Thursday, September 14, 2017

Who Are The Swiss Amish And Why Haven't I Heard Of Them?

As popularity for my books grow, I'm getting this question a lot. Just today I answered this on Facebook and decided it was time for a blog post. 

Who are the Swiss Amish? Well, you have to sit through a little history lesson if you want to know. When the Amish and Mennonites first settled here, they came in two waves. The first wave settled in Pennsylvania and along with other German speaking immigrants at the time they eventually formed their own language, Pennsylvania Dutch, a mixture of their German and English. (The other immigrants eventually dropped it and today it's only the Amish that speak it.) They eventually moved to different places, including Indiana. 

Then there was a second wave of immigrants from Switzerland and other places. They moved directly to Indiana and named their settlement Berne (with an E) after their native homeland of Bern, Switzerland. The two groups didn't intermingle. Some time had passed, maybe 100 years or more, but there's a mutual respect between them. They speak different languages and have different customs. Swiss Amish speak a Swiss German dialect so different than that of the Pennsylvania Dutch that when they do get together they speak English to understand one another. The Swiss Amish drive only open top buggies and don't use headstones to mark graves. They also yodel like in the Swiss Alps. Most are more closed off to the world than the Pennsylvania Dutch, and so less is known about them. 

Many authors who write about the Amish of Seymour (a Swiss Amish settlement in Missouri, where I'm from) and other Swiss Amish settlements, they write as if they are Pennsylvania Dutch living in Missouri. Completely false. Some states like Indiana have both Amish groups.

I worked for over two months to find the exact dialect they speak. It's not a written language, only a spoken one, and there is no Swiss Amish to English dictionary you can order from Amazon. The only way is to form friendships with someone who speaks it. 

I've learned so much about the Swiss Amish this year and I share a lot of that knowledge in my newest book, A Christmas Courtship, where three generations of Swiss Amish courtship practices come together to make a touching, yet humorous romance. It's only $0.99 for Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited, and also available in paperback.


  1. Thank you for explaining about the differences. I am also a writer of Amish fiction and this part of Amish history is quite new to me. I have traveled all around the country visiting "Pennsylvania style" Amish and now my interest in Swiss Amish is stirred. I need to visit a Swiss Amish community.

    1. I'd love to hear about the many places you've visited. I've lived in the same county in Missouri my whole life, but I'm not complaining. Getting too far away from home would probably just make me nervous. I didn't realize I knew so much about the Swiss Amish until I was asked this question and gave the above response without having to look anything up. I should have. I could have put dates in if I had. But I still have more questions than answers so the journey continues.