Select Harris Surname Genealogy

Harry was the regular pronunciation of Henry in the Middle Ages, although Henry always appeared in official documents.  From Harry came Harris, mainly found in the south of England, and Harrison, mainly found in the north.  

There are local variants of the Harris name, Harries in Wales, Harriss in pockets of the Midlands, and Herries in Scotland.  One Harris branch in Essex, dating back to the 1500's, claimed to derive their surname from the French le herisse

Harrises and its variants from Britain can be found in Amrerica.  Some Harrises in America may have German or French ancestry.
Select Harris Resources on The Internet
Select Harris Ancestry

England.  Early references to the Harris surname are William Herry in Colchester in 1337, William Harrys in Oxfordshire in 1406, and Lawrence Harryes in Hertfordshire in 1468.  Guppy, an early researcher on surnames, had the following comment on the Harrises:

"In the struggle between the Harrises and the Harrisons, the former have been worsted.  The Harrises in fact have been entirely on the defensive.  Not only have they been unable to make any successful inroads into the northern territory of the Harrisons, they have not prevented their foes from forcing a way through their ranks and reaching the south coast." 

SW England  The Harrises of Radford manor in Devon date from about 1450.  They subsequently became the Harrises of Hayne and there were family outposts in Cornwall and Somerset as well.  The Harris name also appeared in the Channel islands of Alderney and Guernsey, following a family migration from Devon in the 1840's.  A Harris family from Salisbury in Wiltshire produced James Harris, a noted English diplomat at the time of the French Revolution.  His grandson James was briefly Foreign Secretary in the 1850's. 

SE England  A Harris family from Southminster in Essex traces itself back to around 1500.  Sir Arthur Harrris from this family was a member of the Virginia company in London which helped organize the early settlement there. Another Harris family, originally from Harlow in Essex, have descendants who settled in Prince Edward Island, Canada in the 1850's.

Wales.  The Welsh Harries name was mainly to be found in Pembrokeshire.  A Harries family had settled at Tregwynt and at Priskilly in the 1600's.  They built their family home at Heathfield in Letterston in the early 19th century.  Later Harries were to be found in Glamorgan. 

.  The Herries name first appeared in Dumfriesshire on the Scottish borders, the origin being the Norman family de Heriz.  A Herries family, dating back to Herbert Herries in 1490, were the lords of Terregles near Dumfries. 

Some might think that Harris is a Scottish name because of the Harris tweed which takes its name from the isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.  This Harris name is derived from the Gaelic na hearadh.

America.  William Harris, who arrived on the Lion, was one of the early settlers of Providence, Rhode Island. Elisha Harris from this family was the Governor of the state in 1847.  Nathan Harris from Rhode Island became an early convert to the Mormon movement.

Virginia  John Harris from the Essex Southminster family came to Virginia in the 1620's.  Hiis son Thomas started a tobacco plantation in Isle of Wight county.  Descendants later moved onto North Carolina and Georgia. 

Other Harrises in Virginia went to Tennessee, Indiana, and Texas.  Harris county in Texas was named after Richardson Harris, an early settler in the area in the 1820's.  William Harris from Georgia came to Mississippi in 1837.  Hie three sons, Nathaniel, James, and William, all served in the Confederate Army, Nathaniel in particular distinguishing himself in battle.

Pennsylvania  John Harris from Yorkshire had arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700's and founded Harrisburg (which bears his name today).  His family operated a trading and ferry business and were one of principal store keepers for the emerging American frontier at that time.  

Canada.  The first Harris arrivals were originally of Dutch extraction, but living in New York state at the time of the American Revolution.  After the war, Myndert Harris took his family to Port Hope in Ontario.  Another who departed at that time was Eli Harris.  He left New York for Ingersoll, Ontario in 1805.  His line produced pioneer Baptist ministers and the painter Lawren Harris. 

John Harris came over in 1821 from Ireland (although of English stock) and settled in Wellington county, Ontario.  Another John Harris, this time from Devon, built Eldon House in London, Ontario in 1834.  John died soon after; but his wife Amelia lived on for another twenty five years.  Her diary has been preserved and gives an interesting account of 19th century family life.  Eldon House itself remained in family hands until 1959 and has now been restored as a museum.

Australia.  Two John Harrises from very different backgrounds contributed to the early history of Australia: 
  • the first Harris was Jewish, convicted of burglary in London and transported with a life sentence on the First Fleet to Australia.  His enterprise soon won him a pardon and he was one of the earliest innkeepers with a liquor license in the new colony. 
  • the second, a surgeon with the Royal Navy from Ireland, arrived in 1790.  He was very much involved in the early politics and died in 1838 a wealthy man.
Alexander Harris came from England in 1826 and lived a wandering life in the new colony for many years.  His autobiography Settlers and Convicts provides a very vivid account of life at that time there.   

George Frederick Harris, a portrait painter from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, made his arrival in Australia much later, in 1920.  His talents were passed down.  A daughter was Pixie O'Harris, an artist and book illustrator; and a grandson Rolf Harris who made the reverse trip to England bringing his novelty song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport along with him.   

Africa.  Desserline Harris, a free black from Virginia, emigrated to Liberia in 1848 and the Harris name has lived on in that country.  The most famous of these Harrises was probably William Wade Harris, the Christian prophet.  Jeremiah Harris founded the Bank of Liberia in 1920. 

During the recent troubles in Liberia there have been some Harrises who have stayed, such as the psychiatrist Benjamin Harris, and others who have left, such as Cleo Harris who joined other Liberian emigrants in Minnesota in the United States.      

Select Harris Miscellany

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

Select Harris Names

Andrew Harris was one of Lincoln's successful generals who later became Governor of Ohio.
Joel Chandler Harris from Georgia was the American journalist who wrote the Uncle Remus stories.
Frank Harris, of Welsh origin who settled in America, is best known for his autobiography, My Life and Loves published in 1922, which scandalized society at the time for its description of sexual encounters and liaisons.
Lawren Harris
was an accomplished Canadian painter of the first half of the 20th century.
Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris was head of RAF Bomber Command during War World 2.
Richard Harris was an Irish-born international actor.
Thomas Harris is an American author of crime novels, notably The Silence of the Lambs.

Select Harrises Today
  • 162,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 210,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 72,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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