Recorded in many spellings including Hart, Harte, Heart, Hart and Hartman (English), and Hart and Hartmann (German), de Herte (Flemish & Dutch), Hiorth and Hjorth (Swedish), this interesting surname was usually a nickname. It is medieval, and a good example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given with reference to physical attributes and sometimes supposed resemblance to an animal's appearance or disposition. In this case the derivation is from pre 7th century word "heorot", and as a nickname this would have been given to a fast runner, or perhaps, given the robust humour of those times, the complete reverse! Where the suffix -man(n) is used, this suggests that the name was occupational, and may mean the friend or servant of Hart. In England where the earliest of all surname recordings are to be found one Roger Hert appears in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk in the year 1166, and Simon le Hert is noted in the tax rolls known as the 'Feet of Fines' for the county of Kent in 1194. In some cases the surname may be of Irish origin, and is derived from the Gaelic O' hAirt, composed of the elements O', meaning male descendant of, and "Art", a byname meaning hero. One of the earliest settlers in the New World was John Hart, who embarqued from the Port of London, aboard the ship "Phillip", bound for Virginia in June 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelfric Hort, which was dated circa 1060, in the "Olde English Byname Register", Hampshire, during the reign of King Edward, known as "The Confessor", 1040 - 1066. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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