How did our Hasselbachers get their name?

I think we continue to get closer to having a satisfactory answer to this question. Once we learned that we came from Gresten, Austria, an obvious geographic possibility presented itself. The farms on which the late 16th and early 17th century Hasselbachers lived were in or near the headwaters of the Haselbach, and in the upper reaches of the Haselgraben carved out by that brook. Indeed, there was, and still exists a farm in exactly that place named Haselbach.  (It appears in older maps as 'Ober-Haselbach.')  There was a precedent elsewhere in Europe that when last names were given out, some people took the name of the farm on which they lived: a hofname or farm-name. It seems very reasonable to assume that this occurred for our Hasselbacher family in Gresten.

I recently found a document at the GFF in Nürnberg that puts this assumption on a more scholarly basis. In the 1940s, a teacher from Gresten named Hermann Schöberl transcribed the old church books of 17th century Gresten into modern (and therefore readable) German. Examples of his work can be seen elsewhere on this website and were important for the family historians of Franconia. It is probably fair to assume that no one in the 20th century had a better understanding of the names and family structures of old Gresten. Herr Schöberl also had the advantage of the fact that the centuries-old farm names were still being used in Gresten.

In the document I present here, Leopold draws the conclusion that in the early part of the 17th century, many surnames were derived from the names of the original farms. Our name is one in that group. In the later part of that century it appeared that instead of family names, house names were being used (especially in death records).  Look here for my attempt at translation or suggest your own.

The conclusion that we drew our name from our environment was also made by Pfarrer Georg Kuhr, a Hasselbacher descendant who did definitive work on our family history.  He is often quoted by others.  Here are his own words from a letter he wrote to a cousin in Germany.

In addition to listing the properties with which Haselbachers have been associated in church records, Pfarrer Kuhr (in a difficult to translate first sentence) concludes that the Hasselbacher farm (Gut Haselbach) gave the family name to those families living in the Apfelbaum and neighboring properties of the Schnaderamt. [To paraphrase further,] your patriarch around or before 1550 sat on the Haselhof as a Haselbacher. Furthermore the farm shared its name with the Haselgraben through which the road and stream descend towards Ybbsitz.  In those earlier times there would have been hazelnut bushes with hazelnuts.

Concluding conmments:
I have visited the Haselbach farm. An overturned bucket of water will run downhill to the Haselbach Creek and further erode the Haselgraben. However, church records available to us provide only a single link of a Hasselbacher to the Haselbach farm.  Earlier family scholars (including those above) believed that the Haselbacher line began associated with Haus Haselbach in the the 1500s and spread out fom there to neighboring farms.  I do not doubt we were annointed with our famly name in the 16th century if not earlier. It is not surprising that sons would move out to work in other farms. Stephan's involvement and punishment for the Peasant's Revolt may also have caused a dislocation.

The 16th century Protestant church-books of Gresten have been lost to us. There exists one additional source of records that is not currently available to us– the civil records still held in the castle of Gresten. We know that our name is present in those records. Pfarrer Kuhr and Fritz Hasselbacher saw in the records that our ancestor Stephan was a participant in the Peasants Revolt of the late 1500s.  His son Wolffgang was fined for stealing wood from the King's Forest. Someday we may be able to learn more. For now I am comfortable associating my name with the geography of a lovely valley in the northern foothills of the Austrian Alps.

Addendum: I thought I saw the name Leopold Schörbl elsewhere in the document.  I interpret that the signature in the image above looks like Hermann Schöberl.  I understand that Herr Schöberl has no descendants today in Gresten.  I will try to clarify this in the future.

Peter Hasselbacher
16 Oct 2009; edited 20 Jun 2010; 8 July 2010