Roots & Branches is an award-winning, weekly newspaper column begun in 1998 that currently is published in the Altoona Mirror. It’s the only syndicated column on genealogy in Pennsylvania!

Posted July 17, 2017 by  |  2 Comments

A copy of the Martyrs Mirror is a treasured book in many Anabaptist households.

There’s something about old books with handwritten information in them that makes a genealogist’s ears prick up and take notice.

Recently an e-mail came in to your “Roots & Branches” columnist from the Palatines to America, an organization oriented toward German genealogy, about how to market a copy of the Martyrs Mirror dating to 1814.

The Martyrs Mirror was first published in Holland in 1660 in Dutch by Thieleman J. van Braght and tells the stories and testimonies of Christian martyrs, especially Anabaptists. Among Amish and Mennonites, the Martyrs Mirror was second only to the Bible in their household book collections.

The full title of the book is “The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660.”

The word “defenseless” is used as a reference to the Anabaptist belief in non-resistance. One of the stories related in the Martyrs Mirror is that of Dirk Willems, who rescued his pursuer from breaking ice and then subsequently was burned at the stake in 1569. The book also includes accounts of the martyrdom of the apostles and the stories of martyrs from previous centuries with beliefs similar to the Anabaptists.

The first English edition, translated from German by I. Daniel Rupp, was published by David Miller, Lampeter Square, Pennsylvania, in 1837.

The edition of the Martyrs Mirror owned by PalAm was produced by Lancaster printer Joseph Ehrenfried, an effort that bankrupted him, according to “The Black Art: A History of Printing in Lancaster County, PA,” the website of Lee J. Stoltzfus, found at the URL,

Carol Chafin, PalAm’s resource center administrator, says the book is in good shape, considering its age; there is some water damage to the book but that it does not interfere with its legibility.

Most interesting of all is a notation in the front indicating the book was purchased by Joseph Arnold from Jacob Yoder on October 21, 1814, Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, State of Pennsylvania.

One can only speculate that it might have been a “coming of age” present for Arnold or perhaps a wedding gift from either an uncle or father-in-law. One can only hope that perhaps a descendant of the Arnold or Yoder families will have an interest.

Interested purchasers may contact Chafin at the e-mail,

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