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.