Select Hart Surname Genealogy

Hart meaning a “stag” was found as heorot in Old English, as well as in German and with variants in Dutch and Swedish.  Its medieval development as a surname would seem to have been as a nickname, with the bearer having the speedy attributes of a stag.  Hart has also from an early time in England and America been Jewish, a convenient anglicized name for German Jewish immigrants. 

The main spelling variant is Harte.

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Select Hart Ancestry

EnglandThere was a Harte family recorded at Westmill in Hertfordshire in the 13th century.  Later came the Elizabethan knight Sir Percival Harte who died at Lullingstone near Eynsford in Kent in 1580; and later still the Harte-Dykes after Anne Harte married Sir Thomas Dyke in 1728.  Lullingstone manor house, first begun in 1497, remains in Harte-Dyke hands. 

Harts were also to be found in Northolt, Middlesex from possibly 1460 and later in Highgate village near London.  Various Harts were recorded in parish records in Suffolk (near Ipswich) and in Essex in the 16th century.  Stephen Hart the Puritan departed Braintree, Essex for New England in 1632. 

The name Hart has been associated with witches in SE Essex – old witch Hart of Rochford swimming in the Crouch river in the 1740’s and Harriet Hart of Latchingdon, the last in a line of Hart witches a century later. 

“Harriet Hart was notorious for having committed the commonplace crimes of witchcraft, causing storms, blighting crops in the field and bewitching pigs.  Unlike others of her kind, however, she seemed to have been blessed with a sense of humor.” 

Harriet ended up in the Maldon union workhouse in Essex where she died in 1897.

Jewish.  Hart is also a Jewish name.  There could have been Jewish Harts in London at the time of Cromwell.  History records the arrival of Moses and Aaron Hertz, later Hart, from Silesia around 1697.  Moses Hart prospered and founded the first synagogue in London - with Aaron as its first rabbi. 

"The Hart family was first represented in Richmond by Moses Hart of Breslau, a Government agent under Queen Anne.  In 1716 he moved across the river to Isleworth.  He had a noble seat and offices in this village, with fine gardens inferior to few palaces."

His family intermarried with other prominent Jewish families in the tightly-knit Ashkenazi community in London at that time.

Sometime around 1720 Ezekiel and Judah Hirsch arrived from Bavaria, changing their name to Hart.  Their son Aaron departed for Canada in 1760 at the time of the war with the French and was one of the first Jews to settle in Quebec.  Notable Harts of the 19th century in London were the painter Solomon Hart, the first Jewish member of the Royal Academy, and Henry Naphtali Hart who spent many years in Argentina and founded the first synagogue in Buenos Aires in 1852.

Scotland.  The Hart name had extended into Scotland by the 14th century.  A family of this name were burgesses in Edinburgh, with Edward sitting for Parliament in 1586 and his brother Andrew being the printer for the King.  But the main numbers later were around Glasgow and Paisley in Lanarkshire. 

Ireland.  Irish Harts came from O'hArt (descendant of Art) and originated, as one of the four tribes of Tara,  from county Meath.  The name later spread westward to Sligo.  It was also to be found in Leitrim and Roscommon. 

Sligo.  The O'Harts of Newtown, Ardtarmon and Grange were extensive landowners in Sligo until the confiscations of the 17th century.  They were dispossessed of the last of their Grange estates in 1833.  The spelling in Sligo tended to become Harte.  The 1901 census for Sligo revealed 13 Hartes and no Harts.  Many Hartes still live in the Calry area there.

Ulster.  The Harts were at Ballynagard on the Derry/Donegal border since the time Captain Henry Hart was made the military governor of the Derry and Culmore forts in the early 1600’s.  The present house was built around 1700.  Ballynagard stayed in Hart hands until 1980 when the property was sold.  The history was recounted in Henry Travers Hart’s 1907 book The Family History of Hart of Donegal. 

The first of the Harts in county Armagh may have been a Dutchman, Captain Van Hardt, who fought for William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne and was said to have been granted an estate at Kilmoriarty in Armagh.  The story goes that the captain turned out to be a hard drinker and ended up having to sell the estate to pay off the debtors.  Meanwhile other records indicate that there were earlier Harts in Lisburn nearby.

These Harts in the 19th century, strict Methodists, ran a small whiskey distillery.  Their son Robert departed for China in 1854 as a British consular official.  Sir Robert Hart was to remain there until 1908 when he retired to Armagh amid much acclaim for his achievements in China.

  Early Hart arrivals to New England included the Puritan Deacon Stephen Hart from Essex who followed the Rev. Hooker to America in 1632 and eventually settled in Hartford, Connecticut; and John Hart who arrived in 1635 and also settled in Connecticut - his great grandson John Hart, resident in New Jersey and known as “honest John Hart,” was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas and Mary Hart arrived in Hanover county, Virginia around the year 1690.  Theirs is a large family in America today.  Among the descendants in Georgia was a Benjamin Hart who married a fiery woman, Nancy Hart, a heroine of the Revolutionary War.  Hart county in Georgia was named for her, as was a highway, a city and a state.

There were also Scots Irish Harts who came to America.  One Scots Irish Hart family set off in 1735. 

“The vessel on which they sailed was more than four months on the voyage and during this period of time the husband died and his widow gave birth to a son, whom she named Thomas. The widow and child landed at Bordentown, New Jersey where the mother brought up her son until he reached the age of manhood.” 

Later Harts of this family were to be found in Virginia, Tennessee, and Indiana.  The family history was narrated in the Rev. Charles Coffin Hart’s 1901 book Joseph Hart and His Descendants. 

Jewish.  Hart was a prominent name in the early Jewish communities in America:
  • Jewish Harts were in Charleston, South Carolina from 1745 and some, like Philip Hart, were active in the slave trade.  Daniel Hart, who arrived in 1783, was a prominent Charleston citizen in the postwar period.  Nathan Hart, who came in 1828, was a leader of the Charleston synagogue in the 1840's.  
  • Myer Hart was in the 1750's one of the founders of Easton, Pennsylvania.  Michael Hart, unrelated, became one of its wealthiest citizens. 
  • Ephraim Hirz, later Hart, came to Philadelphia from Bavaria in 1780.  After the War he became a successful merchant in New York and was one of the founders of what was to be the New York Stock Exchange.  His son Joel was a well-known doctor and mason in the city.  Bernard Hart came to New York in 1780 and was active as a merchant there.  A descendant was the writer Bret Harte.
  • Isaac Hart was, in 1750, one of the earliest Jewish settlers in Newport, Rhode Island.  He sided with the British in the Revolutionary War, but met his death in 1780 by being "inhumanely fired upon and bayoneted" by American soldiers.
Barney Hart, a cigarmaker, was a later Jewish immigrant from England, arriving in New York in 1894.  His son Moss Hart grew up to be a successful playwright and theater director.  However, there were fewer immigrants who called themselves Hart by that time.  John D. Hertz, for instance, came to America in 1884 but kept his Hertz name.  Thus we have Hertz Rental Cars, not Hart Rental Cars.

  Aaron Hart was an early Jewish settler in Lower Canada (Quebec).  He invested in the fur trade, prospered, and made his estate around Trois-Rivieres.  His three sons - Moses, Ezekiel, and Benjamin - all became successful in business in their own right, with Ezekiel Hart an elected politician despite anti-Jewish prejudice which surfaced in 1807 in the Hart affair.   A descendant Cece Hart was coach of the Montreal Canadien ice hockey team in the 1920's.  The family history has been recounted in Denis Vaugeois's 2012 book The First Jews in North America.

Samuel Hart, also Jewish, moved from London to Nova Scotia via Philadelphia in 1785.  However, after some early success there as a merchant he encountered the same prejudice as Ezekiel Hart and died in 1810 almost penniless.

Caribbean.  Many Harts in the Caribbean appear to have a Jewish origin.  One Hart family came to Montego Bay in Jamaica in the 1780’s.  The businessman Tony Hart is the seventh generation of these Harts who attended Munro College.  Another Hart family began with Daniel Hart who came to Trinidad in 1825. 

South Africa.  Robert Hart, born in Scotland, came to South Africa with the British Army first in 1795 and then returned ten years later to stay.  In 1817 he and his family trekked northwest of Grahamstown to farm in the wilderness there. 

“A great pioneer, a great farmer and a great gentleman, Robert Hart remained to the end of his days in the district which he himself had put on the map.  In his later years this austere, God-fearing old man became a legend on the frontier which he had done as much as any single individual to establish and civilize.” 

He died at his frontier home of Glen Avon at the age of ninety in 1867.

Select Hart Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Hart Names

Aaron Hart is considered to be the founder of Canadian Jewry.
Francis Bret Harte was a 19th century American writer of short stories and humorous verse.
Sir Robert Hart was a British consular official in China from 1854 to 1908 who played an important role in China’s relations with the West at that time.
Sir Basil Liddell Hart was an English soldier and military historian of the mid 20th century.
Stu Hart is the patriarch of the Hart wrestling family from Calgary in Canada.

Select Harts Today
  • 46,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 51,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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