Growing Family: Design & Desire in Mennonite Genealogy

Daniel and Marie Suter Steiner family tree

About the exhibit

Johann and Maria Janzen descendant chartThis exhibit is currently closed due to COVID-19 measures. However, read on as many aspects of the exhibit have been added to this page.

This is an exhibit from the collections of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario about family and the art of remembering.

Genealogists do not just uncover the past, they take active roles in shaping it. Designing a family tree may seem like a simple act, but this act requires choices and reflects deep desires for connection, identity and legitimacy.

Through paintings, photographs and original documents from the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Growing Family takes the viewer through the ways in which Ontario Mennonites have used genealogy to remember the past, reconnect with the present, and hope for the future. These designs are at once uniquely personal and reflective of the universal longing for family.

What designs are we choosing and what desires are we expressing when we document our family pasts?

Viewing the exhibit

Isaac S. Cressman family treeGrowing Family is located in the Milton Good Library and Mennonite Archives of Ontario gallery on the 3rd floor of Conrad Grebel University College. The exhibit is currently closed to visitors.

Images are details from: Daniel and Marie (Suter) Steiner family tree, 1906; Johann "Hans" and Maria Janzen descendant chart, 1950s; Isaac S. Cressman family tree, 1960s.

Exhibit guide

This is a pdf of the printed self-guided tour.

Read More

"New Grebel Exhibit Features Artistic Mennonite Family Trees," Woolwich Observer, May 23, 2019.

Zach Fishman. "Tracing Lineage: The Art of Family Trees." Imprint, May 29. 2019.

Laureen Harder-Gissing. "'Hidden in that Little List': Genealogical Pursuits, Outcomes, and Representations in the Lives of Two Mennonite Women ." Mennonite Quarterly Review XCII (July 2018): 377-401.


Showing images from the exhibit, archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing discusses the ways our family trees reflect our designs and desires. (12 minutes)

Here is a longer version of the above talk, given as part of "The Anabaptist Story Lives On" webinar series in June 2020. (54 minutes)


The Archives is accessible by appointment only. Please do not visit or bring in donations unannounced.


Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6

Phone: 519-885-0220 x24238