Harding Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Harding Meaning
The Old English Harding or Hearding, meaning hardy, brave or
strong, has provided the basis for the surnames Harding, Hardin, and
Harden. The suffix “ing” typically means “son of” in Old English.
Harding is mainly English in origin, Hardin and Harden
Irish or Scots. Harding sometimes lost its “g” in its travels
through Ireland and America.
Some believe that the Hardings may also have a Viking connection, being
descended from a Viking race from Hardanger in Norway which had settled in Derbyshire.
Select Harding/Hardin/Harden Resources on The Internet

Select Harding/Hardin/Harden Ancestry

England. Hardings in
England are mainly to be found in the west country.

Somerset Harding
recorded in the Domesday Book as landowners in Somerset. The name
fitz Harding appears in Bristol records from the early 1100’s.
Robert fitz Harding was a wealthy Bristol merchant later in the century
and a favorite of King Henry II (his name is still commemorated by a
pub in
the town). His family held the Berkeley estate on the
Severn river.

Another early Harding line – as traced by Nicholas Royal in his 1970
book Harding Family: A Short History
and Narrative Pedigree
– was to be found in Wiltshire from the
13th century. These Hardings were:

  • first the “de Hardenes,”
    foresters of Great Bedwyn
  • then the “Hardinges,” tenants of Huish
    Manor (Richard Hardinge was Groom to the Bedchamber of
    Charles II)
  • and finally the “Hardings,” yeoman farmers at Pewsey.

These farming Hardings produced some remarkable offspring in the early
19th century; eldest son Joseph known as “the father of cheddar
younger sons Richard and Isaac, missionaries
to Jamaica and Australia; and a daughter Mary who “had a life of much
sadness” but raised that prominent Victorian clergyman the Rev. Henry

West of England
The Harding name remains common in the west country and in neighboring
of the 20th century have included Gilbert Harding
(born in Hereford), an irascible TV personality of the 1950’s, and John
Harding (born in Dorset), an English field marshal who governed Malta
during the last days of empire.

Elsewhere A
Harding family was long-established at King’s Newton and nearby
Bonsall in Derbyshire.

Harding was for many years a name of
the northeast. Henry
Harding is said to have fought against the Scots and received, as
reward, land and a coat of arms. This Harding seat was at
near Sunderland. John Hardyng of this family was the author of Hardyng’s Chronicles, written in
the 1420’s and published in 1543.
These Hardings were
prominent in the region in medieval
times. But little of the name remains there now. The last
descendant appears to have been a Robert Harding who kept the Golden
inn in Newcastle in the early 19th century.

Ireland and Scotland.
Hardings migrated to Ireland in the 17th century where they
settled in Tipperary and east Meath. Hardins, by contrast, were
to be found further north in county Armagh. The name here dates
from the early 1700’s. Sir Henry Hardin was the county’s High
Sheriff in the mid-nineteenth century.

Meanwhile, the Scottish
Hardens came mainly from Ayrshire where the Scotts of Harden were one
of the freebooting border families.

America. In America, we
find a mix of the Harding, Hardin, and Harden names. The Hardings
would be mainly of English stock, the Hardins and Hardens of Scots,
Irish (including possibly Hargans as well), or even of Dutch
origin. Some Hardins in Virginia are descended from Martin
Hardwyn (or Hardouin), an early arrival in Staten Island.

Hardins almost match the Hardings in their numbers in America. By
the end of the nineteenth century, the Hardings were still mainly to be
found in the northeast, New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.
By contrast, the Hardin clusters were (and still are) in Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Texas.

Harding The
first Harding immigrant to New England is believed to be Richard
Harding, who is said to have left Weymouth in Dorset with his family on
the Charity in 1623.
Later, Abraham Harding, a glover and planter from Essex, settled in

Hardings can also be found
from an early date in Barnstable on Cape Cod. Nathaniel Harding
was born there
in 1676. Barnstable was impoverished by
the Revolutionary War and the Hardings – the families of John,
Jonathan and Nathaniel – moved to Maine

The pedigree
of Warren Harding
Ohio, the twenty third
President of
the United States, has been traced back to these early New England
(although some mischievous press comment suggested that he also had
mixed blood from a sea captain of Afro-Caribbean descent).

The Harding name did
surface in Virginia. Thomas Harding
arrived there from London around 1660. Later
Hardings were to be found at Tuckahoe Creek and in Goochland county. At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War
Giles Harding left his Goochland farm for new lands in Tennessee. His son John migrated further south to
Arkansas where he started up the Belle Meade cotton plantation. John’s grand-daughter Selene married the
former Confederate General William Jackson there in 1868.
The couple took over the running of the plantation
until General Jackson’s death in 1903

Hardin Hardins
also arrived. Many moved inland after the Revolutionary
War was over. The Hardin counties in Kentucky,
Tennessee, Iowa,
and Texas are testimony to their pioneer spirit. These were tough
and sometime violent men. William Hardin fled Tennessee to escape
a murder charge. He ended up in Texas, an early settler there and
later a respected judge. However, his nephew, John Wesley Hardin,
turned into one of the notorious gunfighters and outlaws of the Old

and New Zealand
. James Harding
had emigrated with his family to Western Australia in 1846. He
joined a team to explore the Kimberly region in 1864 but he and two of
his colleagues were murdered in the outback by
Australian Aborigines. The event caused a national outrage.
The Harding river in
Kimberly is named after another early explorer in the region, John

The Rev. Isaac Harding went out from Wiltshire in the 1850’s as a
missionary in the Victorian goldfields. He later moved onto South
Island, New Zealand. A stern Methodist, it was said that he was
stoned from one town and stopped the cricketers’ Sunday play in another
by pocketing the ball.

The three Harding brothers who came to New Zealand in the 1850’s from
Southampton were followers of Emanuel Swedenborg and were strong
of the Total Abstinence Society. John became a sheep farmer
at Napier while Thomas and William made their homes in
Wanganui. Thomas was a printer and a bookbinder and his son
Coupland achieved more success as a journalist and typographer.
William fared well for a while as a photographer but ended his life in

Africa. Perhaps
the most interesting Harding outpost has been in Sierra Leone.
of Sierra Leone were Africans taken by Europeans who then
returned. The earliest Harding on record dates back to 1818 when
Ali Eisami Gazimabe was renamed William Harding. Among the
present day number are George Harding, the former dean of St. George’s
Cathedral in Freetown, and Prince Alex Harding, a controversial local


Select Harding Miscellany

Hardings and Vikings.  The Vikings had acquired settlements in the ninth century in Scotland and England.  It is said that it is from these Vikings that the name Harding may have emerged.  The late Lord Harding, scion of the Harding family in Derbyshire, claimed to be descended from Heardingas, a Viking who had settled there.

There is a story about King Harding who ruled Hardanger in what is now
Norway.  During an attack on eastern England, the king was
captured by the English and put in a prison tower.  The Hardangers
liked their king and decided to rescue him.  They equipped a
Viking ship, called Hardinggeita,
to set sail to England to set their king free.  They painted one
side of the ship white and the other black.  When they approached
the English shore they did so with the white side facing the
shore.  They managed to get into the prison tower and switched the
king with an old man who they dressed up to look like the king.
Then they set sail and made their escape, but with the black side of
the ship facing the shore.

John Hardyng.  One of the Beadnell Hastings was a person of some note in
the Middle Ages.  This was John Hardyng, born in 1378, the author
of what are now called Hardyng’s
  He was Lord of the East March of England, he
fought with Harry Hotspur at Hamildon Hill and Cokelew, and was at one
time Constable of Warkworth castle.

He was afterwards on the Continent and wrote an account
of the march which preceded the battle of Agincourt.  The Chronicle was first printed in 1543
and was republished in 1812.  Hardyng himself died about 1470. 

The Will of William Harding of Aylesbury.  William Harding, described as a yeoman of Aylesbury, died
in 1718.  It is believed that he was a bachelor and the eldest of
seven children born to William and Elizabeth Harding.  A charity,
which has lasted to this day, arises from his will which was proven on
February 19, 1719.

His will made provision for Sarah, widow of his only
brother John who had predeceased him, and after her death, all his
lands in Aylesbury, Wilton, Broughton, Bierton, Stoke Mandeville, and
Princes Risborough were vested with five trustees.

The trustees were instructed to:

  • spent some forty shillings yearly
    for the buying of coats on St. Thomas’s Day for the poor men and women
    inhabiting Walton,
  • that on the first Monday of May and
    November each year the trustees select children of poor parents in
    Walton and Aylesbury to be apprenticed to persons who were “honest and
    of good morals and well skilled in their trades,”
  • and buy clothes for the same poor
    boys and girls and apprenticeship payments not to exceed £10 per annum
    for any child.

His house, still standing on the terrace opposite Walton
Pond, was sold in the 1920’s to the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company and was
the residence of its manager, according to an article in The Bucks Herald on October 4, 1929.

The article also stated: “This is an extremely useful charity
and many successful tradesmen and craftsmen in Aylesbury have had their
start in business life by being apprenticed to a trade through this

Hardin Counties in the US.  Kentucky: formed in
1793 and named for John Hardin, a Continental army officer during the
American Revolution.  Afterwards he was a Kentucky militia
commander in the Northwest Indian war and was killed in a skirmish in
1792.  It is thought that the town of Hardin stands on the very
spot where Hardin was killed.

formed in 1839 and, like Kentucky, named after John Hardin.

formed in 1851 and named after Colonel John Hardin.  He was an
Illinois colonel in the Black Hawk War later killed in the Mexican

formed in 1819 and named after Colonel Joseph Hardin, a state
legislator.  He had participated in the American Revolutionary
War, was given the rank of Colonel for his services, and was awarded a
land grant in Tennessee.

named after a family from Liberty County, Texas.  AB Hardin, a
farmer and rancher, had moved there from Tennessee in 1825.

The Diary of William Harding.  William Harding’s diary began as follows:

“I was born in Bideford in the county of Devon on
November 5 in the year of our Lord 1793.  My brother George was
born on October 3, 1793.  My father was a blacksmith by trade and
kept the Torrington turnpike gate.”

After the death of his first wife, Harding left Devon in
1818 for Newfoundland where Samuel Cook and his brother William had a
business in Placentia Bay.  Two years later he married Mary
Brushett, a servant girl who worked for the Cooks.  After living
with Mary’s step-father for a while, they moved to Little Salmonier In
Burin Bay “to get a farm and some cattle.”

William Harding kept up a diary until his death in 1877
at the age of 83.  This diary provides an interesting view of
daily events in rural Newfoundland and of Harding’s interactions with
his neighbors.  It was rtranscribed by Harding’s great great
granddaughter into three notebooks and was deposited in the archives of
the Memorial University of Newfoundland at St. John’s.

Joseph Harding, the Father of Cheddar Cheese.  The Victoria County History
of Somerset
described Joseph Harding’s contribution as follows:

“In 1856 the Joseph Harding system of cheese-making was
made public as the result of a deputation of Scotchmen coming south to
investigate the originators of the system.

To Mrs Harding, Marksbury, and her nephew, Joseph Harding
of Compton Dando, is due the institution of a definite procedure in
cheese-making for mere rule of thumb.  For twenty years the
Harding system was the model, though nearly every maker had his or her
variation in detail.

The main feature, as we view it now, was the insistence
on absolute cleanliness.  The milkers were not allowed to bring
the milk in direct from the farmyard.  They had to pour it into a
receiver outside the dairy wall, whence by means of a pipe it was
conveyed inside to the cheese tub.

Thus was founded the real Cheddar cheese of modern
commerce.  The name of Harding must go down with it for all
time.  Indeed, he must be rightly termed the first instructor in
Cheddar cheese-making.”

James Harding Killed in the Australian Bush.  In 1864, an expedition to Camden Harbor was undertaken to test the
claims of a convict who said that he had found gold there many years
earlier.  No gold was found.  But large areas of good
pastoral land was discovered around Roebuck Bay.  Consequently a
public company was formed to establish a chain of stations in the
area.  James Harding was chosen as its manager.

In October that year, he joined the advance party that sailed to the
area to set up a base camp.  The following month, Harding,
together with Frederick Panter and William Goldwyer, set out from the
base camp to explore the area around La Grange Bay.  The
expedition did not return.  Eventually a search party was sent
under Maitland Brown to find them.  After much search, they found
the three men dead, having been clubbed and speared to death by
natives.  Harding and Panter were apparently killed in their

Their bodies were returned to Perth where thousands of
spectators attended their public funeral.  In 1913, a monument to
Brown and the three murdered men, the Explorers’ Monument, was unveiled
in Fremantle.

President Harding’s Pedigree.  Was Harding black?  The rumors are there; but the evidence is not
– despite the many gaps in his family tree that are unusual for an
American president, typically the most studied for their genealogical

In 1920, while Harding was running for President, a Republican newspaper in Dayton refuted the allegations of “mixed blood” with its own version of Harding’s family tree.  The report placed Harding into a long line of English, Dutch, and Scots Irish settlers.

Amateur genealogist George Larson has posted one version of Harding’s family tree on the web that, he says, draws from earlier printed genealogies.  It suggests that – far from being a sea captain of Afro-Caribbean descent – Harding’s great great grandfather Amos Harding instead was descended from two settlers with clear New England pedigrees, Abraham Harding Jr. and Mercy Vibber.  Larson did say in a phone interview that he had “never looked into the ethnicity of any of Harding’s ancestors” and added that “the incomplete data on his family tree” made it “possible” that he had African ancestry.



Select Harding, Hardin, and

  • Robert Fitz Harding was a wealthy merchant of Bristol in the late 1100’s. 
  • John Hardyng of the Beadnell Hardyngs was the author of Hardyng’s Chronicles, written in
    the 1420’s and published in 1543. 
  • John Hardin was a pioneer and
    Indian fighter killed in 1792 in what is now Hardin County, Kentucky. 
  • Henry Hardinge was Governor
    General of India and commander in chief of the British forces during the disastrous Crimean War. 
  • Warren Harding was the twenty
    third President of the United States. 
  • Garrett Hardin from Texas, who died recently, is best known for his work and interest in bioethics.

Select Harding Numbers Today

  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hertfordshire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 18,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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