About the Genealogy & Surname

This particular genealogy began as a subset of my own ancestral genealogy (found elsewhere on this site). Using mostly census and vital records information from Digby County, compiled by Charlotte Vardy, I began putting together a database of all the Handspikers and their connections. Over time, I decided to include the Hanselpackers, as they are the cousins of the Handspikers found mostly in New Brunswick and outside of Digby County, Nova Scotia.

What began as a sort of distraction from my other genealogical pursuits, quickly became much more. I found myself motivated to get as MUCH information as possible on the descendants of Johannis (Hannes) Henselbekker. In doing so, I'm hoping this work will encompass as much as can be found in available records, when it reaches its final version.

Johannis is the patriarch of the family in North America. He was likely of German or Dutch descent, and may have been the first of his family in the colonies. However, there is good reason to believe, he was not. Current theories, supported by the patronymic naming conventions of the time, seem to agree that Henselbekker was more likely Becker or Bekker, originally. When too many Johann's were populating northern New Jersey, at least one decided he needed to stand apart from the rest of the Johann Becker's of his day. Since he was the son of a Johann/Johannes/Johannis/Hannes, himself, he chose to prefix his existing surname, with the diminutive form of Johannes (Hensel). Thereby, he became, Johannis Henselbekker!

Of course, without some sort of written record of his intent, or, other means of proving this actually happened, this can only remain theory. Such is the nature, sometimes, of unique surnames.

Given the patronymic theory, there is also, NOW, reason to believe this did NOT apply to this family in Bergen County, New Jersey. Indeed, more in-depth research has revealed the existence of the Hanselbecker or Henselbacker surname in the area of both Bavaria and Baden, in Germany, in the mid to late 1700s. In fact, one family I'm now including in this database are the descendants of Henry Henselbecker, who was born in Germany in about 1815. His mother remarried to an Ernst Bottler, before they came to the US around 1838, an "thence" to Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, with the children, at least, eventually settling in Montana. Either way you slice it, the chances are now much better that the surname originate back in Germany, rather than being original to the US/Colonies.

There is also another group of Handspikers, that are not related to the Johannis Henselbekker descendants. These Handspiker families are found in the mid to late 1800s in Wilkes County, Georgia. They are likely descendants of slaves once owned by a Harnesberger family (variant spellings). I suppose the name Handspiker, in this case, was the closest the enumerators could come to spelling the name, at that time. To my knowledge, there are none by this name still living in Georgia. We also find a Handspiker group in Kentucky, but it is believed this family is descended from one of the many Handspiker males who either fought in US wars or emigrated further south than the majority of US-bound emigrants.

I'd also like to address some concerns which may arise, during the lifecycle of this online database. Many hardcore genealogists believe that complete source information is necessary to write a genealogy. Sadly, with this family, such is nearly impossible. I have included the majority of my sources in notes, and/or on the Sources page. Some sources are no longer retrievable, and others were never truly catalogued. This is something I regret, but, make no formal apology for, as it is/was beyond my control.

With that in mind, realize this is not a FULLY DOCUMENTED genealogy, but a representation of what is/was as factually based as possible, given sources available and information provided, as of 18-January-2004, when it was last uploaded to the Internet.

This genealogy will be updated as the need arises and time allows. If you find yourself or relatives amongst these pages, feel free to let me know if the information listed is correct, or not correct.