This section helps to tell the stories of the Bretz family. We believe there is only so far that facts and dates can take you when exploring your family history. The articles presented here attempt to explore the lives of family members in narrative form. They are drawn from oral traditions, family and government records, and historical events.


The Bretz Family in Canada

The story of most of the Canadian Bretz family can trace its earliest roots to Jacob Bretz (1766-1843), a German-American who was part of an colony of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers who emigrated to the Waterloo region of Ontario.

Much of the early information on Canadian Bretz families comes from the records of the local Waterloo community, Mennonite churches, and Canadian government census records. In 1895 Ezra Eby, a descendant of the original settlers, also published A Biographical History of Waterloo Township or what became known as the Eby Book. It contained a vast wealth of collected family histories of those who journeyed from Pennsylvania, including the Jacob Bretz family and their descendants.

It is not yet known exactly how long ago this line of the Bretz family first arrived in America, or what their relationship is to the other Bretz families of Pennsylvania. One clue we have is from a biographical sketch of Robert Bretz (1860-1944) conducted in 1937 where he mentions that "the German language was retained by the family until the fifth generation in America". Assuming he was referring to his father's generation, that would suggest the Bretzes arrived prior to 1740 during the first waves of Mennonite settlement, and also references two unknown generations for which we have no records.

Further research of our line was continued by Frank Bretz in the 1940s when he diligently worked to upkeep the family tree, as shown in letters to his daughter Madeline. Later still, Bill Bretz would continue the research in the 1980s, trying to bridge distant parts of the spreading family. In the 1990s, Bretz cousin Harry McFee compiled several detailed biographies of Bretz family members who were soldiers during WWII, as part of his book For We Were Young And Had Wings, 2004. More recently, myself - Christopher Bretz, has taken up the baton and worked to expand upon the family documentation and research for the 21st century.

Great research of John Strickler Bretz' side of the family was done by Reta Mae Toman in her 2009 book Roots, shoots & fruits: a history of the Toman, Sararas, Coleman & Bretz families.

The chart to the right shows the progression of the Bretz surname across the generations once it arrived in Canada from Pennsylvania. Surnames pass down through male aires, and so the light gray names either died young, bore daughters, or chose not to have children. The chart in theory also shows the lineage of the Bretz Y-DNA. A blue box indicates the family moved back to the United States at some point. Most modern Bretz's in Canada trace their lineage through either John Bretz of the Kitchener area, or Abram Bretz of Toronto. John would have been Abram's cousin's son.

There are a few other Bretz families whose ancestors arrived in Canada much more recently, some directly from Germany, but we haven't yet explored their stories in depth.

The Bretz Mennonites Christopher Bretz 2010 Traces the journey of a family of Pennsylvania Dutch building a new life in Canada.
The Rural Bretzes Christopher Bretz 2011 Follows the children of Jacob Bretz who lived on the farms of southern Ontario.
The Toronto Bretzes Christopher Bretz 2011 Examines the path of several young Canadian families in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century.
The Western Bretzes Christopher Bretz 2011 Follows the descendants of Frank Bretz after he settled in Winnipeg in 1916.
The Western Bretzes II Christopher Bretz 2012 Continues the story of the Winnipeg Bretzes.
A New Century of Bretzes Christopher Bretz 2014 A new generation from the Western Bretzes.
Bretz Homesteads in Canada Christopher Bretz 2011 An accounting of the various farms the Bretz family has held in southern Ontario.
Homestead Data Christopher Bretz 2012 The raw numbers from early census and assessment data.
John Strickler Bretz' Descendants Christopher Bretz 2012 Traces the family line of Jacob Bretz' eldest son.
Family Names Christopher Bretz - Some of the more common names passed down our Bretz group of families.
Automobiles Christopher Bretz 2012 Lists some of the cars owned by family members.
2070 Time Capsule Howard Bretz 1970 Howard Bretz wrote an account of the year 1970 for his newborn grandson at the Manitoba Centennial.
Jacob Stricker Bretz' Will Jacob Bretz 1872 His last Will and Testament.

The Hobson and Wood Families

The Hobson Family Christopher Bretz 2012 Irish Quakers who married into the Bretz family in the 19th century.
The Wood Family Christopher Bretz 2011 The Woods were English immigrants from Brighton.


Wing Commander Norman Bretz Harry McFee 1992 Follows the story of Wing Commander Norman Bretz.
Major Howard Bretz Harry McFee/Chris Bretz 2011 Examines the wartime efforts of Major Howard Bretz.


The Bretz Family in America

The Bretz families of the United States have a much more complicated history than their Canadian cousins. First, there were several distinct waves of emigration from Germany through the 18th and 19th centuries. And complicating matters, these families were from all walks of life, not just Mennonite farmers. This means that there are probably a dozen or so Bretz root families in America which did not share an immediate relationship with one another. From our observations, researchers of other lines have also had difficultly in tracing their history back to Germany, just as been the case with the Canadian line.

While we have far from completed a full account of all Bretz, Pretz, Pratz and Fretz, etc. family lines in America to know their unique histories, we can make some general observations. The early Bretz immigrants appear to have been mostly Lutherans with only a smaller minority of them Mennonites. This is seen in the records of several more documented family lines as well as the relative modern population sizes of their descendants. The Mennonites also appear to have arrived in Pennsylvania earlier than the Lutherans as there are less direct records of their presence, and the ones which do exist are found in the older counties of the state. Early Mennonite settlement from the Palatinate is also well known from other records. The Bretz families who later immigrated in the 19th century mostly appear to have been Catholic and other forms of Protestant.

One family's story that is similar to the Canadian Bretzes follows the movement of a group of German farmers. In the 1820s these families left Pennsylvania for Ohio and were responsible for much of the Bretz population in the midwest. J. Harlen Bretz spent years researching this (and his) history, and published in in An Incomplete Genealogy of the Family of John Bretz of Fairfield County, Ohio.

Another branch of the family arose in Indiana from Bretz immigrants who left Volxheim, Germany in 1827, a region close to that of the Bretz mennonites of a century earlier. The town of Bretzville, Indiana is named after them.

The chart right shows many of the Bretz family immigrants to Pennsylvania during the 18th century. Our line's Mennonite ancestor Jacob Bretz is shown in green. The darker and lighter parts of the bar indicate reproductive years. The blue lines are known to be Lutheran, the grey are as yet unknown.

The Genealogy of the Ludwig Bretz Family E. W. S. Parthmore 1890 A family history of the descendants of Ludwig Bretz, who arrived in America aboard the ship Royal Union from Germany in 1750.
A Brief History of John and Christian Fretz A. J. Fretz 1904 A brief history of the Mennonite John and Christian Fretz families, and a complete genealogical family register to the fourth generation.
The Bretch Family in America Homer Bretch 1932 A report on the Bretch family of Egelsbach and their emigration to America in the early 19th century.
An Incomplete Genealogy of the Family of John Bretz of Fairfield County, Ohio
J. Harlen Bretz 1949 Introduction and the full text of the research on the descendants on John Bretz of Ohio.
List of Bretz Immigrants Christopher Bretz 2011 A partial list of Bretz individuals recorded on various ships from the Palatinate.
Pennsylvania Bretzes Christopher Bretz 2011 An exploration of the various Bretz immigrant family lines of the 18th century.
A Biographic Sketch from a Personal Interview with Robert B. Bretz (.pdf) Anna Barry 1937 An interview with Robert Bailey Bretz of Oklahoma, descendant of the Canadian Mennonite Bretzes.
Ulrich Stricker's Will Ulrich Strickler 1804 His last Will and Testament.
Philip Bretz' Will Philip Bretz 1809 His last Will and Testament.



The Bretz Family in Europe

Given it's Germanic nature, the Bretz family naturally has a long history in the region. Today Germany is home to among the largest population of Bretzes in the world, approximately 3,000-5,000+. The family lines are numerous and possibly only loosely connected, and as far as our research has uncovered there has been no comprehensive attempt to determine their relationship to one another.

Many branches do appear to trace their roots to the old Palatinate region southwest of Frankfurt, which also was once quite populated with Mennonite farmers (pertinant to our line), and which retains a larger population of modern Bretz families than elsewhere in Germany.

There have been several attempts to connect modern North American Bretz families to more ancient ones, but with little success. Many researchers have been frustrated with a lack of immigrant records of the early 1700s. Catholic and Lutheran Bretz families which came over in the 19th century have had better luck tracing their roots.

This chart to the right is a suggestion of how the the various Bretz family lines might have split from each other over the centuries. The width of the line approximates total family population, based upon that of all of Germany at any given time. The numbers at the top are an estimate of the total number of family members based upon the frequency of the Bretz surname within Germany today. The colour bands indicate the growth of factions of protestantism. Although likely over simplistic, it appears from the record that Bretzes of these religious groups came over sequentially at different times. First the Mennonites, then the Lutharans and Reformed, and finally the Catholics.

Bretz: A Remarkable Family in Egelsbach Karl Heinz Grossmann 1993 The story of a German Roman Catholic family in the 16th century town of Egelsbach.
Genealogia Bretius Christopher Bretz


A selection of possible Latin origins of the Bretz name.




Bretz Military Men Christopher Bretz 2011 A list of all the known individuals who served in the armed forces with the Bretz surname.