Select Hurst Surname Genealogy

The root of the English surnames Hurst, Hirst, and Hearst is the Old English hyrst, meaning a wooded hill.  It could be locational, to describe someone who lived by a wooded hill, or (more likely) it could derive from a place-name with that spelling. 

The Hirst spelling is native to Yorkshire.  Hurst place-names cropped up at various places throughout England and the Hurst surname has been more widespread.  Another spelling variant is Hearst.

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Select Hurst Ancestry

England. The 1881 census showed 80% of the Hirsts in Yorkshire and 34% of the Hursts in Lancashire.

Yorkshire  The early spelling in Yorkshire seems to have been Hurst.  Hursts were recorded i
n Rotherham, Methley near Leeds, and Dewsbury in the 16th century.  William Hurst, an architect from Doncaster, was responsible for the building of Firbeck hall and church near Rotherham in the early 1800's.

But the Hirst spelling had begun to displace Hurst by that time.  At the time of the 1881 census Hirsts outnumbered Hursts in Yorkshire by ten to one.  The largest number of these Hirsts was concentrated in the metropolitan borough of Kirklees in the West Riding of Yorkshire, notably in Huddersfield and villages in the Holme valley where the wool trade and handloom weaving were important.  Coming from this area were:
  • William Hirst, born in Marsh, the so-called father of the Yorkshire woollen trade                                (although he himself went bankrupt in the crash of 1830)      
  • Thomas Hirst, born in Heckmondwike, the 19th century mathematician
  • and George Hirst, born in Kirkheaton, the Yorkshire and England cricketer at the turn of the century. 
The Hirst name did extend elsewhere in Yorkshire.  For instance, Jemmy Hirst, the noted 18th century eccentric, lived at Rawcliffe near Goole in the East Riding.

Lancashire  The largest number of Hursts in 1881 was in Lancashire. 
Hurst place-names there resulted in Hurst surnames:  
  • Hurst Brook was a small hamlet near Ashton-under-Lyne.  A Hurst family was said to have been descended from Nicholas de Hyrst living there in 1422.  These Hursts were resident in Ashton-under-Lyne in the early 1600's.  A number of Hursts were to be found in the wider Salford area from the 1700's onward. 
  • Tyldesley Hurst near present-day Wigan gave rise to Hurst families in Tyldesley and Shakerley.  Jeffrey Hurst, a dissenter from Shakerley at the time of Queen Mary, was saved from martyrdom by the death of the Queen in 1558. 
Elsewhere  Leicestershire was another sizeable Hurst outpost, possibly from the place-name Bringhurst. Bringhurst was already a surname by 1320.  The Hurst family in Hinckley dates from the 16th century and Hursts were to be found in Claybrook from the 1750's and in Wigston Magna from the early 1800's.

The Hurst name in Hertfordshire goes back to the 13th century.  Hurst Hills in Oxfordshire and Sussex probably gave rise to Hurst families in those two counties: 

  • the Hursts in Oxfordshire date from the early 1500's and were to be found in villages such as Great Milton, Great Haseley, Coombe, Wheately, and Leckhamstead.   
  • while the Hursts at Horsham in Sussex also started around that time.  The diary of Sarah Hurst who lived there between 1736 and 1808 has been preserved.  Her younger brother Robert did well and his family acquired and held onto Park House in Horsham from 1800 to 1929.   Father, son, and grandson were MP's for Horsham over the course of the 19th century.
Ireland.  Hurst in Ireland may be of English or of Irish origin, the latter being an anglicized form of the Gaelic de Horsaigh.  Fermanagh accounted for 25% of the Hursts in Ireland in Griffithís Valuation on the 1850ís.  The Hurst name was evident in Enniskillen and in Derryvallan parish.  The Hearst spelling can be found in Belfast.

.  Hursts but not Hirsts travelled to America.  Two early arrivals were:
  • Tobias Hurst who came to Jamestown, Virginia on the Treasurer in 1618 at the age of 22.  He lived until 1655.  However, he has no recorded descendants.
  • and James Hurst who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts from Leiden in Holland in 1632 (possibly preceded by his daughter Patience) and was one of the early settlers of Dartmouth.
Virginia.  Henry Hurst came to Northumberland county in the northern neck of Virginia in 1650.  John of Stafford and Henry of Orange are thought to be his grandsons and from there the lines appear well documented.  The descendants of John Hurst can be found in J.C. Hurstís 1950 book Hursts of  Shenandoah. 

Tennessee and Kentucky.  Thomas Hurst came to Tennessee from Shenandoah county, Virginia in 1807 and settled in Claiborne county.  His brother Elijah followed him shortly afterwards and Elijahís son Fielding came to McNairy county in the southwest part of the state in 1833.  Fielding Hurst was for many years a respected farmer and slave-owner.  But his name was forever blackened by the stories about him during the Civil War when Hurst Nation held sway. 

Henry Hurst from Frederick county, Virginia fought in the Revolutionary War and died in Morgan county, Kentucky in 1844. 

Other Hursts.  Hursts in America have varied origins, not just English but Irish and German as well.  The German name was usually Horst (of similar meaning) which tended to become Hurst in America.  They were mainly to be found in Pennsylvania.  Their numbers included Mennonite Horsts/Hursts and later arrivals from Baden.

And the Hearsts. John Hearst and his family (first listed as Hearse) came from Belfast on the Belfast Packet to Charleston in 1766.  They settled in the Long Cane district of South Carolina, then still Cherokee territory, which later became part of Abbeville county.

Son George migrated to Missouri.  His son William did not prosper, but his grandson George did, first in mining and then in publishing - acquiring the San Francisco Daily Examiner in 1882.  It was his son William Randolph Hearst who established the Hearst publishing empire.  The family story was traced in Judith Robinsonís 1991 book The Hearsts Ė An American Dynasty.

Canada.  William Hearst emigrated from Fermanagh to Ontario sometime in the 1840's.  His son William, who trained to be a lawyer, became Premier of Ontario in 1914.

Australia and New Zealand.  Early Hursts in Australia were convicts.  William Hurst of Bedfordshire was transported there for horse theft in 1823.  The owner of the horse, Owen Cambridge, in fact wrote a small book about his chase across England to catch Hurst and his horse.  Hurst ended up with his family in Tasmania. 

Frederick Hurst led an adventurous life.  Born in Jersey in the Channel Islands, he embarked with his parents in 1839 at the age of six for New Zealand.  They settled near Wellington.   In 1852 Frederick labored in the Bendigo goldfields in Australia where he joined the Mormon church.  Three years later he sailed for America by way of Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands.  Frederick was involved in many Mormon pioneer activities in Utah and a mission to New Zealand later in his life.  In 1961 his grandson published his diary - The Diary of Frederick William Hurst

Select Hurst Miscellany

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

Select Hurst Names

George Hirst was a Yorkshire and English cricketing all-rounder who played between 1890 and 1920. 
William Randolph Hearst was the American newspaper publisher who built the nationís largest newspaper chain in the early 1900ís. 
Geoff Hurst was the English footballer who scored a hat-trick for his country in the 1966 World Cup final. 
Damien Hirst
is an English artist, the most prominent member of a group known as the Young British Artists in the 1990ís

Select Hursts/Hirsts/Hearsts Today
  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Florida) 
  • 12,000 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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