The Early History and Germanic Origin of


(And Similar Spellings)

By Gerald L. Kisabeth, July 2000

    The primary purpose of this work is to establish the early Germanic origin of our Küschwert ancestors.

    This heading names "Küschwert" in the title but equally represents other spellings of the medieval name. Since the early written records our original surname has had over 73 various spellings. Among the modern variants used today Kisseberth, Kissenberth, Kisabeth, Küspert (Kuespert), Kispert and Kisaberth are the most common.

    The first known written record takes place between 1442 and 1451 when a Kunz Küschwert is mentioned as being a wealthy citizen in Wunsiedel documents. It is with Kunz Küschwert that we begin our surname. He is considered the probable progenitor (an originator of a line of descent) of our family. In June of 2000 I received a genealogical printout of research conducted by Karl Reichert of Nürnberg which lists a Jacob Küschwert in 1453 as a citizen of Sinatengrün, a tiny village about 2 miles from the larger town of Wunsiedel. It is with these two individuals that our surname begins.

    The Fichtelgebirge is the location of our ancient Küschwerts. This area is one the most beautiful places in the world. Located in Oberfranken (Upper Franconia) in Northeast Bavaria near the Czech border, The Fichtelgebirge loosely translated simply means "spruce or pine mountains." This chain of mountains is arranged like a horseshoe around an inner hill-landscape. The highest mountain is the "Schneeberg (Snow Mountain) with its peak rising to 3,447 feet above sea level. The Fichtelgebirge have dense pine forests and are dotted with resorts which makes it truly a most picturesque place to live and to visit. The rugged mountains are composed mainly of metamorphic rock and were once rich in a variety of minerals, but now only lignite and iron are found in large quantities. Selb, the chief town of the region, is a major center for porcelain production. We have had several Küspert ancestors involved closely with the porcelain industry namely Georg Küspert a local well-known artist. Other major industries include cotton textiles, forestry, granite quarrying, and tourism.

Some of the towns and villages associated with our surnames are Wunsiedel, Selb, Schönwald, Weißenstadt, Marktleuthen, Thiersheim, Marktredwitz, Tröstau, Ebnath, Richenbach, Röslau, Sinatengrün, Breitenbrunn, Wertheim am Main, Nagel, Leipzig (the univeristy), Brand, Bad Alexandersbad, Thierstein, Kirchenlamitz, Wampen and Hohenberg a. d. Eger. All are located in the Fichelgebirge area of Northeastern Bavaria except the town of Wertheim am Main which is to the west where the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg meet.

    After researching our surname history for over 16 years I have decided to finally record my findings to date (July 2000). This is a culmination of close to 100 years of research spanning three generations. Dr. med. Fritz Wilhelm Kisseberth (1913-1995) did extensive studies on the family name and whom I consider first and foremost the leading authority as to the origin of our unusual surname and its variants. Before him his father Friedrich Wilhelm Kisseberth ( 1880-1951) had started the research. The interest was initiated during the time of the National Socialism movement in the 1930’s when each German family had to prove their "Aryan" ancestry back at least three generations. Another ancestor, Professor Fritz Kissenberth released his genealogical findings in the form of a beautiful family tree chart ( Ahnentafel ) Kissenberth in 1913.

    Since 1984 I have concentrated my efforts to only the Kisabeth - Kisseberth - Kisaberth - Kissenberth spellings of our surname. But in 1998 I realized without studying the additional surnames of Küspert and Kispert I would not be presenting a complete picture of our surname beginnings.

    At this time I would like to explain a little about surnames. Before record keeping began, most people had only one name, such as John. As the population increased, it became necessary to distinguish between individuals with the same name. The problem was usually solved by adding descriptive information. John became John the smith, John son of Matthew, John the short, or John from Heidelberg. At first "surnames" applied only to one person, not to the whole family. After a few generations, these names became hereditary and were passed on from generation to generation.

    The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. German surnames originated slightly later. The norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized, that is, virtually universal and fixed in form from one generation to the next.

    Of all the research done on our current spellings nothing is known about the origin of the name Küschwert. It has never been researched. Our actual surname, Küschwert and its variants, died out sometime in the 1600’s eventually giving way to the more common modern spellings of Kuspert - Kispert - Kisseberth - Kissenberth - Kisaberth - Kisabeth we use today.

    In Dr. Kisseberth’s studies he mentions some possibilities as to the origin of the name Kuschwert. It is conceivable that the word "kuren" in the sense of "to choose" or "to elect" could have significance. To choose a "schwert" (sword) is present. The antiquated form of "kuren" is "kiesen." This word form is another possible origin of the name. Very simply "Kuschwert" means to choose a sword or a sword that chooses.

    Heinz L. Zulauf, a native German Genealogist suggests ; "Ein Schwert, das kürt." (a sword that elects or chooses). He lists a possible sequence of names over time could be: Küschwert, Küschbert, Küsbert, Küspert, Kispert. Mr. Zulauf thinks that our Dr. Kisseberth’s breakdown of "kuren" and "Schwert" is very close to the truth on our surname meaning.

    Another possible origin of the name Küschwert in the opinion of Don Watson who heads up the Hessen on-line Genealogical Research group offers quite an imaginaive interpretation. He says that Kues = kiss and that

    Swerdt = sword. A knight kneeled and kissed the sword of his King or Lord. He also mentions Pert = point, point of the sword & Berth = the scabbard, the place the sword was kept. The idiom changed over time and across boundaries. For example, basically the Küschwerts who stayed in the Fichtelgebirge area became Küsperts and Kisperts while those who migrated to the west to Wertheim am Main became Kisseberths and Kissenberths.

    In his book German-American Names, George F. Jones gives simple meanings to given names, significance and origin. In his opening paragraph Mr. Jones states;

    For example, the German dictionary tells us that the word Kuss means "kiss," but it does not tell us that the name Kuss is most often a shortened form of Dominicus. This could have significance for our origin. In his dictionary we take kuss=kiss and schwerd, schwert or schwerdt=sword. Thus, we again arrive at to kiss or to choose or elect a sword.

    In order to establish some sort of closure to our surname origin I would like mention another possible theory, possibly the most factual but with some unanswered questions. Max Gottschald in his book "Deutsch Namenkunde" (Berlin 1971) shows under the main stem Geisel , der kurzere Stamm GIS: Gisbert, Giesebrecht, Gies/bert(s), brich, Gis/bert, bier, Kispert, Küspert, Kisse(n)berth. What does all this mean? He is telling us that our surnames come from the root word Geisel which is actually Gisbert or Gilbert.Here is a clipping from an old newspaper series titled "Gilbert- Your Name":

    "In ancient times hostages were the chief prize of warfare for they could be exchanged for great ransoms. Teutonic tribesmen spoke of hostages as Geisel that the personal name Giselbert, then Gilbert evolved. Since hostages were generally persons of noble birth the name has a regal flavor."

From "A Dictionary of Surnames" (1988) by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges:


1.   English (Norman), French, and Low German: composed of the elements gisil = hostage, noble youth + berht = bright.


Geselbert, Gisbert, Gilbert, Giese, Geisel

"Darauf weist schon Fischart hin, wenn er sagt: "Westfalen heißen Gisbart". Giselbert hieß ein lothr. Herzog des 10. Jh., ein Schwiegersohn Schwager Kaiser Heinrichs I.; Giselbert, Graf von Lützelburg, 1104, war ein Schwager Kaiser Heinrichs II.; Geselbertus oder Giso hieß ein Aachener Schöffe um 1250, Gisbert der erste Abt von Maria Laach um 1130, hl. Bischof von Meaux, 1015, Fest 13, Februar, Gilbert oder Gisbert ein Heiliger aus England, der Stifter des Ordens der Gilbertiner, 1189, Fest 4. Februar. Auch heute ist Gisbert im Rheinland hin und wieder als VN anzutreffen. Die Mehrzahl der unten angeführten von altd. Giso und Giselo abzuleitenden Kf kann im Einzelfalle, besonders wenn sie aus dem Oberdeutschen kommen, auch zu Giesel-her, mar Giesmar usw. Gehören.

FN: Geisebert, Kisbert, Kispert, Küspert, Kissenberth (Mittel und Oberfranken)."

A rough English translation:

"Fischart knew where of he speaks, when he says; "Westfalens are named Gisbert". Giselbart was the name of a 10th century nobleman, a son-in-law of Emperor Henry I; Giselbert, Count of Lutzelburg, 1104, was a relative of Henry II; Giselbertus or Giso was the name of a juror in Aachen around 1250; Gisbert was the first offical of Maria Laach about 1130, Gilbert was also a Holy Bishop of Meaux, 1015 with 13 February as his feast. Gilbert or Gisbert, a saint of England, founder of the Gilbertine order, feast February 4th. Even today Gisbert can be widely found in the Rhineland as a given name. A majority of names stemming from the old Giso and Giselo, especially if they come from Upper Germany, can belong to Giselher, Gisemar, etc…

FN: Geisebert, Kisbert, Kispert, Küspert, Kissenberth are in Middle and Upper Franconia.


Gieselbrecht see Giese. Upper German. Gießelbrecht (Bavaria – Allgaü region) Petrus Giselbrecht, Basel 1291, Giselbrecht of Swidenicz, councillor, Brsl. 1297. Rhineland form Gilbert.

Two unanswered questions that I have concerning the Küschwert to Geisel-Gisbert-Giese(l)brecht connection is;

1.   There is no mention of our old medieval name of Küschwert in the Geisel/Gisbert/Giese(l)brecht research instead they jump to the modern spellings of Küspert-Kispert and Kisse(n)berth.

2.   In hundreds of old written documents spanning over 600 years I have never found our surname spelled beginning with a "G".

Mr. Ernest Thode, well-known German genealogist who has written books on the subject, states that Onomasticians ( name origin experts) can and do sometimes differ on origins of surnames.

He says that because we know the specific origin of our Küspert-Kispert-Kisse(n)berth names coming from Küschwert that this good specific information supersedes general speculation about surname origins.

Mr. Wolfgang Fred Rump, a German genealogist gives his opinion on the whole matter. He says that "surname experts" will tell you that it could be this or that but NO ONE can tell you for sure what a name meant in its original form as no one was there to witness its birth or watch over the variations which occurred over the centuries. Some ancestors move a few miles down the road and the local dialect changes his name and sound to something else. If he moved further it might come out completely different.

In June 2000 I sent a letter to one of Germany’s top language centers, Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache e. V. asking their experts to research our old name Küschwert in their library of over 16,000 books on the German language and culture. This study can take up to 6-8 months so we’ll just have to wait for their results hopefully by the fall of 2000. This may bring some sort of closure to our surname origin. Let’s hope!!!!

Until we can get some more precise information this is my opinion on our surname origin:


German (Bavarian-Franconian)- 15th century (1442) Fichelgebirge, Oberfranken, Bayern.

Küren – to choose, to elect, to kiss and Schwer(d)t - sword

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