Harrison Surname Genealogy

Harrison is a patronymic surname, meaning “son of Harry.” Harry
is a pet form of Henry introduced to England by the
Normans. It would seem that “Herry” rather than “Harry” was
the usual pronunciation until the 16th century.

Harrison Resources on

England. There is Harrison and Harris.
used to be more prevalent in the north of England, Harris in the south.

Stephen Harrison lived in Kendal in the early 1400’s; while Thomas
Heryson was
born nearby in Greystoke, Cumberland around 1390 (his descendants left
region in the 1500’s). Some think that
the first Harrisons came from this area, possibly as early as the 11th

Yorkshire. John
Harryson was recorded in
Sheffield in 1445 and John Harrison was a prominent wool merchant in
Leeds in
the late 16th century. Thomas Harrison from Knaresborough was
Mayor of York in
1572 and 1592, as were two of his sons in the early 1600’s. John Harrison, the inventor of
the ship
chronometer, was born in Feuby in 1693.

Some Yorkshire family histories began:

  • with the birth in 1551 of Thomas Harrison at Holme upon
    (later the Harrisons
    of Wheldrake
  • with
    the birth in 1612 of Leonardus Harrison at Robin Hood’s Bay
  • and with the birth in 1656 of Henry Harrison at Green Houses
    in Glaisdale. Henry was born into a Catholic recusant family of
    yeoman farmers in north Yorkshire. Henry appeared on recusant
    rolls in 1691, 1708, and 1716.

The Harrisons of Bankfield in Lancashire
dated back to the early 1500’s. The
ancestry of the Beatle George Harrison in Liverpool goes back to Robert
Harrison, a joiner, born there in 1815.

Elsewhere. The
incidence of the Harrison name has
extended southwards. Harrisons from Cumberland, for instance, had
migrated southward to Berkshire as early as 1480, while there were
from Durham in London by the early 1600’s.

James Park Harrison, a
Victorian church architect, was born in London in 1817.
He had some interesting descendants:

  • his son Mathew joined the Royal Navy and was
    on one of the first British expeditions to Easter Island.
    His memorabilia from the voyage were later
    donated to the British Museum.
  • his great
    grandson Geoffrey was a diplomat who was appointed Ambassador to the
    Union in 1965. But three years later he
    got caught up in a KGB “honey trap” operation (he had had
    an affair with a
    Russian chambermaid at the British Embassy) and had to be sent home.

Scotland. The Harrison name
was also found in the
Lowlands of Scotland. One family history
began with the birth of John Harrison at Haddington near Edinburgh

James Harrison, a journalist from
Glasgow, emigrated to Australia in 1837.
He pioneered refrigeration techniques for the transportation of
and beef across oceans.Unfortunately
his first cargo was ruined when the chemical tanks leaked during the
voyage and
he was made bankrupt. Others reaped the
rewards of his invention.

Ireland. Henry Harrison
who came to Ireland as Commissioner of Customs in 1710 claimed a
Harrison line dating back to 1066 times. His family established
themselves at Charleville in county Cork and made their home at Castle
Harrison. This stayed with the family until 1956. Harrison
in Ireland could also be an anglicization of the Gaelic O’hEarchaidh and O’hEarchadha names.

Harrisons seem to have preferred Virginia rather than New England as
point of entry.

The Harrisons were in fact among the first families of Virginia. Benjamin Harrison, the first of many to bear
that name, arrived there in the early 1630’s. From where, no one
quite knows.

Harrison had come to Virginia before 1633
when he was signed as the Clerk of the Council. He was young, in his
thirties, and
a well-educated man. He was said to have
had a brother. Some say the brother’s name was Peter, some say
Richard. Some
say the brother came to the colonies and some say he stayed in England.”

His family produced:

  • Virginia Governor
    and Declaration Signer Benjamin Harrison (1726-1791)
  • US President William Henry
    Harrison (1773-1841)
  • and US President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901).

One line of this family through Carter Henry Harrison went
to Kentucky and later produced two Mayors of Chicago – Carter Harrison,
father and son.

Other Harrison lines in Virginia during the 17th and early 18th
centuries were:

  • the
    Harrisons of Skimino who
    came from Quaker roots. The first of
    this family was Richard Harrison from Colchester in Essex who had
    Skimino by 1634.
  • Richard Harrison, born probably in
    Virginia, who was the
    forebear of the Harrisons of Calvert county, Maryland.
  • while the descendants of Isaiah Harrison, who had come
    from Long Island to the Shenandoah valley in the early 1700’s, were
    known as
    “the Long Grey Trail” Harrisons.

Captain John
Harrison from Maryland fought in the Revolutionary War and his son
James moved to Missouri in 1819. There were also early Harrisons
in Texas
, including two who died at the Alamo in 1836.

John Harrison of
Rillington in Yorkshire was, according to family lore, related to John
the great clockmaker. This John
emigrated with his family to Nova Scotia in 1774. They
made their home at Lower Maccan in
Cumberland county. Harrison descendants
still live in the old homestead there.

Australia. Another John Harrison, this
one from a family
of sea captains in Cumberland, arrived in Australia around
the year 1830. He was at first a
squatter and then a political agitator in Melbourne.
He ended his life quietly as a stationmaster
with Victoria railways. His son Henry,
together with a cousin, was a founder of Australian Rules football.

New Zealand. Henry Shafto
Harrison, from an old Wakefield
family in Yorkshire, was one of the first settlers in New Zealand,
arriving in
Wellington in 1840. He was a militia
during the Maori wars and later represented Wanganui in Parliament.

Harrison Miscellany

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

Harrison Names

was the English clockmaker who invented the marine
chronometer and thereby solved the problem of measuring longitude.
William Henry Harrison was the
9th American President in 1841 (he only lasted 32 days).
Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd
American President, from 1889 to 1893.
Rex Harrison was the British
actor famed for his portrayal of Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady.
George Harrison was the lead
guitarist for the Beatles.

Select Harrisons Today

  • 123,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Kent)
  • 64,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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