Select 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.

Select Harrison Resources on The Internet

EnglandThere is Harrison and Harris.  Harrison 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 the region in the 1500’s).  Some think that the first Harrisons came from this area, possibly as early as the 11th century. 

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 Spalding Moor (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.
Lancashire.  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 Harrisons 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 Soviet 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 around 1760. 

James Harrison, a journalist from Glasgow, emigrated to Australia in 1837.  He pioneered refrigeration techniques for the transportation of mutton 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.

America.  Harrisons seem to have preferred Virginia rather than New England as the 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.  

"Benjamin 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 arrived at 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.

Canada.  John Harrison of Rillington in Yorkshire was, according to family lore, related to John Harrison 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.

.  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 captain during the Maori wars and later represented Wanganui in Parliament.

Select Harrison Miscellany

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

Select 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 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)
Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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