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Last night on “Who
Do You Think You Are?“, Jim Parsons (that’s him on the right) learned that his
great-grandmother’s Hacker surname is French.
Hacker is on the Acadian
Memorial Archive’s list of common Creole surnames. I kind of wish the genealogist
at the Louisiana
Historical Center in New Orleans had gone into the surname etymology a few seconds
more. Ancestry.com’s last name meaning
search (which provides definitions from the
Dictionary of American Family Names by Oxford University Press) says Hacker is
German, Dutch or Jewish.
My guess (after finding a bunch of online articles about computer hacking in France)
is that the name is variant of Hacher,
from the French word for “chop”—perhaps an occupational
surname for a woodcutter.
We at Family Tree Magazine get a fair number of questions about “Where does
my last name come from?” and the answer isn’t always easy.
You can hear some surnames and know immediately they’re German (take my Depenbrocks)
or Italian (such as Fiorelli) or whatever, but others are more ambiguous. And it could
be that your surname is a variant of the original name, or an Americanized spelling
your immigrant ancestor adopted after arriving here. Our contributing editor Nancy
Hendrickson gives her Shore family name as an example: She always thought it was English,
but it’s actually a variation of a Swiss name, Schorr.
Want to know where your last name comes from? See
our seven surname research tips on FamilyTreeMagazine.com (free article).
You can improve your online genealogy searching for ancestors’ names with Lisa
Louise Cooke’s Google Surname Search Secrets video class.