Kenneth Varden Leasa (1948-2009) was a former member, volunteer, Pennsylvania German dialect instructor, and researcher at Mennonite Life (then Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.) Varden was a life-long learner, with a curious mind that compelled him, among other things, to gather family history stories and data from nearly everyone with whom he came in contact. He compiled a genealogical database of more than 100,000 names before his untimely death in 2009 after a battle with a brain tumor. This database, along with many of Varden’s other materials, was generously donated to us in 2010-2011 by Varden’s wife, Marie.
The histories of many Mennonite families are recorded in this database. Less relevant to Mennonite Life, but revealing of Varden’s varied interests, are genealogies of some of the early Egyptian pharaohs. In many cases Varden included transcriptions of obituaries or other notes which reveal more personal information than names and dates alone can provide. When uncertain about an event or date, Varden would typically record this unanswered question along with the genealogical record, in the hope of future clarification. This database is a closed collection, meaning that it remains as Varden compiled it, with no further additions or corrections.