Harrison Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Harrison Meaning
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

Select Harrison Ancestry

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

One Early Claimed Harrison Line.  The first Harrisons appear to have been recorded in Cumberland around the year
1400 and
they may have been there as early as the 11th century.   Henry
Harrison who came to Ireland as Commissioner of Customs in 1710 claimed a Harrison line going that far back.

The first in his line in England was said to be Richard, Lord Harrisson, reported
to have arrived in 1056.  Through his
first and second sons William and John were said to have come the Harrisons of
Cumberland, through his third son Edward the Harrisons of Yorkshire.

The Harrisons of Castle Harrison in Ireland claimed
their descent from the Cumberland Harrisons.
They posted a parchment of their lineage at the main entrance of
the castle so that all visitors might see it as they entered.

The Harrisons of Wheldrake in Yorkshire.  The early spelling was Herrison.  William
Herrison died at Holme upon Spalding
Moor in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1576.
The spelling, however, soon became Harrison.
His grandson Thomas Harrison was a prosperous
yeoman farmer.  On his death in 1639 he
left a considerable sum in his will.  He
lived and died in the village of Wheldrake “of the Waterhouses,” what were
wetlands at the edge of the village.

Harrisons remained farmers in Wheldrake until 1800 or so when they moved to
Wilberfoss near York.  Thomas Harrison,
born in 1817, was a publican there.
Later Harrisons migrated south to London.

John Harrison and Longitude.  Seafarers
require two measurements, latitude and
longitude, in order to establish precisely their position.
Without having both, there is always the
likelihood of misdirection and the real danger of hitting rocks in
unknown waters and shipwrecks.  The longitude
measure was the problem.

In 1714 the British Government offered £20,000 for a solution which could provide
longitude to within half-a-degree, or two minutes of time.  Over
the years they received many weird and wonderful suggestions, but no solution.   Many in fact believed that
the problem could not be solved.

The longitude problem was eventually solved in 1765 by a working class joiner from
Yorkshire with little formal education.
John Harrison took on the scientific and academic establishment
of his
time and won the longitude prize through mechanical insight, talent and
sheer determination.

He had developed various chronometer prototypes
over the years, H1, H2, and H3.  In 1762
the next prototype H4 was tested onboard a ship in Jamaica.  H4 tested five seconds too slow.
Close but not enough.   Later
trials, however, did beat the two
minute measurement cut-off time and the prize was eventually awarded
after some
quibbling.  A few years later Captain
Cook took H4 on-board on his voyages of discovery.

The 1997 book Longitude by Dava Sobel recounts this

Harris and Harrison.  H.B Guppy in his 1890 book Homes of Family Names in Great
described the incidence of
the Harris and Harrison names as follows:

and Harrison each has its own area of frequency, Harrison in the north
Harris in the south; whilst they wage a sharp contest for supremacy in

Harrison has proved
victorious in some counties, such as Derbyshire and Staffordshire,
waging an
equal contest in others, such as Nottinghamshire, but still completely
outnumbered in Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Pushing on however, in greatly diminished numbers, the Harrisons
established outposts on the borders of the English Channel.

this struggle between the Harrises and the
Harrisons, it is evident that the former have been worsted. The
Harrises, in
fact, have been entirely on the defense.
Not only have they been unable to make any successful inroads
into the
northern territory of the Harrisons, but they have not prevented their
from forcing a way through their ranks and reaching the south coast.”

Early Harrisons in Texas.  George Harrison came from Tennessee.  He was one
of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three
Hundred” colonists who in 1824 received title to land in the western
part of
what is now Brazoria county.  There he
established his plantation.  The census
of 1826 classified him as a farmer and a stock raiser.
He had a wife Catherine and two sons.

of his sons Andrew was killed in the battle
of the Alamo in 1836.  The state of Texas
did not appear to recognize his sacrifice.
In 1860 the state rejected a land bounty claim of Harrison’s
claiming that there was “no law for giving any donation for dying in

who died at the
Alamo was William B. Harrison, born in Ohio, who was a commanding
officer in
the company known as the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, which included

Carter Harrison, Mayor of Chicago.  Carter Harrison Sr. was related through his father’s
side to the Harrison Presidents and through his grandmother Anne Cabell
back to
Pocahantas (she was said to have been her great great great great

started out in Chicago as a real estate
agent and land investor.  He became Mayor
of Chicago in 1879 and was re-elected a further three times in a row.  He had, according to his son, a bushy beard
and a keen interest in horse-riding and later in bicycling.

squire of the avenue
was Mayor Carter H. Harrison who kept his big black bay mare named Kate
in a
stable near his house.  He liked to ride
up and down the street in the manner of a plantation owner looking over
acreage.  He described himself as ‘unable
to study out a problem or scheme sitting at his desk but did his best
at full gallop upon his flying steed.’”

ran for Mayor for a fifth time in 1893 and won again.
However, six months after taking office, he
was assassinated at his home by a disgruntled office-seeker at the time
of the
Chicago World Fair.

The Harrisons
remained popular in Chicago.  His son,
Carter Harrison Jr, was also Mayor of Chicago five times, from 1897 to
1911.  Another son William was editor and
publisher of the Chicago Times  He later
moved to Los Angeles.


Harrison Names

  • John Harrison 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 Harrison Numbers 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)


Select Harrison and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “son” suffix is more common in northern England than in the south and in lowland Scotland.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.



Return to Main Page

Leave a Reply