Hoyle History

"There is a history in all men's lives." – Shakespeare

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The History of the Hoyle surname

Posted on June 10th, 2008

The surname “Hoyle” originally had Welsh origins, but over time became a relatively common English surname.  Many American Hoyle families have their roots in the British Isles, and there are still many Hoyle families living in England and throughout the United Kingdom.  Hoyle families can also be found in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most former British colonies and Commonwealth nations.  There are many prominent and influential Hoyle families living in both North and South America, residing in communities as far north as Alaska to southernmost Chile. 

In the United States, most Hoyle families living in New England and the northern midwestern states have their roots in the British Isles.  Even though “Hoyle” is clearly an English surname, the largest group of Hoyle families, however, are not descendents of British immigrants to the American colonies, but rather from settlers that came from Germany and other Prussian states.

When German immigrants first came to America in the early part of the the 18th Century, they landed at seaports located in Baltimore, Philadephia and New York.  Mostly farmers and craftsmen, they took their families and moved west and south, into the western portions of Pennsylvania and into the Carolinas and Georgia.

Many of those who settled in Pennsylvania retained their German surnames and held onto many old country ways, many becoming part of a larger community often referred to as “Pennsylvania Dutch,” the term Dutch was really a corruption of the word “Deutsch” (German).

The word “Dutch” in this case owes its origin to an archaic meaning where the word “Dutch” designated groups that are today considered German and Dutch – prior to the Thirty Years’ War, the Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch were generally regarded as one of several German peoples. Reference: Wikipedia: Pennsylvania Dutch

Some of these early German immigrants kept the name “HEYL” or ended up using variations of that surname, such as HEIL, HEILL, HAILL, HOILE, and to a lesser extent HOYL. As far as we can tell, the name was originally pronounced as sort of a gutteral “hale” sound (try clearing your throat or vibrating your tongue while saying “hale” to get the idea).

Many early immigrant families kept the original spelling and pronunciation of their surname. However, most – especially those who settled in the southern colonies – tended to Anglicize their names. Most of these families settled on “HOYL” or “HOYLE.”  During the mid-1800s in the United States, most families that initially used the the HOYL spelling later added the “E” in line with the more common usage.

Some German immigrant families, especially those living in Pennsylvania and some northern states, changed “HEYL” to “HALE” or “HAYLE” which was more in keeping with the original pronunciation of the name.  Other families just left the spelling of their surname HEYL or HEIL, similar to what it was when their ancestors first landed in America.

There will be much more on this subject in later postings.

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