People Group Highlights

“All nations will come and worship before you."

- Revelations 15:4

Pennsylvania Dutch of North America

People Group Info

Total Population: 293,705

ROP3 Code: 107976
IMB Affinity Group: European Peoples
Affinity Bloc: Eurasian Peoples
People Cluster: Germanic
Language: Pennsylvania German - (pdc)
Religion: Christianity
Country of Origin: United States

Majority Located Where

  Reading, PA - 32,000

  Winnipeg, MB - 18,500

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Brief Profile

Historically, the Pennsylvania Dutch were Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the colonial era and whose name is a corruption of the word "Deutsch", meaning "German".

In this profile, the Pennsylvania Dutch, a very diverse people, refers to those people who claim a Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. On the other hand, the Dutch people, who are more recent immigrants, are foreign born from the Netherlands. Pennsylvania Dutch also prefer to not view themselves as German.

The largest Dutch Pennsylvania population is in the state of Pennsylvania with well over 144,300. Other states with significant populations include Ohio, New York, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are a very diverse group that can be sub-divided into separate peoples. Some are a distinct ethno-linguistic people group, while others are an ethno-religious people group and then others are more of a socio-cultural people group.

To understand the diversity, Pennsylvania maintained numerous religious affiliations. The greatest number are Lutheran or Reformed, but historically many were Anabaptists as well. Such religious and cultural diversity led to these various sub-groups among Pennsylvania Dutch who claim Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry.

First, there are ethno-linguistic Pennsylvania Dutch who still speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home. They predominantly are Lutheran, Reformed, or are non-religious.

Second, there are ethno-religious Pennsylvania Dutch who some still speak Pennsylvania at home and others do not. They predominantly are Amish and Mennonites.

The Anabaptist promoted a simple lifestyle and their adherents were known as Plain people or Plain Dutch. This was in contrast to the Fancy Dutch, who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream. As a result, today the Pennsylvania Dutch either still replicate a Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle and maintain the language of their forefathers. Or, they claim Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry, yet no longer follow the tenants of their American Pennsylvania Dutch forefathers.

Nevertheless, people often only equate the Pennsylvania Dutch with Amish, a ethno-religious group coming from the Anabaptist traditions. Historically, the majority of speakers of the Pennsylvania Dutch German-derived language were not Amish, but were affiliated with Lutheran and German Reformed congregations. Today, however, the majority of the people claiming Pennsylvania Dutch as their ancestry no longer speak their historical Germanic language.

On the other hand, Amish do maintain the language; hence the impression that Amish are Pennsylvania Dutch people. The most famous Amish settlement is Lancaster County, PA. Because of a combination of pressures, including decreased availability of farmland and high birth rates, many Amish moved out of Lancaster County, to other parts of Pennsylvania and adjoining states, and as far west as Wisconsin. The migration of Lancaster Amish is not exceptional, however; Amish people have been historically quite mobile in order to adapt to changing external circumstances, often economic.

A large number of Amish live in the Midwest, especially the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Though Amish everywhere share core Christian beliefs, there are cultural and linguistic differences between Lancaster Amish and the midwestern United States Amish.

Historically, most Amish attended public schools until consolidation and curricular changes compelled them to operate their own schools. Recognizing the importance of fluency in English, Amish require that English be the sole medium of instruction in their schools, sometimes even during recess as well. High German, the language of the Bible, prayer books, and hymnals, is commonly taught as a subject in Amish schools.

Like the Amish, Mennonites come from the Anabaptist tradition. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer's baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism.

Both the Amish and Mennonites makeup the majority of those people who still speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home.

Third, there are socio-cultural Pennsylvania Dutch, though they claim a Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry, no longer speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home. They predominantly are Lutheran, Reformed, or non-religious.

With all of the above in mind, there are people claiming Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry who are (1) an ethno-linguistic people group still speaking Pennsylvania Dutch at home (these are normally people who are either Lutheran, Reformed, or non-religious), (2) an ethno-religious people group (Amish and Mennonite) who speak English but advocate speaking Pennsylvania Dutch or Swiss German, and (3) a socio-cultural people group who no longer speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home (these are normally people who are either Lutheran, Reformed, or non-religious).

Prayer Points

  • Pray that Pennsylvania Dutch Christians will understand and obey the Great Commission, sharing the need with other Pennsylvania Dutch to have a personal relationship with Christ.
  • Pray that God will move evangelical Christians to become friends, show love in action, and share Christ with Pennsylvania Dutch.

Learning Resources

Learn more about "Learning Paths"
Online Courses for embracing, encountering and engaging diaspora people. Work at your own pace. Begin anytime and complete the course according to your schedule. Interactive, Hands-On Application.

Learn more about "Reaching the Nations"
This book delineates five disciplines Christians should develop in order to effectively reach the nations. More specifically, it will guide Christians to develop an engagement strategy in their locale.

Other Resources

Prayer Guide for Unreached Peoples
A 30 day guide to pray for unreached people groups.

Prayer Guide using the GOSPELS acronym
A prayer guide that utilizes the acronym GOSPELS to pray for workers among diaspora.

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Country City Metro Area Name State / Prov. Baseline Population
United StatesHamburgReadingPA32,000

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