Maintaining Extended Family Ties: The Schürch Family

“One’s heritage cannot be taken away from you, but it can be lost by failing to save it for future generations,” said Tom Sherk, one of the founders of the Schürch Family Association of North America (SFANA).

Tom believed that the family is “one of the oldest and most important social units” and that it is “the crucible where basic values are instilled.” Tom and a few other Schürch descendants formed SFANA in 1982 to explore and preserve their heritage. “The study of one’s family history and culture…reveals our connections to the past, and it informs us who we are as a people,” said Tom.

The association organizes reunions every other year, publishes a newsletter twice per year, maintains a website and Facebook page, provides online resources to help with family research, and offers participation in a Y-DNA study. The association is 3,400 members strong, and is open to anyone who is a Schürch descendant whether the spelling is Sherk, Shirk, Schirch, Sherick, etc. The association has organized four previous heritage tours to Switzerland.

TourMagination recently worked with Sue Shirk to plan a 12-day custom family heritage tour for fall 2019. Sue is the past president of SFANA and will be managing tour logistics. The group of 40 signed up for the tour will see six homesteads or birthplaces of Schürch ancestors who immigrated to North America about 300 years ago. “It will be special to go to the homesteads, including one dating back to 1425 that belonged to the Schürchs,” says Sue. Another highlight will be connecting with long lost Schürch cousins living in Switzerland. They will also tour Trachselwald Castle where ancestors were imprisoned and see other sites significant to the wider Anabaptist story with local Mennonite historian Ayold Fanoy. “It has been wonderful working with TourMagination. Everything has worked out well,” says Sue.

Biennial reunions are held on a summer weekend, and reunion locations alternate between America and Canada. Sue has helped organize the family’s three past American reunions. She says the reunions are attended by an average of 140 people and include workshops on a historical topic and presentations about what present-day Schürch descendants are doing. In 2018, someone showed their Bernese Mountain dogs and someone else displayed their woodworking. There is also a half-day bus tour to historical family sites and an optional Sunday worship. The reunion closes with a banquet of delicious home style food and a fun-filled auction fundraiser.

See to get inspired about maintaining connections with your own family history.

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