The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships, closely related to but distinct from Mennonite churches, with whom they share Swiss Anabaptist origins. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish.
In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as "Pennsylvania Dutch". However, a dialect of Swiss German predominates in some Old Order Amish communities, especially in the American state of Indiana. As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish live in the United States and about 1,500 live in Canada. A 2008 study suggested their numbers have increased to 227,000, and in 2010 a study suggested their population had grown by 10 percent in the past two years to 249,000, with increasing movement to the West.
Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage, and once a person has affiliated with the church, he or she may marry only within the faith. Church districts average between 20 and 40 families, and worship services are held every other Sunday in a member's home. The district is led by a bishop and several ministers and deacons. The rules of the church, the Ordnung, must be observed by every member and cover most aspects of day-to-day living, including prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones, and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing. Most Amish do not buy commercial insurance or participate in Social Security. As present-day Anabaptists, Amish church members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service.
Amish children in straw hats and bonnets are a common sight during school days in Northern Indiana Amish Country. One room Amish schoolhouses dot the countryside along the 90-mile Heritage Trail audio tour route.