The Descendants of Michael Hirtle of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

1751 to the present

The Children of (Joseph) Stephen Hirtle, ca. 1920


In 1751 (Hans) Michael HIRTLE of Hochdorf, Württemberg, Germany, boarded the PEARL in Rotterdam and began a new life in Nova Scotia. With his wife and family he joined a small group of German, Swiss, and Montbeliard settlers recruited by the English to settle the recently conquered Canada. Today almost all the Hirtles in Canada and the United States appear to be descendants of this original settler.

In 1956 Ms. Elsie Thoresen began tracking the lineage of the Hirtle family. Her fundamental work has been enriched by the more recent investigations of Mrs. Victoria Ryan. The work of the two compilers was conducted with the most careful attention paid to completeness and documentation. The notebooks of Hirtle family genealogy that they compiled have long been available on microfilm at both the South Shore Genealogical Society in Lunenburg and the Family History Centers of the LDS Church (films 1421583 and 1421584). This web page is an attempt to begin to build an online version of the genealogy.

How you can help

Transcribing the 25 notebooks compiled by Thoresen and Ryan is more than one person can do. Therefore GEDCOM files either representing a transcription of the notebooks or reflecting original research are welcome. These web pages already incorporate GEDCOM files generously donated by Gail Facini and Chris Fretwell, and more are welcome, as are additions, comments, and corrections to the information presented. All such information may be mailed to the compiler, Peter Hirtle. Questions on the Hirtle genealogy itself should be directed to Mrs. Victoria Ryan.

Recent additions

On 13 March a major upgrade to the database was implemented.  A slew of new family group records and GEDCOMS from Debbie Chan, Steven Hartlen, and Karen Farmer were included, increasing the size of the database by 2 1/2 times.  Links to the German ancestors and to the family of Johann Martin HERTTEL were also added.

On 2 July 1997 a new line of Hirtles descending from John Frederick Hirtle (1836-1891) was added to the web site. The information was provided by Blair G. Whynacht.

Starting points

There are three starting points for the collection:

In addition, a zipped version of the GEDCOM file used to create the web pages and containing all three branches is available for downloading.

Technical details

The information on the Hirtles was originally transcribed into a Brother's Keeper database. It is now stored in Family Origins for Windows software. Because the two programs handle sources and notes in slightly different ways, some anomalies may have occurred and will be corrected as they are uncovered. A GEDCOM file containing the descendants and direct ancestors of Michael Hirtle was created.  GEDClean was then used to remove information on living individuals, leaving only their name and familial relationship. (As with the U.S. Census, information on individuals born before 1920 is open for inspection.) In the past Gedpage was used to reformat the GEDCOM file into the familiar Family Group Record format; for this iteration the web publishing feature of Family Origins was used.. Currently the combined files consists of 1,802 individuals in 658 family groups..

A Note on the Spelling and Pronunciation of Hirtle

Winthrop Bell, author of the classic history on the emigration to Lunenburg, The "Foreign Protestants" and the Settlement of Nova Scotia, made the following notes on the spelling and pronunciation of the name Hirtle:


In records of the "Foreign Protestants" in Nova Scotia, one becomes familiar with two varieties of corruption of the original surnames. Most familiar is the case where pronunciation has been more or less maintained and spelling has been altered to accommodate that pronunciation as the altered spelling might indicate it to English-speaking persons. But there are also instances of the contrary alteration: where spelling has been preserved and pronunciation has changed to what English-speaking persons made of that spelling. The HIRTLE family is interesting in displaying both modifications. Original pronunciation in German, might, of course be indicated for an English-speaking reader by some such spelling as HIERT-leh, or HERE-tleh. The corruptions to "Hartling", "Hertling", "Hartlin", etc. have been spelling alterations with pronunciation following more or less recognizably the original pronunciation. And these names are numerously represented in Nova Scotia today. But we also have, wide-spread, the name "Hirtle", the spelling of which has been kept unchanged, but the pronunciation of which has no affinity with the original pronunciation, but is what an English-speaker would read from H-i-r-t-l-e, viz: the sound of HURT-il.

Additional Resources

The Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, GENWEB home page is a rich resource for information on the Foreign Protestants of Lunenburg.

Last modified on: November 5, 2010