Origin of the name, near as we know

The Handspiker and Hanselpacker line, is, as some would say, my "destiny." Being born a Handspicker, and dealing with all the childhood aspects of the name, I often wanted to change it! Well, after all these years of digging for my ancestors, I have become very fond of it, in its current variation.

The name MIGHT have actually originated in the colonies (see ***NEW***), in the mid-1700's. Research indicates that there are very few by this surname, found in Europe. Based on my own patronymic research, it is also likely that the HENSELBEKKERs of Bergen County, New Jersey, were all descendants of a BECKER, likely Johannes. Using patronymic naming methodology of the time period, a son of a John (Johannes) would likely be referred to as "little John", or Hansel/Hensel. If a child of little John wished to distinguish himself from other members of the family, the progression would go something like this: John Becker, John (Hansel) Becker, John Hanselbecker.


After many years of research and improved access through the Internet to records and family histories there is a better chance this family surname is from the Baden, Wuerttemberg, and/or Bavaria areas of Germany. In the late 1700's, there are at least two families in Germany that reflect a similiar THEMATIC name. There is a marriage record for Jacob Hanselbecker and Catharina Christina Schaefer, in Mannheim, Baden, Germany. These two MAY be related to the family ancestry of Henry "Hank" Henselbecker (of Montana and elsewhere). There are also indications of people of similar name coming from BAVARIA.

Without the ability or knowledge to fully search German Archives, focusing on those two areas before the turn from the 18th to 19th century, it is not possible to fully determine the origins of the name, or how widespread it might have been. There is, of course, similar reason to believe the PATRONYMIC naming conventions may have applied to the origins in Germany. My GUT tells me, however, that the brothers who came to or were born in Bergen County, New Jersey, and their father, did NOT develop the name in the colonies, but that they brought it with them from the old country.


As you can see, it offers a real challenge, with much deed, will, and vital records research ahead of me. But, I do believe this is how our name was "born." There were at least four Henselbekker and/or Hanselpacker "brothers," in the mid 1700's (Conrad, Wilhelm, Philip and Johannes). It appears that all four of these brothers enlisted, abt 1778, with Peter Rutan's Company, 4th Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, a loyalist group. John left the NJV, much earlier than the other "brothers," and seems to have changed loyalties, and possibly even changed his name to Packer, after the war. This could have been due to Hanselpacker being associated as Loyalist, and John didn't wish that upon his descendants.

There are many indications that his line stayed in New Jersey, at least until 1810, or so, if not longer. Since we know for certain that one Coonrad Hanselpacker was married in Bergen County in 1808, it merely causes one to wonder what MIGHT have happened to this family group. Two possibilities exist. First, they might have, eventually, moved to live with the Canadian family group(s). Second, and more likely, they might have altered the name in such a way that it is no longer possible to follow the family history on this line. That said, this family is likely to have changed the surname to Packer (for those remaining in the Colonies). Since there were other Packer families in Bergen County at that time, it allows them a certain level of invisibility (if you will). This also makes it near impossible to trace that branch of the family any further.

The other three brothers accepted lands in Canada, after the war, with Conrad and Wm. emigrating to Digby, Nova Scotia, and Philip, to New Brunswick. While Conrad and William changed the name to Handlespiker, and eventually Handspiker, Philip and his descendants kept Hanselpacker, which is the most original spelling of the name, still in use today. It seems to me, from ALL that I've been able to research, that all Handspikers, Hanselpackers, Hanspikers, Henselbekkers, etc, now living in mostly Canada, US, and Australia, are all descended from these four "brothers."

We know, for a fact, that Conrad, William and Philip were all brothers, but, just as some "unloyals" were disowned by their families in the "old country," it is not unlikely to believe this may also have occurred in respect to John. So, his specific relationship to the other three, has yet to be proven (but he IS related). As of my most recent research, it is also a likelihood that Johannes or Hannes was the father of Conrad, William, Philip and Michel.

There is so much more to share, on the origins of the family, that it will take a book to do so. Eventually, I might think about writing one!

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This page created: 2 April 2000

This page updated: 10 January 2004

Updated and Maintained by Jared W. Handspicker