Anabaptist Genealogy Database

CitationAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics/Seminars in Medical Genetics 121C:32--37, 2003.(special issue on Amish Genetics)
AuthorsRakesh Agarwala
LG Biesecker
AA Sch"affer


In late 1996 we set out to build a computer-searchable genealogy of the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for use by geneticists. The goals of the project included: 1) using the genealogy to expedite the mapping of genes mutated in three rare recessive disorders under study at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); 2) building a freely available software package, PedHunter, to answer genetically relevant queries on our database and other similar databases; and 3) providing genealogy assistance to researchers outside NIH. All of these scientific goals had to be accomplished while maintaining the confidentiality of the persons in the database and the confidentiality of preliminary research results. We expanded the project to include complementary data sources that contained many individuals who were Anabaptist, but not Amish, and many individuals who never lived in Lancaster County. For this reason, the project was renamed Anabaptist Genealogy Database (AGDB). All of the initial goals of the project have been accomplished, and we recently marked the 5-year anniversary of answering the first of over 100 queries by researchers outside NIH. Thus, it is an opportune time to review the construction of AGDB, summarize its usage to date, and speculate on future projects it might stimulate and facilitate.

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