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The Origins of William Hacker

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An extended Research Note for the profile of William Hacker

William Hacker of Virginia was not the progenitor of all Hackers in North America, nor was he the first immigrant of that name. He was the progenitor of one line of the family, which settled at Hacker's Creek in the territory that later became West Virginia.

Research into Hacker immigrants who settled in Virginia during the 17th century has not shown any descendants who could have been his parents, so it is most likely that William Hacker was an immigrant from England, but his exact origin remains unknown.

The first documented evidence for William Hacker's presence in North American is in the Parish Record of Overwharton Parish/Stafford County Virginia, when on 21 May 1738 he married Anne Dillon, whose origins are equally obscure.[1] [2] [3] This entry was followed closely by those of his two sons: William[4] [5] and John.[6] [7] Aside from these entries, evidence of his origin and arrival is quite lacking, which has left much room for unfounded conjecture.

The Hacker Record: "Sailor-Boy"

In 1880, one of the many great-grandchildren of William Hacker, my 2nd-great grand uncle William Hacker of Shelbyville, decided to write the history of his family: History of the HACKER Family.[8] This work, known commonly as The Hacker Record, has been a valuable source for the early settlement of West Virginia, but its fabulations and tall tales have unfortunately corrupted Hacker genealogy and continue to be propagated. This page intends to attempt to set the record as straight as possible with the information now available.

Uncle William had a romantic imagination and liked tales of fugitives from religious persecution, which is how he conceived of Colonel Francis Hacker, "a strict and most zealous Presbyterian"[9] who was executed and attainted in 1660 for his role in the 1649 regicide of King Charles I. The account then continues to Colonel Hacker's son:

We only know that he left one son born about 1640 and whom I shall have to designate by the name of Captain HACKER not having been able to learn what his name really was. From the best information I have been able to obtain when but a youth entered the navy as a cadet under the famous Admiral BLAKE and was with that gallant officer in his celebrated victory over the Spanish Navy near Santa Cruy in South America in 1656 which so effectually destroyed the power of the Spanish Navy and established the supremacy of that of England.
After the restoration of the British Monarchy the dastardly scenes then perpetrated upon the body of his dead Admiral as well as upon the life of his father convinced the Captain that he had no favors to hope for at the hands of those then in power. He therefore fled to Holland under an assumed name entered the naval service of that country . . . History however furnishes us no evidence of that fact nor can we expect any from that source. For it must be remembered that when he fled from England- by an act of Parliament his father had been attained for treason which was made to extend to him and to his posterity forever.[10]

There is insufficient time and space here to correct the gross inaccuracies of this history. Interested persons may consult the WikiTree profiles of Colonel Hacker and his son Francis Hacker III. I will note that if Colonel Hacker's son had indeed sailed with Blake in the 1650s, it would have been under his own name, which would have been recorded. No such record seems to exist.

But what was probably William Hacker's greatest failing as a historian was to completely misunderstand the nature of attainder. Colonel Francis Hacker was attainted for the crime of treason, which meant that his estate and titles were forfeit to the crown and would not pass to any of his heirs. It did not mean that his heirs were considered to inherit his guilt and liability to punishment for their father's crime. There were no agents of the Restoration government pursuing the children of the regicides across the world, as Uncle William seemed to imagine.

Colonel Francis Hacker had one son, another Francis, baptized 26 May 1633 at the Colonel's seat of Stathern in Leicestershire.[11] This Francis III led an unremarkable life; he attended Cambridge but did not take a degree[12] and was given a cornet's commission in his father's regiment in 1659, just before the Restoration of the monarchy disbanded it.[13] Following the Restoration, he appears to have lived quietly and without persecution in the parish of Stathern, where in 1676 he baptized his son Francis IV.[14] Francis IV died without issue at Whitefriars in London[15] in 1716, the last direct male descendant of Colonel Hacker.

Nothing could be further from the tale told in the Hacker Record and still repeated, in whole or part, on many internet genealogy sites. The heirs and relatives of Colonel Francis Hacker had no price put on their heads. They never changed their name, which remained a respectable one; and indeed, when a male line of the Hacker family died out, the descendants of their daughters might petition to assume the Hacker name and arms.[16]

"William of Andover"

As more information concerning the Hacker family became more widely available, the legend of William Hacker's origins began to drop some of the more fantastic elements and attempt to identify him with a documented individual. Unfortunately, many of these pedigrees continued the attempt to establish a descent from Francis Hacker.

The parish records of Andover, Hampshire, show a William Hacker baptized 1 January 1691 - father John Hacker and mother Anne.[17] [18] It appears that he was chosen as the designated Hacker ancestor solely because of his birth date.

According to parish records, the father of this William Hacker was not Francis, but a John Hacker, born 1665.[19] [20] This John Hacker's father, likewise, was not Francis but another John Hacker (unidentified). Genealogists wedded to the Francis Hacker ancestry of William have engaged in logical contortions to show that these Johns were really Francis (changes of name, etc) but the records show rather that this was not the case. If William Hacker of Andover was the immigrant to Virginia who married there in 1738, he was not descended from Colonel Hacker, and that theory must be abandoned. Unfortunately, it persists.

Andover had a fairly large population of Hackers, and thus there were several possible John Hackers as candidates for father of William. The best choice would seem to be the John Hacker who married Anne Bunny on 10 April 1683.[21] [22] He was apparently a master cordwainer (if the same John Hacker).[23]

However, the sequence of birth records in Andover suggests that there were more than one John Hacker with wives named Anne or Ann at the same period. This makes it difficult to determine which parents produced which children. Fortunately, it appears that only one of the couples had a son William, which cuts down greatly on the need for disambiguation.

The great problem with the theory that this William was the Hacker immigrant ancestor in Virginia is the fact that he was already married to Elizabeth Dean, on 1 October 1715.[24] [25] Moreover, he was married with children. The parish records show that William (b. 1718), Elizabeth (b. 1719), and John (b. 1723) appear to have survived infancy.

Thus if we assume that William Hacker of Andover emigrated to Virginia where he married Anne Dillon in 1738, we have to believe that he abandoned Elizabeth, that he married bigamously, or that Elizabeth died before his second marriage. The parish records, however, do not show the burial of an Elizabeth Hacker in Andover between 1723 and 1750.[26]

There is also the fact that he would have been nearing his 50s at the time of his marriage in Virginia, after which he would have had five more children in rapid succession. That would seem to be the work of a younger man.

Finally, the evidence of the parish records presents a strong suggestion that William Hacker was buried in Andover, not having emigrated at all. After 1717, when William Hacker's son William died in infancy, there were no more burials of a William Hacker until 1761[27], 1764[28], and 1774[29]

Unfortunately, the transcriptions of these records provide no identifying information besides the name and date. But William was not as common as name in Andover as John. The birth records of the same period only list four: the William Hacker b. 1691, his first son William who died in 1717,[30] his second son William, b. 6 September 1718[31], and William Hacker son of Andrew Hacker, (See Below) b. 22 October 1733.[32] There seem to be too few candidates to fill these graves if we exclude William b. 1691 for reason of being in America.

While his emigration is conceivable, the weight of evidence appears to be against it. His son William b. 1718 might be a better candidate, as neither his marriage or burial after 1738 seem to be securely documented. Then there might be the William Hacker son of Tobias, b. 1719 [33] And this without leaving Hampshire. There were far more Hackers in Cornwall, Devonshire and Somersetshire. One of the William Hackers there might have decided to seek out a bride in Virginia.

Andrew Hacker - A Connection?

On 8 December 1763, a land grant was registered to Andrew Hacker of (then) Frederick County, Virginia: "430 A. on Crooked Run adjacent Lawrance Snapp and Matthew Kelley in said County."[34] [35] He was subsequently shown on the Rent Rolls in 1764 for that property.[36]

Hacker genealogists do not seem to have made much of this fact or have assigned it to coincidence, as it has long been known that William Hacker was not the first or only of his name in Virginia. But unlike John or even William, Andrew is not at all a common Hacker name. One place, however, where it is known is Andover, Hampshire.

In Andover, on 4 October 1677, a John Hacker baptized a son Andrew.[37]

On 26 November 1694, a John Hacker (probably not the same one) and his wife Ann baptized a son Andrew.[38]

That Andrew may have died young, as on 11 January 1702, John Hacker and his wife Ann baptized another son Andrew.[39]

On 26 December 1724, that Andrew Hacker may have been the one to marry Elizabeth Waters.[40]

On 26 October 1725, Andrew Hacker and his wife Elizabeth baptized a son Andrew.[41]

On 22 October 1733, Andrew Hacker and his wife Elizabeth baptized a son William.[42] Now that William Hacker is much too young to have married in Virginia in 1738, however the name suggests a relationship.

An Andrew Hacker was buried in Andover on 30 April 1732.[43] This could have been the son of Andrew and Elizabeth born 1725 (unlike most parish records, those of Andover at this date did not seem to record the names of the parents of dead children. It is not at all clear who was the Andrew Hacker buried 28 September 1717[44]).

An Andrew Hacker was buried in Andover on 10 May 1772.[45] This may have been the Andrew Hacker born 1702, but, if so, he was probably not the Andrew Hacker in Virginia. (The land office still had that property registered to Andrew Hacker as of 22 September 1777.[46]

Thus we can not clearly identify the Andrew Hacker who settled in Frederick County Virginia in 1763 with the family of William Hacker of Andover. It is only speculation to suppose that the same John Hacker who fathered John Hacker in 1665 might be the John Hacker who fathered Andrew in 1677. But the data seem sufficient to suggest the possibility that further research may yield some conclusions, one way or the other.

"Chicken Bill"

This theory originates from the discovery of records that show a William Hacker "of Hampton Court" sentenced to October 1730 to transportation. From his trial at the Old Bailey, 8 April 1730:

William Hacker , of Hampton-Court , was indicted, for that he, together with William Field , did on the 5th of this Instant April , feloniously steal 4 Cocks, 17 Hens, 5 Drakes, and 5 Ducks , the Property of Christopher Tilson , Esq;

John Nicholson depos'd, That himself, the Prisoner, and William Field being drinking at Teddington , they went about 11 o'Clock at Night, and stole the Fowls, and carried them to Brentford, and put them into a Stable, and they got one Guy Moore to sell them.

The Prisoner pleaded, that this Evidence got him to go with him to fetch the Fowls, telling him he had bought them; the Jury found him Guilty to the Value of 10 d.

He was sentenced to transportation for seven years.[47] [48] [49]

He was transported 30 October 1730 in the ship Forward and the landing certificate was issued January 1731 at "the Potomack".[50]

The theory has the merit of good timing. If William Hacker reached "the Potomack" in 1731 and served the seven-year term of indenture, he would have been free to marry in 1738. Unfortunately, there are no records for him in the period between the order for his transportation and his marriage in Virginia. We don't know who purchased his indenture or where he did his service, or how and where he met his future wife. Thus there is no certain link between the transportee William Hacker and the immigrant ancestor William Hacker.

The real problem lies with the genealogists who persist in the attempt to tie William Hacker the immigrant ancestor to Colonel Francis Hacker and thus to William of Andover. This strains credulity too far. We are to believe that William Hacker, engendered mysteriously by a nameless fugitive descended from a regicide and then living respectably in Andover with his wife and family, decided at the age of 39 to abandon them there and go to London to drink in low dram shops with low companions, with whom he committed a petty crime of property. After which, he contracted a bigamous marriage that probably made all his American children bastards - which would not make Uncle William of Shelbyville happy to know.

It is quite possible that some of the myths of his origin originated with the ancestral William Hacker, telling stories to his family and neighbors to conceal the fact that both he and his wife were transported convicts.

It is important to note that the William Hacker charged at The Old Bailey did not call himself "of Andover" but rather "of Hampton Court." He was a Londoner. The theft was a London crime, he was sentenced in a London court. Furthermore, it was a poor man's crime and probably a young, unmarried man's crime. This, of course, is conjecture, but if genealogists wish to go searching for the origin of "Chicken Bill" they had better look in the slums of London, a city where Hackers were plentiful. This does not mean they will find him there. And it does not mean that, if they do, they will have their immigrant ancestor. It is more than likely that William Hacker's origins will remain undiscovered. But undiscovered is better than making up fantastic tall tales.


  1. Virginia, Overwharton Parish Register, 1720-1760. p. 43.[1]
  2. "Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940", database, FamilySearch ( : 29 January 2020), William Hacker, 1738.
  3. Her identification as "Anne Turner" is uncertain and supported largely by improbable tall tales in the Hacker Record.
  4. Virginia, Overwharton Parish Register, 1720-1760. p. 76.[2]
  5. "Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917", database, FamilySearch ( : 28 January 2020), William Hacker, 1739.
  6. Virginia, Overwharton Parish Register, 1720-1760. p. 77.[3]
  7. "Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917", database, FamilySearch ( ), John Hacker, 1743.
  8. Hacker, William.History of the HACKER Family 1880. Hackers Creek Pioneer Descendants.[4] []
  9. Hacker Record, p. 8
  10. Hacker Record. pp. 47-48.
  11. "England, Leicestershire Parish Registers, 1533-1991," database, FamilySearch ( : 6 June 2018), Francis Hacker, 26 May 1633; records extracted by findmypast, images digitized by FamilySearch; citing Baptism, Stathern, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom, page , Citing the Record Office of Leicestershire, Leicester, and Rutland, Wigston, UK.
  13. British History Online [5]
  14. England, Leicestershire Parish Registers, 1533-1991. Baptism, Stathern, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom, page 3; citing the Record Office of Leicestershire, Leicester, and Rutland, Wigston, UK. [6]
  15. Will of Francis Hacker, PROB 1716. London Metropolitan Archives. MS 9172/110. Will #103.
  16. Burke's Gealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, vol 1. "Hacker of East Bridgford." p. 560. United Kingdom: H Colburn, 1875.[7]
  17. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), William Hacker, 1691.
  18. FindMyPast: England Births and Baptisms 1538-1975. [8]
  19. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 20 March 2020), John Hacker in entry for John Hacker, 1665.
  20. FindMyPast: England Births and Baptisms 1538-1975 [9]
  21. FindMyPast, England Marriages 1538-1973 [10]
  22. "England Marriages, 1538–1973 ", database, FamilySearch ( : 13 March 2020), John Hacker, 1683.]
  23. FindMyPast, Britain, Country Apprentices 1710-1808. [11]
  24. "England Marriages, 1538–1973", database, FamilySearch : 12 March 2020), William Hacker, 1715.
  25. FindMyPast, England Marriages 1538-1973.[12]
  26. FindMyPast, Hampshire Burials. [13]
  27. "England, Hampshire Parish Registers, 1538-1980," database, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2020), William Hacker, 10 Dec 1761; citing Burial, , possibly other reference information Lancashire Record Office and Hampshire Record Office, England; FHL microfilm 1,041,197.
  28. "England, Hampshire Parish Registers, 1538-1980," database, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2020), Willm Hacker, 29 Jul 1764; citing Burial, , possibly other reference information Lancashire Record Office and Hampshire Record Office, England; FHL microfilm 1,041,197.
  29. "England, Hampshire Parish Registers, 1538-1980," database, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2020), William Hacker, 16 Jun 1774; citing Burial, , possibly other reference information Lancashire Record Office and Hampshire Record Office, England; FHL microfilm 1,041,197.
  30. FindMyPast, Hampshire Burials.[14]
  31. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), William Hacker, 1718.
  32. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), William Hacker, 1733.
  33. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 20 March 2020), William Hacker, 1719.
  34. Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants, 1742-1775, Vol. II, Book M (#M-217) [15]
  35. Ancestry Sharing Image: [16]
  37. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 20 March 2020), Andrew Hacker, 1677.
  38. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), Andrew Hacker, 1694.
  39. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), Andrew Hacker, 1702.
  40. England Marriages, 1538-1975 [17]
  41. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), Andrew Hacker, 1725.
  42. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), William Hacker, 1733.
  43. Hampshire Burials [18]
  44. Hampshire Burials: [19]
  45. "England, Hampshire Parish Registers, 1538-1980," database, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2020), Andrew Hacker, 10 May 1772; citing Burial, , possibly other reference information Lancashire Record Office and Hampshire Record Office, England; FHL microfilm 1,041,197.
  46. Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants 1775-1800, vol III, Book Q (Q-194)[20])
  47. Old Bailey Proceedings Online[21]
  48. Old Bailey Proceedings Online[22]
  49. Ancestry Sharing Image.[23]
  50. Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage. p. 344. Genealogical Publishing Company: 1988. Ancestry Sharing Image [24]



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