The Fascinating Story of the Mahnenschmidts


So our treasured Moneysmith name turned out not to have begun as “Moneysmith” at all? And our presumably English heritage turned out to be German??? So how did we get to be American Moneysmiths?

We owe it all to an ancestor named Heinrich Mahnenschmidt who was born in Pennsylvania three months after the official end of the Revolutionary War and died fourteen months before the Civil War broke out. Somewhere in between, his name became Americanized—with Heinrich changing to Henry and Mahnenschmidt to Moneysmith. How much of that was by design and how much by spelling evolution may never be clear, but that is only the beginning of the story.

German Roots

Our discovery of the Mahnenschmidt part of our history came through the Internet in the mid-90s. It begins with one Christian Mahnenschmidt, born in Germany about 1680. That was just sixty years after the Pilgrims in Massachusetts and ninety years before the American Revolution[1]. Christian’s son Conrad was also born in Germany, about 1715. We don’t know what part of Germany, and all we know about Christian’s wife was that her name was Christiana. Conrad had a brother and a sister, Daniel and Dorothea.


Christian’s name is listed in the tax rolls for Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1734, so the family had crossed the ocean by the time Conrad was nineteen, assuming that he came when his father did, which is likely, given his youth. Conrad was married in Pennsylvania in 1746, and Christian died about the same time. Daniel and Dorothea, born in Germany, also married and died in Pennsylvania.


Conrad and his wife, Agnes Haack, had three children in quick succession: Johannes (June 4, 1747), Ana Apolonia (May 19, 1749), and Christian (Dec. 8, 1750). The only other information we have at this time on Conrad’s life is the name of a second wife, Anna Maria Kuhn, and that he died “before 1790.”


Westward Ho

The Mahnenschmidts apparently settled first in Berks County, Pennsylvania, which is northwest of Philadelphia and just northwest of Reading. In 1778 they were listed in the tax roles of Cumberland County, which is just southwest of Harrisburg. Christian’s second son, Johannes, was born in Westmoreland Country, east of Pittsburgh, in 1779, and in 1783, the family is listed in the tax rolls there.


The second Christian Mahnenschmidt is our ancestor, and with him, information begins to proliferate exponentially. We have names and dates of descendants unrelated to us for some seven generations. What is most interesting is Christian’s five sons and what happened with their imposing surname.

Five Brothers, Five Surnames

Christian married a Susannah Bahm-Baum, with both of them born in 1750. They were married “abt. 1774” in Pennsylvania, the year before Lexington and Concord began the Revolutionary War. The births of the five sons on record spread over 12 years. It is possible, even likely, that other children were born in between who did not survive, or at least did not make the record books. No matter how many children she had, Susannah lived to an amazing ninety years of age! (and Christian lived to 80; he died in 1830 and she in 1840.)


The five sons were: John Jacob (1775), Johannes (December 22, 1779), Christian (1781/82), Heinrich (December 2, 1783), and Johann Peter (September 2, 1787).


The four oldest brothers and their respective descendants ended up in the record books with surnames other than Mahnenschmidt and different from each other. It is not surprising that as second-generation Americans they decided to Americanize their names. At first we assumed that the changes were calculated and deliberate, but we now know that may not have been the case (see “Name Evolution,” including the fact that even “Mahnenschmidt” may not have been the original).


Whatever, they and their descendants ended up with the following surnames: John Jacob as Monesmith, Johannes as Monasmith, Christian as Monosmith, and Henry as Moneysmith. Apparently the changes for John Peter (other than Johann to John) did not take place for another generation or so, and his descendants turned up with a mix of Monasmith, and couple of Moneysmiths, a couple of lingering Mahnenschmidts, and a whole branch that went with Monismith[2]. Interesting….[3]


Though they all had roots in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, all five brothers ended up in northern Ohio, all in different counties as well as having different names.

Discovering Other Moneysmith Descendants

Through the Internet I have made contact with four other descendants of the Mahnenschmidts. At this writing, I am only beginning to tap the information or connections that may be available through them. The most recent one is married to a descendant of Henry’s youngest daughter, Keziah. 


My father, Virgil Moneysmith—the last to bear the name in our branch of the family, would have loved knowing all that we have learned about his ancestors! Henry’s grandson Emery became my dad’s grandfather.


[1] At the time, it was our oldest documented ancestral date, but no longer.

[2] The following may or may not refer to Henry’s brother John Peter, but the dates are compatible, and it serves as another illustration of the name evolution. Washington County, PA, is north of Philadelphia. “The first regular minister appears to be Rev. John Peter Mahnenschmidt (often referred to as Moneysmith in early Washington County histories). According to one early account, Rev. Mahnenschmidt arrived in Washington in 1811 or 1812, and it was through his leadership that the congregation's first meeting house was erected.” Source: "First Lutheran Church, Washington, PA--A Bicentennial History, 1798-1998" Volumes One and Two. Copyright © 1998 Daniel J. Freas, Donna McDowell, Brenda Neundorf and Kenneth Neundorf. From a website.

[3] We haven’t found out how those other than Moneysmith pronounce their names.