Hoffman Surname Genealogy

in its origins may be German or Jewish or both.
A German Name. Hofmann
and Hoffmann are fairly common German surnames, from hof meaning “farmstead” or “court”
and mann “man.”
Originally this was a status name for a farmer who owned his own
land. But it soon came to denote the manager or steward of a
manor farm.
German names often changed their spelling according to local
dialect. In German-speaking Silesia (now part of Poland),
the spelling was Hoffmann as the local dlalect produced a short “o” in hof. Elsewhere it could be
Hofmann; while in Holland, where the surname also appeared (where it
denoted an ordinary worker on a manor farm), the spelling tended to be
A Jewish Name. When
Jewish families were obligated to take surnames in German-speaking
lands in the early 19th century, it is thought that many who had the
role of managing the farms of others adopted the Hoffman
name.  An
alternative view put forward is that the name came from the Hebrew name
Tikvah (Hope), an abbreviation of the German hoffnung or hope, and thus Hoffman
would mean “hopeful man.” Jewish Hoffmans could come from
different places in central and eastern Europe as far east as Lithuania
and Ukraine.

The American spelling is generally Hoffman, but sometimes Huffman.

Resources on

Hoffman Ancestry

Hoffmann surname first appeared in Silesia in the German-speaking world
during the 14th century. Melchior Hofmann was a visionary religious
leader in northern Germany in the early 16th century (he was to have
some 20th century descendants, Karl and Nicholas von Hoffman, in
America). Then there was Friedrich Hoffmann, the physician to
Frederick I of Prussia in the early 18th century.

Today the Hofmanns and Hoffmanns number some 140,000 in Germany,
and Switzerland (plus additional Hoffmanns around Poznan and elsewhere
in Poland); while there are a further 10,000 Hofmans in the

Early Hoffmans in America were to be found in New
York state.

New York There
was a Dutch influence on early Hoffmans who
settled here. Martin Hermanzen Hoffman arrived
in Dutch New York from Estonia in 1657. His descendants settled
in Ulster county. Johannes Huffman came in the 1720’s and his
family later moved to a Dutch area
of New Jersey.

There was also a Hoffman line in Dutchess county, New York descended
from a Conrad Hoffman who had arrived there in the 1720’s from German
Westphalia. Philip Hoffman, a lawyer from Dutchess county, and
his wife Helena Kissam “were among the most valuable members of early
society in New York.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas Hoffman was a New York
merchant who had married into the powerful Ogden family. From
this line came the Ogden Hoffman lawyers and politicians of the early

Maryland and North Carolina
Other early Hoffmans have been traced to Maryland and North
Carolina. William Hoffman ran at paper
mill in Baltimore county, Maryland which printed the money that the
Continental Army used during the Revolutionary War. Three Hoffman
brothers were pioneer settlers in North Carolina at this time (their
story is narrated in F.W. Hoffman’s 1998 book The Hoffmans of North Carolina Revisited).

Generally, Hoffmans in America will be either German or Jewish.
One guide for the arrivals in the second half of the 19th century is
that if
they came to the Midwest (and particularly to the farming states there)
they were likely to be German; but if they came
to New York they were probably Jewish.

Midwest Hoffmans
Among those Hoffmans who came to the Midwest were:

  • John and Margaret Hoffman from Bavaria who came to upstate New
    York in the 1840’s. Their son Lorenz (Lawrence) headed west to
    Carroll county, Iowa.
  • Henry
    who arrived from Switzerland with his brothers in
    the 1850’s and settled in Jo Daviess county, Illinois.
  • Johannes Hoffman who came from Hanover in Germany in 1856, first
    to Wisconsin and then to Minnesota.
  • and August Hoffman and his wife Louise who came from Prussia in
    1857 and settled in Columbia county, Wisconsin.

There were Jewish Hoffmans in the Midwest and William Hoffman’s 1961
book Tales of Hoffman writes
about growing up in the Jewish community of Minneapolis-St. Paul in the
early 20th century.

Ireland. There were
Hoffmans who fled the Rhineland Palatinate in 1709 because of religious
persecution and ended up in Ireland. They
were settled in Limerick. Some later made their home in Kerry.

South Africa. Johan
Bernard Hoffman was a German immigrant to the Cape who arrived on the Vrybeigt in 1744. He rose to
be a person of some standing in the Dutch colony, owning the Libertas
farmstead in Stellenbosch.

South Africa by the 20th century had become a home for Jewish Hoffman
immigrants. N.D. Hoffman, brought up in
Lithuania, came to South Africa in 1889 and was the founder of the
Jewish press there. Lenny Hoffmann, born into a Jewish family
near Cape
Town in 1934, moved to London and was one of the foremost British
judges of his time.

Hoffman Miscellany

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

Select Hoffman Names

William Hoffman started the first
paper mill in Maryland in 1776.
Leonard Hoffmann, born in South
Africa, was one of the most prominent British Law Lords of the second
half of the 20th century.
was the social and political activist of the 1960’s who
co-founded the Yippie party.
Dustin Hoffman, the movie
actor, broke through to fame with his perforrmance in The Graduate in 1967.

Select Hoffmans

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous
    in Pennsylvania)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).





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