Harvey Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Harvey Surname Meaning

The name Harvey is thought to be a Gallicized version of the name Herve – coming from an older Breton name of Aeruiu or Haerviu which comprised the elements haer meaning “battle” and vy “worthy.”

Herve was apparently a minstrel of ancient Brittany and the name was thought to have been brought to England, perhaps in legend or in song, by Breton mercenaries at the time of the Norman conquest. The Domesday Book contained several references to Herve as a first name, such Herueu de Berruarus in Suffolk.

Spelling variants are Hervey and, in Scotland, Harvie.

Harvey Surname Resources on The Internet

Harvey, Hervey and Harvie Surname Ancestry

  • from Southern England, Channel Islands and from Scotland
  • to Ireland (Ulster), America, Bermuda, Canada and Australia

England.  Early Harveys were Hervey le Breton, a Breton cleric who became the first bishop of Ely in 1109 and Hervey de Leon, the forebear of the Harveys of Ickwell Bury in Bedfordshire.

SE England.  Some think that the first use of Harvey as a surname occurred in Norfolk on the east coast.

The Harveys in Beachamwell parish records in Norfolk date from the 1500’s.  John Harvey of Beachamwell founded the Norwich branch of the family. They were Norwich’s leading merchants and civic leaders during the 18th century.

A branch of the Hervey family from Thurleigh in Bedfordshire became masters of Ickworth Hall in Suffolk (near Bury St. Edmunds) in the early 1500’s and were prominent in court during Tudor times. These Ickworth Herveys, pronounced Harveys, soon developed a reputation for eccentricity, as Lady Mary Wortley’s jibe would suggest: “There are three types of human beings; men, women and Herveys.” Other Herveys from this family settled in Romford, Essex.

The Harveys of Chigwell in Essex came originally from Folkestone in Kent where they had been merchants in Elizabethan times. This family boasted William Harvey, who discovered the circulation of blood, and, later, Admiral Eliab Harvey, an eccentric and hot-tempered naval officer who nevertheless distinguished himself at the Battle of Trafalgar. He died in 1830 and was the last of this line.  Richard Morris’s 2007 book, Merchants, Medicine and Trafalgar: The History of the Harvey Family, described these Harveys.

There were Harveys at Wivenhoe in Essex from the 1600’s.  Captain Daniel Harvey of this family, born in 1722, was renowned as the commander of revenue cutters which scoured the north-east coast of Essex to prevent the illicit activities of smugglers.

SW England.  Harveys were present also in the southwest of England. Harveys in Ashill (near Taunton) in Somerset dated from the early 1500’s. Turner Harvey of Ashill was acclaimed as “a renowned archer and warrior who fought for Henry VIII.”  And there were more Harveys further west in Devon and Cornwall.

Harveys in Linkinhorne (near Bodmin Moor) in Cornwall started in Elizabethan times. There was a Harvey line at Maen near Penzance soon after. Harveys became more prominent during the hey-day of Cornish mining. The Harveys of Chacewater, there from the early 1700’s, were miners; and John Harvey established his famous foundry for mine equipment on the coast at Hayle in 1800. From a Harvey family in St. Ives came the Bristol Harveys, creators of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry.

Many Harveys left the area or emigrated when Cornish mining collapsed in the 1860’s. Robert Harvey was one who came back. He had gone with a group of Gwennap miners to Peru in 1872, made his fortune in nitrate mines there, and returned in 1885 a rich man.

Channel Islands. The Harveys in Guernsey may have come originally from Cornwall. They made their money in the 18th century from shipping and privateering, which they used to expand their land holdings on the island. The most well-known of these Harveys was a daughter, Margaret Anne, who became Mrs. Neve:

“She survived three days of concussion after falling over the banister and hitting her head on a flagged floor as a small child to live to the age of 110, her life spanning three centuries (from 1792 to 1903). She had married John Neve of Kent.  After his death she returned to Guernsey in live in her picturesque old home, Rouge Huis.”

She could recall the time when her father was in charge of the island militia during the Napoleonic wars. A later Harvey, Winifred Harvey, lived through the German occupation and published her diary of those times, The Battle of Newlands, afterwards.

Scotland. The Harvey name came north to Scotland as well. The Harvey name was associated with the Keith clan near Aberdeen from early times.  There was also a presence in Ayrshire. Often the spelling was Harvie.

As the 19th century progressed, the English spelling of Harvey became increasingly predominant.  This applied, for instance, to the Harvey family in Aberdeen that made their fortune in the West Indies and returned to acquire the Castle Semple estate.

Ireland. Many of the Harveys in Ireland were originally of English extraction. They were to be found in Ulster, mainly in Armagh and Tyrone, and in county Wexford.

The earliest English arrival appears to have been a Harvey family from Bosworth in Leicestershire which settled in Wexford in the 1590’s. They later owned Bargy castle and were one of the leading families of south Wexford. Bagenal Harvey of this family, a plotter in the 1798 rebellion, met an untimely end when that revolt was quashed.

Harveys from Cornwall came to Derry as part of the Protestant plantations of the early 1600’s. They established themselves at Malin Hall in Ennishowen, Donegal.  Another Harvey family, this time from Scotland, was in Derry by the late 1600’s.

Harvey may also be Irish. A Galway clan originally called O’hAirmheadhaigh, meaning “the descendant of the son of Airmed,” was said to have anglicized their name to Harvey; as apparently did the O’hEarchaidhs of county Fermanagh.

America. Early Harveys (and Herveys) included:

  • Nicholas Hervey, a Catholic, who was one of the first settlers in Maryland. He arrived on the Ark and the Dove from Essex in 1634.
  • Thomas and William Harvey from Somerset who landed in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1636 and later moved onto Boston.
  • Thomas Harvey, who was to be found in Perquimans county, North Carolina in the 1680’s. A descendant, Blassingame Harvey, was one of the pioneer settlers in Texas.
  • Onesiphorus Hervey, possibly from Cornwall, who was in Northumberland counry, Virginia by 1702. A descendant is believed to be Thomas Hervey of Halifax county, North Carolina.
  • two Quaker Harveys, Joseph (from Staffordshire) and William (from Worcestershire), who came to Pennsylvania in 1702 and 1712 respectively.
  • and the Scots Irish Henry Hervey who left county Monaghan in 1770 and settled in Brooke county, Virginia (close to the Pennsylvania line). His farm there was still in the possession of his son David 107 years later.

Later Harveys.  Thomas Harvey and his wife Elizabeth were recorded in Charlotte county, Virginia in 1762.  Their descendants headed southward, as described in Shirley Cawler’s 1985 book Harvey and Allied Families of Louisiana and Texas.

Other Harveys followed the migration westward in the 19th century.  Turlington Harvey for instance left New York for Chicago in the 1850’s.  He became a wealthy lumberman there and organized a real estate syndicate to promote his new town of Harvey, Illinois.

Isaac Harvey headed west from Indiana in the 1850’s to the goldfields of California and ended up as the first mayor of Salinas City.

“His wife Sarah’s life mirrored her restless husband’s, moving many times from Indiana to Missouri and across the plains in a covered wagon to California and the gold rush towns. Along the way Sarah gave birth to ten children. She buried five of them as infants and one as a young man of sixteen.”

Fred Harvey, an Englishman, found his metier in Kansas in the 1870’s when he started the Harvey House chain of restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels along the route of the railroad. They continued until the 1960’s. A film musical which paid tribute to his business, The Harvey Girls, was made in 1946. It starred Judy Garland.

Bermuda.  Harvey was one of the first settlers of Bermuda in the 1600’s. Samuel Harvey was recorded as a member of the Assembly in 1696 and there were various other Harveys on the island by that time. These Harveys had become involved in trade with Newfoundland by 1700 and they gradually moved their business there during the 19th century.

Canada. The early Harveys on Canada’s Eastern Seaboard were from diverse places.

James Harvie and his family came from Ayrshire in Scotland via Rhode Island to Nova Scotia in 1760. These “New England planters” had been given grants of land there after the French had vacated the area. Harvie’s land was in Newport Landing and was handed down to his descendants. It is still partly with the Harvie family today.

A Harvey fishing family from the Channel Islands came to the Newfoundland coast in 1810. And Eugenius Harvey arrived from Bermuda in 1820 to establish Harvey & Company, one of Newfoundland’s most successful business enterprises. The company has been involved primarily in shipping and the fish trade and it still operates out of St. John’s today.

Later there was a Moses Harvey from Armagh in Ireland who arrived in St. John’s in 1852 to be the pastor of its Presbyterian Free Church.

Australia. The mining slump in Cornwall saw many Cornish miners head for Australia and, in particular, to the Kapunda mine in South Australia. They included a number of Harveys:

  • John and Elizabeth Harvey, who reached Adelaide on the Waterloo in 1840
  • George and Mary Harvey, who arrived there around the same time
  • and Arthur and Elizabeth Harvey, who came on the Robert Lees in 1876.

The sporting Harveys were from these Cornish mining roots. Four of the sons of Horace and Elsie Harvey became first-class cricketers, the most prominent of them being Neil Harvey who represented his country in 79 Test matches between 1948 and 1963.

Harvey Surname Miscellany

Early Herveys.  The surname Harvey was said to have emerged as a family name in the counties of Norfolk and Cambridge. Here they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manors and estates in those shires.

This family claimed descent from a Norman noble at Hastings, Robert FitzHarvey.  The closer connection was with Hervey le Breton, a Breton cleric who became the first bishop of Ely in 1109 and founded the monastery of Thorney in Cambridgeshire.

Another Hervey, Hervey de Leon, came to England in the 12th century to assist King Stephen in his fight with the Empress Maud.  He was defeated by the Earl of Gloucester and forced to leave England.  By 1200, however, it appears that his family was back in favor – obtaining lands in Bedfordshire, first at Risley and later, after the dissolution of the monasteries, at Ickwell Bury.  A branch of this family from Thurleigh settled in Suffolk.

There were other Herveys in England whose names did not transpose into surnames; Hervey de Sutton who was granted estates in Nottinghamshire in 1079; Hervey Bagot who through marriage became Hervey de Stafford in the early 1100’s; and Hervey de Montmorency who joined Strongbow’s invasion of Ireland in 1170.

Harvey House in Norwich.  The following plaque is to be found on the side wall of 20 Colegate in Norwich:

“Robert Harvey 1696-1773. Born in this house, mayor of Norwich in 1738. He was one of ten members of the Harvey family to become a mayor of the city.”

Harvey House, one of the largest houses in Norwich at the time, was built in 1720 by Edward Harvey, whose father was Robert Harvey of Beachamwell.  This family were wool merchants who had connections in that trade with Downham market, Hilborough, Rainthorpe and Norwich, to mention just a few places.  John Harvey who founded the Norwich branch of the family was a worsted weaver.  He was admitted a freeman of the city in 1695.

The Herveys of Ickworth.  The Hervey family fortunes always fluctuated.  Generations addicted to gambling and excess meant a succession of boom and bust.  When times were good they were very good, and cash was lavished on the estate; when they were bad they were very bad, and the money ran out.  Times were bad in the late 1600’s and Ickworth Hall fell into ruin.

Plans for the new house went on hold from 1702 and it was not finished until 1828.  Meanwhile the family lived in a converted farmhouse.  The first earl’s son John was a notorious libertine, famed for his ambivalent sexuality.  He died young.

While the second earl hired Capability Brown to work on the Ickworth grounds, it was his sailor brother Augustus, vice-admiral of the Blue, who grabbed the limelight.  Wartime adventures at sea in the 1770’s and 1780’s and amorous adventures on land ensured this third earl spent little time in Suffolk, but added richly to the family.

Step forward the eccentric Frederick, earl bishop of Cloyne and Derry.  It will be no surprise he was no enthusiastic clergyman, but fond of travel, Irish nationalism and horse racing.  He was considered clever and cultured, but licentious and eccentric.  It was he who laid the foundations for the new Ickworth.  The earl bishop then fell out with his son before his death in 1803, cutting him short of funds in his will.  So work on the rotunda stopped abruptly and it was not until 1821 that the funds became available again.

Lady Mary Wortley said that there were three types of human beings; men, women and Herveys. Dr. Johnson thought them good company: “If you call a dog Hervey,” he said, “I shall love him.”

Recent Herveys have continued this eccentric tradition.  Lord Nicholas Hervey was a tabloid fixture in the 1980’s who killed himself at the age of thirty six.  His half-sisters are the socialites, Lady Victoria and Isabella Hervey, who have dabbled in celebrity. In 1998, the Herveys had to sell off their remaining lease on Ickworth House to the National Trust, partly for funds and partly to ward off an eviction notice based on their behavior as tenants.

William Harvey Day.  Early June sees Folkestone mark one of its most famous citizens with the annual William Harvey commemoration.

William Harvey was born in Folkestone in 1578, one of seven sons to Thomas and Jane Harvey.  He went to school in Canterbury and studied in Cambridge and Italy before becoming a doctor and a lecturer in London.  His area of research was the circulation of the blood and the way the heart works.  His book Concerning the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals was published in 1628.

In Folkestone there is a statue of William Harvey on the Leas.  When Harvey died in 1657 he left money in his will for the founding of a boy’s school in Folkestone.  This opened in 1674 and the Harvey Grammar School has had a continuous history since that time.

William Harvey Day is marked by a procession including the Folkestone mayor, town councillors, and others from the Burlington Hotel on Earls Avenue to the William Harvey statue on the Leas.  They arrive there at 3pm and a short service of thanksgiving is held.  

The Harveys of Bargy Castle.  Bagenal Harvey was the owner of Bargy Castle in the 1790’s and part of a liberal pro-Catholic alliance of wealthy families in county Wexford.  In early 1798 he had gathered many of them together in his banqueting hall to plot what came to be known as the 1798 Rebellion.

Three months later, one of the guests at that gathering returned to Wexford town and saw the heads of three of those who had gathered there gaping from spikes over the courthouse door.  All the others, excepting two, had met a similarly horrible execution.

Bagenal Harvey had distinguished himself during the rebellion for his bravery and his chivalry.  He had taken refuge after Wexford’s surrender in a cave in the Saltee islands with John Colclough and his wife, from whence they planned to escape to France.  But soldiers traced them down there.  To save Mrs. Colclough (who had stood by her husband throughout the battles), both men surrendered and, with the others, were executed that June and hung on Wexford bridge.

The castle itself was confiscated by the British Government, but was then restored to Bagenal’s brother James in 1816.  It stayed with the Harvey family until 1947.  Now the owner is the singer Chris be Burgh and his family.

Bargy castle is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland.  A stained glass window bearing the Harvey cross is to be seen by the central tower.  Outside there is a stone covered with figures supposed to represent Queen Elizabeth I and her crest, and, above, a large machiolation where missiles could be launched.  Recently, a  dungeon, crypt, sepulchres, a secret passage, and walled-up entrances yielding weapons and gunpowder have been discovered.   Not surprisingly, the castle appears to be haunted.

A Cornish Inheritance: Harveys of Chacewater.  A Cornish Inheritance: Harveys of Chacewater by David Gore is the story of a Cornish mining family which was caught up in the great emigration of the mid 19th century.

Samuel Harvey married there in 1710 and the village became the Harvey home for the next two hundred years.  The book tells of his son Samuel and the mines of old Cornwall, of his cousins the buccaneering Pellows, the Hichens of St. Ives waterfront, and the Penroses of Redruth, and we follow some of Samuel’s 63 grandchildren to their new lives in America and other lands.

There is the tale of the brilliant but reclusive artist who left Cornwall as a baby, became a conscientious objector in World War 1, and was arrested as a spy in 1944; and the entrepreneur, game hunter, and unethical chancer, thrown out of Kenya in his youth, who became an arms dealer, apparently selling to both sides in the Iran-Iraq war – a far cry from the lives of their ancestors, those hardy old men of Cornish mining with which this history begins.

Harveys and Harvies in Scotland

Harvey Harvie Total % Harvie
1841 census   1,401    682   2,083     33
1901 census   3,746    821   4,567     18

Reader Feedback – Herveys from Ireland to America.  This Hervey family was of Scotch origin, the members of it being Presbyterian in their religious belief and church connection.  At the time of the religious persecution in Scotland the family ancestors emigrated to the north of Ireland and settled in county Monaghan.  Henry Hervey was born there in 1740.

At the age of thirty, in company with his cousin William, he came to America, landing at Philadelphia in 1770. Two years later, they came west of the Allegheny mountains and Henry settled in Brooke county, Virginia, then by the western frontier.

During the troublous times of the Revolution, Henry and his wife Margaret were exposed to frequent alarms from fear of the Indians who often passed though this section.  For mutual protection, the settlers built fort “Wells,” situated near the site of the old Lover Buffalo church, and about three miles east of the farm on which Mr. Hervey resided.

During the six or seven summers after their marriage, Mrs. Hervey lodged with others in the “fort,” while her husband armed for defense, would go out on Monday morning to his work on the farm, remain during the weekend, and return on Saturday evening and spend the Sabbath with his family in the fort.

They raised nine children, five sons and four daughters.  The seventh-born David, who became the Rev. David Hervey, was born in 1794 and was still living in 1879 (aged 85), the only one still living then of the nine children.  He was living in the old family farm which had been continuously in the ownership of his father and himself ever since the land was taken up by his father in 1772.

Barbara Palmer (barbtpalmer@yahoo.com)

Reader Feedback – Harveys in Belfast.  How do I find relatives of Robert Harvey born in 1889?  His brothers were Victor, James, Earnest. Charles and Frederick.  They lived on Mcclure Street in Cromac, Belfast.  There should be relatives/ maybe great grandchildren, but I can’t find any records.  They were probably destroyed during the Troubles.

Robert Harvey (lamb.16geri@yahoo.com).

Ann Harvey, the Newfoundland Heroine.  The Isle aux Morts, rocky islands off the coast of Newfoundland, had as its name suggests – witnessed many a shipwreck.

In the summer of 1828, this fate befell the British brig Despatch. She had left Londonderry in Ireland in late May en route to Québec City, crammed with 200 Irish immigrants.  On Saturday July 10, 1828, forty-two days after leaving port and about three quarters of the way to her destination, a raging storm blew the Despatch onto the rocks near Isle aux Morts.

The Harveys, fishermen from the Channel Islands who lived about four miles from the wreck site, had spotted debris being washed ashore that evening but were unable to investigate due to the storm and approaching darkness.  Upon discovering the wreck the next morning, with the survivors clinging to the rocks, the Harveys started their rescue mission with a vengeance.

Over an incredible three day period, young Ann Harvey – working night and day with her father, 12 year old brother Tom and their Newfoundland dog was instrumental in saving 168 of the passengers and crew, getting them to land over stormy seas in the Harvey’s twelve foot skiff.

With all survivors safe on shore as of Tuesday night, the Harveys continued their incredible rescue operation.  For another exhausting five days, they built makeshift shelters on the beach, shared their home, clothing, all the family’s food secured for the winter, and helped to row the survivors to Port aux Basques.

Ann was just seventeen at the time of the shipwreck.  Her accomplishment was recognized in her time and is still remembered today.  In 2003, the artistic director of Shallaway, Susan Knight, commissioned Stephen Hatfield to compose a folk opera to celebrate Ann’s legacy.  The resulting work, Ann and Seamus, made its debut in St. John’s in 2006.  Contact was made with descendants of the Despatch’s survivors and several travelled to St. John’s to attend the premiere and to meet descendants of Ann and the Harvey family.

Neil Harvey: A Cricketing Star but not a Superstar.  Neil Harvey played cricket for Australia in the 1950’s when it was the administrators who ran the game and reaped its rewards, not the players.  The players received money for playing for their country.  But it was a modest stipend – they should be sportsmen rather than mercenaries.  Most needed outside employment to support themselves.

Neil Harvey’s early employment history had been chequered.  A three year apprenticeship as a fitter in Melbourne City Council’s electric supply department had taken six because of his frequent cricketing absences.  In 1950,  his cricketing captain Lindsay Hassett offered him a step up, a job in his sporting goods store.  He was by that time Australia’s premier batsman.

Even with a high public profile, his personal circumstances did not change very much.  He remained at home, sharing a bedroom with his brothers Brian and Ray until he married in 1953.  He continued for many years to wear the cricketing trousers that he had worn in England in 1948.  When his playing days were over in 1963, Neil and his wife went into partnership selling Tupperware as Har-V-Sales.

Harvey Names

  • William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood in 1616.
  • Bagenal Harvey was an early leader of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.
  • John Harvey developed in the 1860’s the sherry known as Harvey’s Bristol Cream.
  • Alfred Harvey was the founder of the comic book publishers Harvey Comics in the 1930’s.
  • Laurence Harvey, born Hirsh Skikne in Lithuania, was a British film star of the 1960’s.

Harvey Numbers Today

  • 65,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 42,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 34,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

Harvey and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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