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

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

Harrises and its variants from Britain can be found in Amrerica.
Some Harrises in America may have German or French ancestry.

Harris Resources on

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
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
and at Priskilly in the
1600’s. They
built their
family home at Heathfield in Letterston in the early 19th
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
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. 

AmericaWilliam 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. His 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
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
  • 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

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:

Harris Names

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)




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