Monday’s Mysteries – Who is David Meisberger and Why Is He Posing as My 2nd Great Grandfather?

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

I have been collecting Pennsylvania death certificates for my ancestors. So far, I have accumulated one-hundred and thirty-seven (137) certificates. In doing so, I have uncovered a huge puzzle concerning my 2nd great-grandfather, Theobald Casper Meisberger, reflected in his children’s death certificates.

Theobald died on 13 June 1900 in Coal Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.  His wife, Mary Catherine Strausser, predeceased him on 25 September 1897, also in Coal Township.  So they both died prior to mandatory state registration of births and deaths, which in Pennsylvania began in 1906.  Before 1906 and after 1893, most of the counties required registration of births and deaths but it was not strictly enforced. I was not able to obtain their death records nor have I been able to find an obituary for either of them. The death dates I have were obtained from their tombstones and cemetery records.

I have been able to collect death certificates for seven of their nine children.   Two of the children died prior to state issued death certificates.

The first death occurred on 14 February 1928 and was Margaret E. (Meisberger) Madara. The informant was her son, Arthur, who was Theobald’s grandson.  Arthur listed Margaret’s father as David Meisberger.

Next was her brother, William T. Meisberger, who died on 2 March 1929. The informant on this certificate was their brother, D. [David] T. [Theodore] Meisberger, and he listed his father as David Meisberger.

Death Certificate of William T. Meisberger Died 2 March 1929 in Coal Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania

Death Certificate of William T. Meisberger Died 2 March 1929 in Coal Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania

John A, Meisberger, another brother, died on 31 March 1936. Again, the informant was his brother D. [David] T. [Theodore] Meisberger and he listed his father as Theobald Casper Meisberger.

Mary E. (Meisberger) Gunther, a sister, died on 4 February 1941. The informant was her daughter, my grandmother, Lorraine (Gunther) Noble. She listed Mary’s father as David Meisberger.

Sara M. (Meisberger) Depner, another sister, died on 12 April 1948. The informant was someone unknown to me named Mary B. Asner. She also listed Sara’s father as David Meisberger.

David T. [Theodore] Meisberger, the brother who was the informant on two of his sibling’s death certificates, died on 27 May 1955. The informant, named Mrs. Marie Meisberger, may have been his wife but there is nothing to confirm this relationship.  She stated that David’s father was David Theobald Meisberger.

Johanna (Meisberger) Burns, another sister, died 25 September 1957. The informant was her son, Casper E. Burns and he listed her father as David T. Meisberger.

As you can see, six of the seven death certificates have the father listed as David Meisberger. To top it all off, the same son, David T. Meisberger, who correctly identifies his father as Theobald on John’s certificate; identifies him as David on William’s certificate.

In his birth certificate, Theobald is named Theobald Casper, son of Michael Meisberger and Margarethe Bettinger. His marriage record from the Diocese of Harrisburg, the 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 US census records, his passenger list entry and his tombstone all list his name as Theobald. None of the deeds for his properties, his naturalization papers, his signatures, or a news article mentioning he was a constable, list him as David. In fact, no record that I have collected or seen related to my 2nd great-grandfather show him as being named David–until these death certificates.

We are supposed to be able to explain every conflict in our data. I thought I had an explanation of this conflict. The birth certificate I have is a civil registration of birth. I do not have copies of the parish registers that would record the baptism of Theobald.

Theobald’s family were Roman Catholic and baptism in this faith requires a saint’s name. My theory was that he was baptized David Theobald because Theobald may not be a Saint’s name. I just searched the web for Saint Theobald and found three saints named Theobald so this theory is out. I do need to attempt to get copies of the parish registers for this family from Germany.

I welcome any and all comments that would assist me in explaining this very strange puzzle.

 

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4 Responses to Monday’s Mysteries – Who is David Meisberger and Why Is He Posing as My 2nd Great Grandfather?

  1. My comment won’t help much in terms of tangible proof, but my grandfather, who had no middle name, added the initial R. because he thought it sounded better. My dad, who was named George Andrew, didn’t like his middle name and started using Michael. Neither of these name changes were done legally, they just used them socially until the new form became their legal names. To top that, my great grandfather – in this same line – on his own changed the family surname from Kucharik to Sabo. I didn’t learn that until I was 28 years old and if my grandmother hadn’t still been living, I would never have known it!

    • Thank you for your comment. It certainly is a possibility.

      • Marie says:

        I’m a Meisberger descendent too, and I can tell you in all my research, family names have been misspelled and changed at every turn. I have one family member who was born Eugenio, but I found newspaper articles where he’s referred to as “James” and his tombstone says Eugene…. Most of the names in the various census’ are misspelled. In many cases, I have the oral history of family members so I know who these people are. If I didn’t have that, I’d be up a creek…. I’ve got family up and down the east coast and nowhere do I see this kind of thing like I see it in the Mount Carmel area records.

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