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As a surname in America, Hittle is an anglicization of the Germanic Huettel, Hüttel, or Hÿttel.  The earliest known occurence of the family arriving in America happened in 1738 when Georg Michael Hÿttel  arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Winter Galley.  However Georg Michael was not the only Huettel to have arrived in America before the American Revolution. 

Germanic variants

In American records the basic name was rendered several different ways in both civil and religious records.  Some of the reasons for that:

  • "German" language had not been unified
  • Writing (rendition) standards in German had not yet been standardized
  • German naming practices included suffixes which indicated one's place in the family
  • Family place suffixes became permanent additions in some instances
  • Phonetic renditions were utilized often instead of "correct" spelling

So, even in German church records here in the New World, the name was rendered in many different ways: Huttel, Hittel, Hittler, Hitler, Huettler, Huteler, Hickel, Hickeler, Hüttel, Hütteler.  And, this list is probably not exhaustive by any means

Anglicized and American variants

Given the variations of Germanic renditions it is not hard to see that widely variant phonetic anglicizations came into play in colonial records.  In the Pennsylvania Archives series and US Census records it's not uncommon to find the name rendered as Hittle, Hittel, Hitle, Hitel, Hettle, Hettel, Hittler, Hitler, Hettler, Hetler, Hidler, Hidle, Hidel or Hiddle.  However, it must also be noted that Hidler and Hettler are in many case unique names for which no ties to Hittle have been established documentally, so extreme caution and follow-up research should be used before assuming that either of those 2 surnames necessarily belong to the Hittle family.

While Georg Michael Hittel was the first documented arrival, it should be noted that even he was buried with his surname being rendered as "Hittel" and not "Hittle" on his tombstone .  The morphing of the name to Hittle was not a consistent evolution in the family lines of any of his 6 sons and even still today, Hittel is used by some.  So also, in a few cases, is Hittler.

"If you're Hittle, you're related"

Maybe not!  While it's not hard to find this adage at a Hittle family reunion, reality is that it's not necessarily easy to establish that.  In fact, there are many Hittles and Hittels in America (both USA and Canada) for whom definite ties to Georg Michael Hittel are not documentable at all. 

There are at least 5 other lines from colonial days for which no documentation has come to light establishing direct relationship:

  1. Johannes Peter Hittel:  JHP was a contemporary to Georg Michael Hittel in old Northampton County (now Lehigh County) Pennsylvania.  Peter was naturalized at the time of the French and Indian Wars in 1755, probably signifying that during this time of conflict there were no colonial records pertaining to his allegiance to either the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or to the English Crown.  Non-allegiants were ostracized, and so at about age 35, Peter pledged his Oaths of Allegiance.  There are elements of family legend which hold that Peter was Georg Michael Hittel's younger brother, but no documentation has surfaced at this point to confirm that.
  2. Antonius Heuteler/Hueteler: Children of Antonius Heuteler of the Lutheran Church at Conewago in old York County, Pennsylvania were baptized by the Rev. John Casper Stoever (Jr.) as early as 1738.  This family is not easy to follow, and although it pre-dates Georg Michael Hittel, probably utilized a completely different surname rendition.
  3. George Hittler:  George Hittler married Mary Huberin at St. Michael's in Philadelphia in 1751.  He is likely the Hans George Hittler who arrived on the ship Nancy in 1750.  George seems to have settled into Philadelphia and can be found on land and tax records there.
  4. Johannes Nicholas Hittel: Nicklass Hittel arrived on the ship Boston in 1764.  He spent a short time in Philadelphia, then moved to the Pine Grove area of Berks County (now under Schuylkill County jurisdiction) and later moved to Centre County and died in Huntingdon County in 1813.
  5. Sigmund George Hittel:  Sigmund George was evidently a German mercenary who served on the English side during the Revolution.  He was awarded land in Nova Scotia, but evidently moved to New England afterwards.

Family naming patterns

A German name with what appears to us as a first and middle name is not what it appears to be.  For instance: Georg Michael Hittel was not Georg Hittel.  He was Michael Hittel.  What appears to us as his middle name "Michael" was the name that everyone knew him by.  What appears to us as his first name "Georg" was a "family saint's name" and was never what the person was called or his "given name."  This is true of female names as well.  Michael's wife Anna Marie was not known as Anna, but as Marie.

Germanic family naming patterns tended to re-use the same given names.  This is often a very helpful hint when tracing people through pre-1800 records.  However, it can also lead to misassociations in cases where brothers named their children with the same list as their father did. 

There are great similarities between the naming patterns between the lines of Georg Michael, Johannes Peter and Johannes Nicholas and to a lesser degree, Hans George.  This does not appear to be the case with Antonius Heuteler.  This may, or may not, be significant.  But, what it does make necessary is extreme caution when following these lines through various colonial and pre-1850 records.

Post American-Revolution arrivals to the US

There are many subsequent Hittel and Hittler arrivals to the US and Canada after the time of the American Revolution.  These lines also have traceable records, and have become significant in their scope across North America. 

Further references

As the computer/internet age continues to make more resources available, continuing study into this family name proceeds at the Hittle Genealogy Symposium .  This is a collaborative effort initiated by Joseph A. 'Joe' Hittle, a 5-Great Grandson of Georg Michael Hittel via his son George Michael Hittle (Jr).  Because of many significant misalignments in online gedcom information, this site exists to work through the informational conflicts in ways that will more correctly attribute family lines to the correct ancestor.