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February 26, 2009

History of Amish names: Hershberger

'Hershberger' is a family name particularly common among Amish in the Midwest.  It is also found in other spelling variations, such as 'Herschberger' and occasionally 'Harshberger'.  The following is a short history of the name from Family Life:

"This is a Swiss name and may have originally meant, "one who lives on Deer Mountain".  The Hershberger family first came into Anabaptist circles in the canton of Basel, Switzerland.  There, in the year 1529, a large number of brethren were placed in prison, among them the Hershbergers of Thü
rnen and Läufelfingen.  One of them was Elspeth Hershberger, a midwife who influenced numerous parents not to have their children baptized. 

Hans Hersberger, a miller, had taken part in a forbidden communion service, and on Jan. 12, 1530 he was sentenced to death.  The sentence was not carried out, however, for Hans and his wife were merely banished from the territory.  They soon came back and were once more captured and imprisoned.

In the summer of 1531 a Jackli Hersberger of Thurnen was arrested because he refused to take part in the military campaign in his community.  A few years later he had his tongue and two fingers cut off by the authorities for his failure to remain out of the territory after having been banished.

After that the Hershbergers were frequently listed in the court records as Anabaptists.  The family spread from Basel into th Palatinate and other areas.

On Sept. 9, 1749 the ship St. Andrew landed at Philadelphia with a large number of Amish and Mennonites on board.  Included in the passengers were Casper and Jacob Herschberger.  The ship Brothers on Sept. 30, 1754 had a Johannes Herschberger on the passenger list.

(Source:  Joseph Stoll, "Yesterdays and Years: Amish and Mennonite Family Names", Family Life, January 1969)

See also:  'Hershberger' at GAMEO


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