be online before the end of the year.

Volunteers are needed to review the pages once they are posted. One month is allowed to check for digitizing errors such as missed pages. Volunteers can do this work anywhere in the world where they have internet access. Training will be provided for the duties required and volunteers will be assigned particular pieces to review.

If you would like to be one of the volunteers contact Eric Bradley, Project Coordinator at eric@ericbradley.com . The Brethren Heritage Center, 428 N. Wolf Creek St. Suite H1, Brookville, Ohio is the designated mailing address for the BDA project.

Coverage of the 2011 Annual Conference is being carried out by the News Team of Jan Fischer-Bachman, Mandy Garcia, Karen Garrett, Amy Heckert, Regina Holmes, Frank Ramirez, Glenn Riegel, Frances Townsend, and editor and news director Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Wendy McFadden serves as executive director of Brethren Press. Contact cobnews@brethren.org

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]