Select Hirsch Surname Genealogy

The surname 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.

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Select Hirsch Ancestry

The Hirsch 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 Jewish landowner in Bavaria and whose father acted as banker for the Bavarian king

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 1750s and settled initially in Montgomery county.  Many descendants later adopted the Harsh or Hersh spelling.  David Hirsch 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 Washington county.
South  Some Jewish immigrants arrived before the Civil War, finding business as merchants in the South:
  • Aaron Hirsch 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 council.
  • 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 1880s, opened a furniture store, and later became a successful real estate investor.  
West Coast  Others headed West.   Five Hirsch 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 businessmen and later as politicians:  
  • Solomon was a state senator in 1872 and almost became the US Senator for Oregon in 1885.  
  • while Edward was appointed State Treasurer in 1878, a post he held for nine years.   
Max 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

Joseph Hirsch from the Black Forest area of Germany came to Irvington, California (near San Francisco) in 1867.  He was one of its first settlers and opened a general store there. 
The 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 1930s 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.

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

Select Hirsch Miscellany

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

Select 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 imassacre in Vietnam in 1969.
George Hirsch
is a magazine publisher and co-founder in 1976 of the New York City Marathon. 

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

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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