Hirsch Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hirsch Meaning
Hirsch derives from the Old German word hirsch
meaning “deer” and described either someone who was a game hunter or
who was a
keeper of deer. It began as a first
name, first recorded in 1170, and had become a surname by the 14th
century. Hirsch can also be Jewish. The deer meaning had associations with the
Hebrew name Naphtali and Hirsch was often adopted as a Jewish
ornamental name.

Hirsch Resources on

Hirsch Ancestry

name was particularly prominent in Bavaria, which is perhaps not
surprising as
this region is heavily forested and famous for its hunting. Today the Hirsch population numbers about
20-25,000 in Germany, with a concentration around Nuremburg, and a
further 2-3,000
across the border in Austria.

In 1765
Johannes Franz Hirsch started a small leather workshop for shoes and
saddles in
lower Austria and his descendants still run the company today. Baron Maurice von Hirsch was a
19th century
Jewish philanthropist from Munich whose grandfather was the first
landowner in Bavaria and whose father acted as banker for the Bavarian

America. Hirsch
immigrants came mostly from
German-speaking lands, early into Pennsylvania and later, mainly Jewish
here, spread
all across the country. There were Jewish Hirsches from Lithuania
as well, such as Rabbi Mayer Zvi Hirsch who came
to San Francisco in 1907.

Pennsylvania Simon
Hirsch from the Rhine Palatine arrived
sometime in the 1750’s and settled initially in Montgomery
county. Many descendants later adopted the Harsh or Hersh
spelling. David
also came from the Rhine Palatine but left there at a
much later
time, following the failed revolutions of 1848.
He settled at first in Erie county, Pennsylvania before moving
to Ohio
where he acted as the spiritual leader of the German community in

South Some
Jewish immigrants arrived before the Civil War, finding business as
merchants in the

  • Aaron
    came from Alsace in 1852 and set up a general store
    with partners in Batesville, Arkansas. He spent the Civil War
    smuggling on the Confederate side.
  • Samuel
    Hirsch came from Germany to America in
    1853 and later made his home in Memphis, Tennessee.
    He became a successful cotton merchant.
    E.D. Hirsch, born in Memphis in 1928, made
    his name as an English professor in cultural literacy.
  • Joseph
    Hirsch from Germany started with his brothers a clothing shop in
    Atlanta in
    1863. The store, burned down by Sherman
    in the following year, later grew into a successful department store. Joseph was able to win election to the city
  • Jules Hirsch from Alsace came to Houston from Alsace in 1871
    to make his
    fortune. He prospered as an investor in
    the Humble oil field. Part of that land
    is now the Hirsch Memorial Park. His son
    Maurice served with distinction during World War Two.
  • while
    Emile Hirsch, also from Alsace, came to Plaquemine, Louisiana in the
    1880’s, opened a furniture store, and later became a successful real
    estate investor.

West Coast Others
headed West. Five
brothers from Wurtemburg were drawn to California by the Gold Rush, but
by 1852
had moved north to Portland, Oregon where they prospered as Jewish
and later as politicians:

  • Solomon
    was a
    state senator in 1872 and almost became the US Senator for Oregon in
  • while
    Edward was appointed State Treasurer in
    1878, a post he held for nine years.

Hirsch, representing a later generation,
arrived from Germany in 1886 and, together with his son Harold, built
up their
White Stag skiwear company in Portland to be one of the largest skiwear
companies in the world

Hirsch from the Black Forest area of Germany came to Irvington,
(near San Francisco) in 1867. He was one
of its first settlers and opened a general store there.
Hirsch family

has remained in Irvington, now part of the city of Fremont.

England. The
Hirsch numbers in England were few in the
19th century, as there was little Hirsch immigration at that time. A few came in the 1930’s escaping the
Nazis. Kurt Hirsch left Berlin for
London in 1934 for these reasons. He was
interned in England during the war as an alien but flourished
afterwards as a
mathematics professor.

Canada. John Hirsch survived World War
Two in
Hungary but lost both his parents in Auschwitz.
He subsequently arrived as a child refugee in Canada and was
adopted by
a family in Winnipeg. He became the
legendary co-founder of the Manitoba Theater Center.


Hirsch Miscellany

Baron Maurice von Hirsch.  The
Baron’s grandfather, the first Jewish landowner
in Bavaria, was ennobled with the appellation auf Gereuth
in 1818.  His
father, a banker to the Bavarian king, was created a baron in 1869.  For generations this family occupied a
prominent position in the German Jewish community.

Maurice worked in the banking business in
Brussels, London and Paris, amassing
a large
fortune along the way.  He increased this
by purchasing and working railway concessions in Austria, Turkey and
Balkans and by speculating in sugar and copper.
He lived in great splendor in

During a trip to Turkey he was
struck by the poverty and desperation of the Jewish population there
decided, with his great wealth, that he could do something about it.  His initial attempts to improve the lot of
the Jewish people in Russia met with resistance from the Government
there.  He turned his attention with
reluctance to
Jewish emigration.

He was the founder of
the Jewish Colonization Association which sponsored large-scale Jewish
immigration to Argentina.  The
association built up large Jewish agricultural colonies in Palestine
Canada, as well as Argentina.  He also
a benevolent trust in the United States for the benefit of Jewish
there.  When he died in 1896 the Baron
was still among the five richest individuals in Europe.

Aaron Hirsch in Arkansas.  Aaron Hirsch had arrived in Batesville, Arkansas in
the 1850’s and owned one of the largest general stores in the area.  In 1858 he secured with his associate Simon
Adler the U.S. Mail contract and ran a four-horse stagecoach from
Batesville to
Jacksonport in neighboring Jackson county three times a week.
the Colonel Noland in honor of Batesville’s
well known resident Charles Noland, the stagecoach had room for nine

the Civil War Aaron
Hirsch would pass through the enemy lines for the Confederates
smuggling cotton
for gold and quinine and, it was also suspected, for slaves.  He was arrested in 1864 for disloyalty to the
Union cause.  It was suspected by then that
he had sent all of his slaves off to Texas.
He was subsequently released, but did not return to Batesville.

Instead he moved to Newport in Arkansas, set up
another general store, and became one of the civic leaders of the town.  His sons Lazar and Jacob followed him in
business there in the 1870’s.

David Hirsch of Washington County, Ohio.  Daniel Hirsch, banished from Germany as a failed
revolutionary in the uprisings in 1848, spent the latter part of his
life as
the spiritual leader of the German community in Washington county, Ohio.  There were seven church areas that he
regularly pastored during his thirty years in the community, while also
conducting German school as well.

He died in 1893 and his tombstone reads as

rests in peace our husband and father Pastor Daniel Hirsch. born
March 18, 1815 in Homburg, Rhein, Bavarian Pfalz, died May 19, 1893.
are the dead who die in the Lord. The spirit speaks: They rest from
their labor
and their works follow them.”

The Hirsch Family in Irvington, California.  Joseph
Hirsch opened his first general store in
Irvington, California in 1867.  When he
died twenty years later, the store was being run by his surviving wife
(there is a surviving photograph of her standing on the porch of her
store in
1896), together with her four young sons.

of the Hirsch sons later followed different paths of
employment.  William (Bill) and his
brother Alfred worked as plumbers and ran a well-drilling business;
managed the store; and Otto – perhaps the most adventurous – was
involved with
real estate, insurance and farming.

had purchased had some vineyards prior to prohibition and then had to
find some
other use as the wineries were closed.
He was able to lease the land to dairy farmers.

grandson Mark recalled one of the many
stories about Otto. He apparently gave property to a company that made
radiators in order to add to the local commerce and create jobs for the
area.  “In the old days, you did
whatever you could to bring business into the area,” said Mark.  He added that this type of promotion would
never happen today.

home and barn at 42,800 Caldas Court survived until July 2013 when they
demolished by the city of Fremont.

Hirsch Rabbis in San Francisco.  Mayer
Zvi Hirsch was born in Lithuania in 1874 and
ordained a rabbi there when he was eighteen years old.
After he immigrated to America, he first
worked as a rabbi in Denver and then, when he was 33 years old, he came
to San
Francisco.  Besides being a rabbi at the
city’s Anshe Sfard, he also served as a rabbi at congregations B’nai
David and
Keneseth Israel.  In addition, he became
recognized as a leading authority in ancient Hebrew literature and

oldest son Samuel was
also a rabbi.  During World War II
President Roosevelt made him the military chaplain for the combined
services throughout the western United States.
During and after the war, he also met many Jewish refugees at
the San
Francisco docks, provided their entry bonds, and helped them find
shelter and
food.  As a vice-president of the Hebrew
Immigrant Aid Society in San Francisco, he greatly assisted the
immigration of
Jewish refugees to the United States.



Hirsch Names

  • Baron von Hirsch was a wealthy philanthropist from Bavaria who founded in 1881 a benevolent trust in America for Jewish immigrants. 
  • Joel Hirsch was an award-winning racing columnist and founding President
    of the National Turf Writers Association.   
  • Sy Hersh is an investigating journalist best known for his
    exposure of the My Lai massacre 
    in Vietnam in 1969. 
  • George Hirsch is a magazine publisher and co-founder in 1976 of the New York City Marathon.

Select Hirsch Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Hirsch and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.





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