Harmer Surname Genealogy

name could have various origins, depending upon the part of the country
it sprung up:The Latin word Hermerus appeared in the Domesday
Book. A prior source could be the Old English personal name
Heremar, a compound name which translates as “army” and
Some think the Harmer name in Sussex may have
come from the 12th
century Hazemere Hall in Etchingham in East Sussex. Another
suggestion is the Old Norse harmr,
the root of the English word “harm,” which means one who grieves or
causes grief. Then Harmer
could be occupational,
from the Old English healm meaning a collector of

Harmer Resources on

Harmer Ancestry

England. The three major
groupings of Harmers in England are:

  • in Sussex
  • in Norfolk
  • and in Gloucestershire.

Sussex The
Sussex Harmers were, according to 19th century records, numerically
the largest. They have been traced back to a John Harmer from
Heathfield, born in 1489. DNA testing suggests one single

The name appears mainly in the villages of Heathfield
and Salehurst in East Sussex. Heathfield baptism records for
Harmer date from the early 1600’s. Heathfield’s favorite son was Jonathan Harmer,
the early 19th century stonemason. His cottage Harmers still stands. Another
Harmer line traces
from Reuben Harmer, born in Heathfield in 1798. The first
recorded Harmer from Salehurst was a Roger Harmer, born in 1658.

Norfolk In the
Domesday Book, the Latin name of Hermerus appeared and is
recorded as “possessing much land in Norfolk.” Later the Harmer
name was to be found in various places in the county.

Harmers in
the Kelling/Salthouse area trace to the 1700’s. A
Harmer family were landowners at Walcott near Norwich. Some of
this family went to the Stalham/Hoveton area and some to Norwich itself
(where there was a Harmer’s Wharf on King Street). The clothing
manufacturer F.W. Harmer & Company became one of the largest
employers in the city in the 19th century (the firm finally closed its
doors in 1990). An earlier Harmer,
John Harmer, was the leading lithotomist (extractor of bladder stones)
in Norwich during the first half of the 18th century.

The third Harmer location was Gloucestershire. In 1562 it was
recorded that John Harmer held property by lease at Stanley St.
Leonards. Harmer
marriage records
are to be found in the neighboring villages
of King’s Stanley and Stonehouse from the 1570’s. The Harmer
family owned the Stanley mill on the Frome at that time. The
Harmers of Randwick, churchmen and schoolmasters, can be traced from
the 1660’s. Later Harmers were found in Gloucester and

London The
Harmer name also cropped up in London, generally from modest

  • Jasper Harmer was an ironmonger in Smithfield in
    the 1680’s, and supposedly a clockmaker too (although the clockmakers’
    guild disputed this claim).
  • a century later, James Harmer was
    born in Spitalfield, the son of a weaver. He contrived to set
    himself up as a lawyer and became very successful and wealthy. In
    the 1820’s he founded the radical paper, the Weekly Despatch, and,
    later in life, built himself the replica of a 16th century mansion on
    land outside Gravesend in Kent.
  • a third London Harmer – the son
    of a French polisher from Hackney – was Tommy Harmer or “Harmer the
    Charmer,” a Tottenham Hotspur footballer of the 1950’s.

America. There were not
that many Harmers who emigrated
to America. John Harmer was briefly mayor of Williamsburgh in
Virginia, but didn’t
stay. He had arrived from Bristol in 1733 and operated there as a
slave trader.

It was the state of Pennsylvania which had the largest influx of
Harmers. William and George Harmer, two Quaker brothers from
Wiltshire, left England for Pennsylvania and religious toleration with
William Penn in the 1680’s. A descendant Elias Harmer became a
Mormon convert who headed West in the 1840’s. Josiah Harmer, one
of George Washington’s generals, suffered a crushing defeat in 1792 on
the Ohio frontier and returned to Philadelphia in disgrace.
Alfred C. Harmer was a 19th century Philadelphia shoe

Canada. Other Harmers
were heading for Canada by the 1830’s. Early settlers in Ontario

  • Robert and Mary Harmer from Norfolk in Blenheim township in the
  • William and Elizabeth Harmer from Norfolk in Fullerton township
    in the 1840’s.
  • Harmers from Sussex in Kingston
    in 1836.
  • Edmund and Mary Harmer from
    Sussex in Guelph in the 1850’s.

A Harmer branch from Kingston headed west to Alberta where Bill Harmer
was elected to the Senate in 1918. He was known as “Silent” Bill
Harmer because, during his thirty years in the Senate, he only spoke a
total of 89 words.

Australia. There are
Harmers as well in Australia. The first were
convicts, such as Benjamin Harmer transported to Sydney on the Glory in 1818. John Harmer
was a soldier who joined the Mounted Police in Australia in 1846.
James Harmer was an early settler in the Adelaide hills. Francis
Harmer and his family left Salthouse in Norfolk on the Bolton for South Australia in
1848. Their descendants are still to be found there.

Select Harmer Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Harmer Names

Jonathan Harmer was a
well-known potter from Heathfield whose
terracottas were to be found all over Sussex in the early 19th century.
Alexander Harmer was southern
California’s first notable painter of the 19th century.
Sir Sidney Harmer from Norfolk
was Director of the Natural History Department of the British Museum.
Henry R Harmer started the
world’s largest stamp auction firm of H.R. Harmer in London in 1918.
Wendy Harmer is an Australian
writer, radio show host, and comedienne.
Sarah Harmer is a Canadian
singer/songwriter from Kingston, Ontario.

Harmers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Sussex)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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