History of the Hirnings
View this page in: English | Deutsch
    The Hirning name is unusual and distinctly South German from the "Schwäbische Alb" (Swabian Alb, not to be confused with alps) area. This area is a highland of 600 to 1,000m above sea level with the length of 150 km and only 20-40 km wide. It is a part of the geological Jura-Formation with white rocks, that allow the water to go through and form under-earth caves. For this reason the ground is not too wet and it was a favorite place for settlements in the very early times.
    Most of the Hirning families were found in the central part of the Schwäbische Alb between the town of Reutlingen and Ulm in an area of 40 X 30km. Some of the villages that the first Hirnings were recorded in are Münsingen, Auingen, Laichingen, and Suppingen. Click here for a modern map of this area in Germany.

    The earliest Hirning recorded was Hans Hirning from Munsingen. He was born around 1500. Thomas and Ralf Hirning have done research on the Hirning name, and they have found that the origin of the Hirning name isn't very easy to determine. They have concluded that the Hirning name may have come from the town Hirrlingen in Germany. They have published their findings on their Genealogy Webpage as well.

    The people who were from the Swabian Alb were called Swabes, and their dialect was Schwabishch (swabian). The name comes from a German tribe the Romans called "suevi" or "suebi" or "alemanni". They fought against the Romans beginning about 50 B.C. and settled about 400 A.D. in the Switzerland, Baden-Wurttemberg and Elsab areas. They were later controlled by the "Franken" (Franks) and other Germanic Tribes. The Swabes blended with these ethnic groups to become "deutsch" or German, but the Swabian identity remains even today. The Swabian dukedom remained until the 13th century, and split into small territories which grew into larger territories. Around 1500, some of these territories were Wurttemberg, Baden, Swabian Austria and many small free towns and monasteries. At first, Wurttemberg was a small county, but by 1500 became the largest Swabian territory.

    In 1457, Wurttemberg had its first parliament, and in 1495 became a dukedom and undividable territory. In 1514 the duke had to conceit a bill of rights called "Tubinger Vertrag". One of the rights contained in the bill was free movement and emigration within Wurttemberg. In 1536 Wurttemberg became Protestant. The state of Wurttemberg was well organized, and from 1552-1590 in every village the priest had to write a complete list of births, marriages, deaths and confirmations. This is the main material for family research. All these documents are now accessible on microfilms located at the archives of the Protestant church in Stuttgart. Many villages suffered during the French Wars from 1618 until 1687, and at that time lost many of their documents.

    Another tool available for family research are the tax lists that start in the year 1522. In the tax list of that year, all Hirning families were living in the central part of the Schwäbische Alb with one exception - a man who owned land 60 km away in the northern Schwarzward. This settlement is located at the southern border of the Wurttemberg dukedom, near the border between the Protestant and Catholic areas. As far as known, all Hirnings were Protestants, although it would not be impossible to have a Catholic branch. In 1812, Wurttemberg was made a kingdom by Napoleon. Frederick I, king at this time, didn't care about the old rights "Tubinger Vertrag", and fought against the beginning of democracy.

    Today, there are many Hirnings scattered throughout the whole world. According to the World Book of Hirnings, most are found in Germany, where there are 190 estimated households containing an estimated 475 people, with the most populated area being southern Germany. In the United States, there are 155 households with 341 people, and the most populated state is California. Next is Australia with 50 households and 110 people with the most populated province being Queensland. There are 7 households and 15 people in Canada, most living in Alberta. There are also Hirning households which are located in Switzerland and South Africa. There is also thought to be some Hirnings still in Russia.

    Some Hirnings immigrated directly from Germany to the United States, while others first immigrated to Russia for about 80 years. This later group is commonly called "Germans from Russia." These people did not lose their German heritage in Russia, but instead continued their German traditions and language when they immigrated to the Untied States. Most of the Hirnings found in the United States and and Canada today trace their ancestry back to the Germans from Russia line, to a common ancestor, Andreas Hirning. For more information on Germans from Russia, see the Andreas Hirning biography.

    Most of the immigration to the United States took place between the 1880s and the  early 1900s. The Hirning family who emigrated to Australia left Germany in the 1850s, see the Johann Georg Biography for more information.


Our thanks to Thomas Hirning of Stuttgart, Germany,
who provided much of the history contained in this article.
As always, if you have any information, please send it to our address: robert at hirning.org.

Return to the Hirning Heritage Homepage