52 Ancestors: My Earliest Known Immigrant Ancestor

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

View of the town of Winterbach, Sankt Wendel, Saarland, Germany, by Sebastian Decker (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

View of the town of Winterbach, Sankt Wendel, Saarland, Germany, by Sebastian Decker (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As this is the first week in 2019, the theme is First. One of the questions that might be answered under this theme is “Who was my first ancestor to arrive in this country?” My first proven ancestor to arrive in the United States is my 3rd great-grandfather, Michel Meisberger.

According to his marriage certificate, Michel (Michael) was born 04 June 1812 in Winterbach, Sankt Wendel, Saarland, Germany. At that time, Winterbach was in what was known as Rhenish Prussia and later became Saarland. He married Margarethe (Margaret) Bettinger on 10 August 1837 in Sankt Wendel, Saarland, Germany.

All seven of their children were born in Steinbach, Neunkirchen, Saarland, Germany (at the time of their birth Steinbach was in the Sankt Wendel district but today appears to be a suburb of Ottweiler in the Neunkirchen district).

According to the children’s birth certificates: Theobald Casper was born 25 December 1837; Michael [Jr.] was born 24 February 1839; Johann was born 8 April 1841; Elizabeth was born 20 April 1843; Eva was born 11 June 1845; Helena [Magdalena] was born 7 November 1847; and Barbara was born 3 January 1850. Theobald is my 2nd great-grandfather.

I found a passenger list record that shows that a Michel Meissberger, born about 1811, arrived in New York on 30 September 1853. The ship, the Rhine, left from La Havre, France. I did not find any other family members on this passenger list. Michael filed his Declaration of Intent to apply for naturalization on 6 August 1855 in Pottsville, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, with a final Petition of Naturalization being issued on 1 November 1858 in Sunbury, Northumberland, Pennsylvania. These naturalization dates support an 1853 or earlier arrival.

Michael appears in the 1860 US census enumerated as Michael Mischenger and in the 1870 US census enumerated as Michael Winberger. Neither Michael nor Margaret appear in the 1880 US census.

The first date of death that I found for Michael is 10 April 1878, which came from the Winterbach family book owned by Roland Geiger, Sankt Wendel, Germany.

Later, I found this poignant and heartwarming notice of death on Chronicling America at the Library of Congress. It publicizes the deaths of Michael and Margaret (Bettinger) Meisberger. The article was published 15 January 1879.

Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. Juniata Sentinel and Republican, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, Wednesday, January 15, 1879

Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. Juniata Sentinel and Republican, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, Wednesday, January 15, 1879

I was very surprised to find this notice in the Juniata Sentinel newspaper since Michael lived in Northumberland County, PA. The Juniata Sentinel (Juniata County, PA) picked up the story from the Selinsgrove Times (Snyder County, PA) that carried the story around a week earlier. The publication date of this notice gives rise to the possibility that the actual date of death for Michael and Margaret may be late in 1878 or early in  January 1879. I am in the process of trying to trace this back to additional death records. While currently there is no direct evidence for a specific death date, both dates appear to be consistent with the US census data.

Michael and Margaret are most likely buried in Saint Edwards Cemetery, Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, with the rest of the family. The plot is in Range 12 – Lots 23 & 24. There are two illegible tombstones here that are presumed to be theirs. There is no additional data in the lot records, so this cannot be proven.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is First.

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8 Responses to 52 Ancestors: My Earliest Known Immigrant Ancestor

  1. Cathy L'Altrelli says:

    Oh my, Eileen, Michael died of broken heart syndrome. Margaret’s death was too much for him to bear.

  2. Nancy says:

    I thought about writing about my first immigrant ancestor but decided I haven’t explored broadly enough, far enough back, to know who that was. Lucky you to know who your first immigrant was!

  3. Lloyd Maier says:

    I am a descendant of Joseph Greenwood, born 1755 in Delaware. He wed Martha Jones there then started moving. Along the line – maybe in Delaware or in North Carolina, they had a daughter Margaret. I believe it is possible that she married your ancestor John Boring – maybe in Lincoln County Ky or Tenn.

    I would love her birthdate. I believe it possible that you have it.

    • Thank you for your comment. Lloyd were you directing your comment to me or one of the other commenters. If to me, I checked and I have no Greenwoods, Borings or Jones in my database, so far.

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