Hart Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hart Meaning
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
speedy attributes of a stag.
Hart has
also from an early time in England and America been Jewish, a
anglicized name for German Jewish immigrants.  
The main spelling variant is Harte.

Hart Resources on

Hart Ancestry

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

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

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

Hart was
notorious for having committed the commonplace crimes of witchcraft,
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

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.

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
census for Sligo revealed 13 Hartes and no Harts. Many
Hartes still live in the Calry area there.

Ulster. The
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
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
official. Sir
Robert Hart
was to remain there until 1908 when he retired to
Armagh amid much acclaim for his achievements in China.

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
, a heroine of the Revolutionary War.
Hart county in Georgia was named for her, as was a highway, a
city and a

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

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
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
    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
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.

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

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.”

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


Hart Miscellany

The Hart Witches of Latchingdon.  The Hart family were the most notorious witches to reside in the area.  As a witch Mistress Hart suffered from an
allergy to church bells.  She was
especially annoyed by the bells at Latchingdon church.

One night she removed the bells from the
church tower and took them to Burnham where she attempted to take them
to the
opposite side of the river.  Instead of a
boat she used a barrel and used a feather for an oar.  Not
she nor the bells made the crossing.
Legend has it that on stormy nights the bells can be heard
tolling from
under the river Crouch.

Henry Hart, Governor of Culmore Fort.  Culmore Fort lies on Culmore Bay to the north of Derry
City.  The fort guarded the entry to the
Foyle river from Lough Foyle and seems to date from 1555.
It was held by the O’Dohertys and then by the
English.  In 1608 the O’Dohertys rebelled
against English rule.

rebellion began in a rather unusual way. On April 18, 1608 Cahir
invited the Governor of Culmore Fort, Captain Henry Hart, and his wife
dinner in his new castle at Burt.  He enticed Hart upstairs, put a
to his
throat, and as the Captain’s wife screamed for mercy, O’Doherty
threatened that
if she or he did not take some present course for the delivery of
Culmore into
his hands, both they and their children should die.
O’Doherty did take the fort and later sacked
the city of Derry.  But his rebellion
soon petered out.

Family tradition has it that Captain Henry Hart was one of
three brothers who came to Ireland.  He
settled in the north, another brother in the west, and a third in the
south.   Apparently Henry was not
for the Culmore Fort loss as he was soon granted lands in the district
where he
built his house.

Deacon Stephen Hart in Hartford.  Deacon Stephen
Hart and other hardy pioneers loaded their household goods on wagons,
their livestock behind, and, with wives and children in tow, made the
long pilgrimage westward to the Connecticut river.
Here they set up camp until a way to cross
the river was found.  Tradition has it
that Deacon Stephen explored up and down the river until a shallow,
crossing was found.  It was also in a
fertile valley, so they decided to build their town there.
The crossing was “Hart’s Ford” and hence,
according to some, came Hartford.

Stephen was very active in the
government of Connecticut as an elected official.  He
combined this with his occupation as
farmer until his death in 1682 at the age of seventy seven.  Descendants of Deacon Stephen Hart living in
America today number in the hundreds of thousands.

Nancy Hart, Revolutionary War Heroine.  Nancy Hart
was about six feet tall and muscular, with smallpox scars on her face,
red hair and freckles, and eyes that crossed frequently.
She also had a very salty vocabulary that she
used like a whip. She called her skinny
husband a “sorry old stick” and she towered over him by several inches.   Even the nearby Indians called her “The
Woman” out of respect and fear.

during the Revolutionary War became the stuff of legend.
In a well-known incident, she detained five
Tory soldiers at her log cabin under the guise of cooking them a
When she
had won the soldiers’ confidence with food and liquor, she began to
them, passing their muskets stealthily to her daughter Sukey.  A soldier caught her stealing his musket.  Nancy shot him and then held the others
captive until her husband’s band of militia could arrive.

urged the
militia to hang the captives, claiming that these soldiers were
responsible for
the ambush and murder of John Dooly, a celebrated patriot and
According to the legend, Nancy sang Yankee
as she marched the soldiers out to be hanged.
Recent digs around her cabin reportedly
uncovered five skeletons.

also spied on enemy troops.  In one case, she
pretended she was deranged so that she could roam through the enemy
picking up information.  She would dress
and act like a half-witted man, engaging the soldiers in conversation
acting crazy.  They would carry on their
own conversations around her, frequently divulging information she
could take
back to the militia.

The Hart Affair.  In 1807
Ezekiel Hart was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada.  He caused controversy when, being Jewish, he
swore his oath on a Hebrew Bible, instead of on the Christian Bible.  The incident provoked a backlash against his
Jewishness.  Le Canadien,
the mouthpiece of the Canadian Party, even published a
poem decrying the choice of a Jew for a seat as even more foolish than
appointment of his horse as a Roman consul.
The Assembly then resolved by a vote of 35 to 5 that “Ezekiel
esquire professing the Jewish religion cannot take a seat, nor sit, nor
vote in
this House.”

1808, new elections were
held and once again Trois-Rivières returned Hart as one of its two
representatives.  This time, to avoid
controversy, Hart took the oath in the same fashion as a Christian. When the assembly finally reconvened in 1809,
Hart sat as a member for Trois-Rivières for a few days.  After
ascertaining that Hart had been expelled
the previous year, the Assembly voted to expel him again. 

Jacob Hart and the Slave Trade.  Among Jewish slave traders was Jacob Hart.  He came to New Orleans
from New York in 1804 and traded in slave ships and African

In 1808 Hart advertised in Saint Domingues for the sale of
three black people, including a cook, two fishermen, and a tailor who
spoke English and French fluently.  In 1810 he bought two Africans
in Florida. The 1820 census reports that he imprisoned seven African
people as slaves.  He became the owner of a number of vessels,
including the schooner Celestine,
and he brokered the sale of four African citizens.  At the time of
his bankruptcy in 1823, he held fourteen black hostages.

The O’Harts of North Grange, Sligo.  In 1833
the O’Hart family was evicted from their North Grange estate which
stood in the
ruins of the castle built in the early 17th century by Teige O’Hart.  Six O’Hart brothers and sisters emigrated to
America.  One brother James

O’Hart was interviewed
many years later in 1886 when he was 85 years of age.

you, sir, show me even one stone of the old castle of Grange which I
came all
the way from Dublin to see?’

he replied, ‘see’ (pointing to a stone
embedded in the front wall of one of his houses) ‘where I have
preserved a
stone of the arch that was over the front entrance to the castle of my
ancestors.’ And there sure enough, has
James O’Hart preserved that to him precious relic, as a souvenir
of his family castle which had once towered in North Grange,
but was lately razed to supply the stones with which the spacious
church which now stands on the site of the castle, the presbytery, and
walls around the church.

sons,’ he said, ‘write their name Harte, but the correct name
is O’Hart.

may observe that we, too, wrote our name Harte up to 1873 and
the prefix O’.  Because of our
parents’ reduced circumstances, that prefix was omitted by my brother,
to whom,
as a Catholic clergyman, the family naturally looked for the mode of
the name in its transition from the Irish to the English language, and
who from
his boyhood variously wrote
his name Hairtt, Hairtte, Hartte, and Harte.”

Sir Robert Hart’s Return to Lisburn.  Sir Robert
Hart was a key figure in China’s 19th century history and its foreign
with the West.  He was the only Westerner
in the latter half of that century to occupy an official post in the
metropolitan bureaucracy, a position which gave him daily access to
highest officials.

He returned to his home town of Lisburn in county Armagh in
1908 and was warmly welcomed at a dinner given in his honor by the
Lisburn Town
Council.  They recognized his early
association with the town and took the opportunity of honoring this
distinguished Ulsterman by presenting him with a finely engraved
silver casket.  The casket bore at one
end Sir Robert Hart’s monogram and at the other extremity the arms of
the town
of Lisburn.

After many speeches the proceedings ended with the toast of:
“the town and trade of Lisburn.”

Reader Feedback – Daniel Hart in Trinidad.  I am a descendant of Daniel Hart who came to Trinidad.  I am
trying to trace him back to his roots (we thought it would be England).

Coleen Hart (coleen_hart@yahoo.com)


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 Hart Numbers 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)


Select Hart and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.

Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.




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