Harper Surname Genealogy

is an
English, Scottish, and Irish occupational name for a player on the
from the Old English hearp. The
harper was one of the most important
figures of a medieval baronial hall, especially in Scotland and
England, and the office of harper was sometimes hereditary.
However, the harper
could also be someone who simply made a living playing at fairs and
early forms of the name in England had their origins in
the Anglo-French word harpour.
Scottish surname was probably an
anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac
meaning “son of the harper.” The surname has also been
present in Ireland, initially as Harpur.
The German surname equivalent is Harpfer,
which could become Harper in America.

Harper Resources on

Harper Ancestry

has been mainly a north of England name that initially appeared as
Harpour or

An early le Harpur family began with Sir
Robert le Harpur in Derby around the year 1300.
There were many knights and baronets in succeeding generations. One line may have led to John Harper
who appeared as an attorney at the Stafford assizes in 1411. Through a propitious marriage he became a
substantial landowner in the Rushall area of Staffordshire. His son Richard was receiver-general for the
Duchy of Lancaster and in 1474 obtained permission to endow a chantry
Swinford in Leicestershire in memory of his parents.

Sir Henry Harper of the main line was created a baronet in 1626 and
his home at Calike Abbey in Derbyshire.
This line was known as Harper-Crewe from 1808 but became extinct

The Harper name was quite common in Staffordshire.
John Harper was married in Sedgley in
1584. One family line has been traced
from the marriage of William and Priscilla Harper at Sedgley two
hundred years
later in 1784.

Larger Harper numbers have been in Yorkshire. An
early Harper there was John Harper who was
appointed the royal forester at Galtres in north Yorkshire in 1438. Richard Harper held Blacktoft manor in east
Yorkshire in Elizabethan times. And a
Harper line began with the marriage of Ralph Harper and Isabel Walker
in Leeds
in 1696.

Scotland. Early
in Scotland were recorded
as the Norman le Harpur in the 1296 Ragman’s Roll.
It initially took the Gaelic form Mac chruiter in Kirkudbright in SW
Scotland. Harpers from the district of
Lennox near present-day Glasgow were associated with clan Buchanan.

Sir John Harper, a sheriff of Lanarkshire,
acquired the Cambusnethan estate in north Lanarkshire in 1661 and
rebuilt the house
there. He was active at that time in the
pursuit of Covenanters. His descendants,
however, were secession Presbyterian ministers.
James Harper was appointed editor of the United
Presbyterian Magazine
in 1850.

started his engineering company in Aberdeen in the
1860’s; and Nana
Harper from Lanarkshire was a Titanic survivor in 1912.

Ireland. The names Harpur and Harper
have existed in
Ireland since the 13th century when the Norman Robert le Harpur arrived
England. A descendant David le Harpur
was recorded in a Wexford document of 1278.
The male line at Harperstown
in Wexford died out in 1336.

the Harpur name and spelling continued in Wexford, even though
Harpur had
generally died out as a spelling in England.
Thomas Harpur was mayor of Wexford in the late 1800’s. The Harpur spelling was also to be found at
Ballinacorra in county Cork. These
Harpurs may have given their name to Harpers Island in Cork Harbor.

The Harper name was later introduced into
Ulster by settlers from Scotland and England in the 17th century. John Harper came to Donaghadee in county Down
as part of Montgomery’s plantation in 1617.
Others made their home in Antrim; while Lowdy Harpor married
Middleton at Corraglass in Monaghan in 1762.
Many Scots Irish Harpers were emigrating to America around this

America. One
early Harper line was to be found along the eastern shore of Chesapeake
Bay in
Virginia by 1630’s, but later settled in Somerset county, Maryland. Around the time of the Revolution, Beauchampe
Harper had risen to relative prominence in Dorchester county,
slaves and land inland in the Fork District.

in the early 1800’s, the
family dissipated its wealth – through bad investments, madness,
lawsuits and internal squabbles over slavery.”

One branch of the family under a
later Beauchampe departed for Ohio in the 1830’s, and then to points
west; another branch via William Harper to Chester county, Pennsylvania
they have mostly remained.

Captain John
, born in Philadelphia, made his home in Alexandria,
Virginia. He was a prominent ship-owner
and trader to
South America in the years prior to the Revolutionary War.

Harper had
twenty children by his first wife, Sarah Wells, and nine by his second
Mary Cunningham. And to each of his
children, he left a house and a lot, according to historical accounts.”

Lee’s 1990 book Chronology of Captain
John Harper
covered these lines.

Harper from Suffolk came to America in the 1760’s and settled in
Newtown, Long Island. Four of his
grandsons – James, John, Wesley and Fletcher – worked together in New
first in 1825 as printers and then a decade later as publishers.

first big publishing
success was Maria Monk’s Awful
in 1836. Selling 300,000
copies, the book became the most influential single work of
propaganda in America’s history.”

In 1844 James Harper was elected mayor of
New York, running on a Know-Nothing, Nativist platform of
anti-Catholicism and
anti-immigration. Meanwhile Harper
and Brothers
publishing begat
what is now Harper’s Bazaar and HarperCollins.

Irish. Then there were Irish Harper
arrivals, the majority of them Scots

from Ulster.

John and Abigail Harper came to Massachusetts with their family
from county Derry in 1720. In 1768 his
sons Alexander, John and Joseph purchased land in Delaware county, New
York at
a place that became known as Harpersfield.
All three brothers were actively involved in the fighting during
Revolutionary War.

Afterwards Alexander migrated to Ohio where he founded
another Harpersfield in Ashtabula county.
The family homestead there, Shandy Hall, stayed with the Harper
until 1935. The history was recounted in
Jane Cowles Ford’s 1905 book Records of
the Harper Family

Robert Harper, a Quaker, fled Belfast for
Philadelphia in 1727. There he became an
indentured servant to John Buzby, a wealthy Quaker of Oxford township. He died in 1765 in Philadelphia a wealthy
man himself.

Then there were Harpers who
came in the 1790’s:

  • Alexander
    Harper came to Ohio from Belfast as a child at that time.
    Based in Zanesville, he was US Congressman at various times
    1836 and 1853 for Muskingum county.
  • William
    Harper, also came to Ohio, also from Belfast. He
    lived in a settlement near present-day
    Athens called Elizabethtown after his wife. He
    and his son John operated a local ferry known as Harpers
  • while
    James Harper came from Tyrone and made
    his money in Philadelphia as a brick manufacturer.
    He was for a period in the 1830’s a US
    Congressman there.

German. Harpers in
America can have German origin, from Harpfer or Herber names. Philip and Anna Herber, for instance, came to
Philadelphia in 1750, first settling as Harper in Berks county,
Pennsylvania and
moving to Augusta county, Virginia


The main Harper line in Canada began with Christopher Harper, born in the small Yorkshire
village of
Sledmere, who had come to Nova Scotia in 1774 and moved into a house
near Fort
Cumberland, only to have his home burned to the ground two years later

spent years taking revenge in the courts and slowly rising
through the political system. He had
risen to the post of justice of the peace by the time a judicial
inquiry found
him guilty of, as one historian put it ‘violent and oppressive
measures,’ vindictive to a point beyond
all reason.”

Harper lived to be ninety, passing away in 1820. The
Harpers of Sackville and Bay Verte in
Nova Scotia were descendants of his sons John and William.
The line from the younger son William
extended to:

  • Donald
    Harper, a prominent Sackville farmer who was a member of the
    New Brunswick legislature and was appointed Provincial Secretary in
  • while
    another line from Harris Harper of Moncton,
    New Brunswick (who mysteriously disappeared in 1950) and his son Joseph
    led to
    Stephen Harper. Stephen migrated west to Alberta, was one of the
    founders of
    Reform Party, and rose to become Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister in 2006

Australia and New Zealand.
Harper and his family from county Antrim in Ireland were early arrivals
Melbourne, coming there in 1841 as assisted passengers on the Marquis of Bute. They later
moved to Geelong and
then to Ballarat. Andrew was a wheelwright
trade and died in Ballarat in 1882. His
wife Maria had died much earlier in 1859, tragically when her clothing
accidentally caught on fire.

The Rev.
Charles Harper was a pioneer settler in Western Australia.
He had arrived from London in what was then
the Swan River Colony in 1837. Charles
was the first ordained minister in the colony and served the Toodyay
for more than thirty years. His
Charles first became a farmer.

to family legend, his mother gave him at sixteen a horse and cart, a
gun, a barrel of salt pork and fifty pounds, and sent him to find
himself a farm.”

He did well in farming and in pearling and was able to acquire the Western Australian Times newspaper in
1879. He later entered local politics. The third Charles of
this family helped establish the Western Australian farmers’
co-operative in 1913 in which he was involved for the next forty years.

Henry Harper, born in Hampshire and educated at Eton College, came out
to New Zealand in 1856 and was the first Anglican bishop of
Christchurch, holding that position from 1856 to 1890. His son
Leonard left New Zealand in 1891 after it transpired that his law firm
in Christchurch had gone bankrupt through embezzlement; but Leonard’s
son Arthur (generally known as APH) became well-known in New Zealand as
a mountaineer and explorer.

Select Harper Miscellany

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

Select Harper Names

in the 1860’s one
of Aberdeen’s best-known engineering companies which became active in
building of suspension bridges.
James Harper
was the early/mid 19th
century New York publisher who with his brothers created what became
the HarperCollins publishing house and Harper’s
Stephen Harper

was the Prime Minister of Canada from 2006 to 2015

Select Harpers Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Staffordshire)
  • 46,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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