This 1874 church certificate, known as a "confirmation schein," is printed entirely in German and not only demonstrates our family’s Pennsylvania German heritage but also helps us understand their cultural shift into a more mainstream American life and language.
The document marks the baptism and confirmation into the family house of worship of David J. Leibensperger Jr. (1860-1933) son of David and Lovina (Heimbach) Leibensperger Sr. of near Red Lion Station in Berks County, PA, of the family of Nathan and Sarah "Sally" (Wetzel) Heimbach. Pre-printed by J.D. Wollenweber of 406 Green Street in Philadelphia, it contains five verses of scripture in addition to a lines from the 1865 hymn "Ewig, Ewig Bin Ich Dein." ("Christ My Song"). The blank sections were filled out and signed in ink by Rev. Eli Keller of the Reformed wing of Huff's Lutheran and Reformed Church of Zionsville, PA. The event took place when David Jr. was 14 years of age, on Nov. 6, 1874, one of 26 confirmations there that day.The scripture verse at the bottom is from Revelation 2:10 -- "sei getreu bis in den Tod, so will ich dir die Krone des Lebens geben." Its English translation is "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
The schein's Pennsylvania-German dialect language is spelled out below, and the translation into English is approximate in accuracy. What’s equally interesting is that when David’s brother Nathan was confirmed in the same church a dozen years later in 1886, and received a similar schein signed by the same pastor, it was printed entirely in English, reflecting a shift from the old ways.
David Jr. went on to a working career as a coal and granite miner and farmer. At the age of about 29, in 1889, he was united in matrimony with 21-year-old Tama "Tammie" Hoffman (1867-1927), daughter of George and Hettie (Reinert) Hoffman. The same pastor, Rev. Keller, officiated at the wedding. The couple's two offspring were Mary (Leibensperger) Wetzel and William George "Willie" Leibensperger. Burdened with heart disease, hardening of the arteries and pneumonia, David died at the age of 73 on Sept. 2, 1933.
Huff’s Church was then and remains today home to two congregations – the traditional German Lutherans and the Reformed church which today is aligned with the United Church of Christ.