From Essex England to the Surry Southern USA

by: Robert E. Harris



Chapter 8



Pages 926-933



Pages 909-925

Pages 934-943 



1.       Burkes General Armory, by Sir Bernard Burke.

2.       Burkes Landed Gentry, by Sir Bernard Burke.

3.       Burkes Peerage and Baronetage, 1925, 1926, by Sir Bernard Burke.

4.       The Harris Genealogy, by J. Montgomery Seaver.

5.       Dictionary of First Names, by Alfred J. Kolatch, 1980, 1990.

6.       15th Edition, Encyclopaedia Britannica - 1975.

The William Harris, discussed in Part II of this work, who was born circa 1440 and who lived at Prittlewell, Essex, England, was the oldest Harris ancestor in this fam­ily that we can identify at this time.

Many scholars of Harris family history have expressed in their publications their be­liefs that the various Harris families in North America, in the British Isles and on the Continent of Europe have, indeed, descended from the same roots.

All of the American Harris families appear to have arrived in this country, either directly or indirectly, from the British Isles and/or from the western shores of continental Europe.

Moreover, there is an amazing similarity of given names among all of the American Harris families.


Earlier Generations of the Harris Family


J. Montgomery Seaver, in his publication, THE HARRIS GENEALOGY, listed several earlier Harris families. He also listed some points of origin of these families and discussed their Coats of Arms.

The following information is taken from this publication, some parts of which came from some of the other references listed above.

The words in brackets ] are additions by this writer.

Landric de Beaugeney, of Beaugency in the Orleanois (France), had issue, John, and Hericeus or Herice--. Landric appears in 1028 as a witness to a charter of King Robert (Robert II, the Pious). He [Landric] was ancestor of the powerful Barons of Beaugency.

Hericeus was father of Ancelin de Beaumont (styled "Ancelin" in Domes Day Book) who in 1086, held a great Barony in Nottingham, England. His son, No Fitz Herice or de was Viscount of Nottingham before 1130. He had issue:

1.   Ralph Hauseline, who held the Barony in 1165.

2.   Robert Fitz Herice, mentioned in a charter of Barberic Abbey.--

3.   Josseline, mentioned as being of Hunts in 1156.

4.   William, who held, in 1165, three fiefs in Nottingham, and four in Lincoln. Humphrey-5.Humphrey Harris was of Berks, 1158.

In the next century, William Harris possessed estates in Wilts. From him descended William Harris, one of the principal inhabitants of Salisbury, Wilts, in 1469, who Ass an ancestor of the Earls of Malmesbury [in Wales].

Another line, perhaps, was that of Ralph Heris, of Normandy, France, mentioned in 1180 and 1195; Ivo de Heris, England, 1130; No de Heris, 1199; Hugh de Heris and Roger Heris, about 1272.--- William de Heriz, from France, 1150, a descendant of House of Vendosine.

BURKE'S GENERAL ARMORY, BURKE'S LANDED GENTRY AND BURKE'S PEERAGE AND BARONETAGE described in some detail the Coats of Arms used by some of these Harris families:

ARMS - Azure, a chevron ermine between three hedgehogs or An ermine chevron between three golden hedgehogs on a blue shield.

CREST - A hedgehog, or a golden hedgehog.

MOTTO - Ubique patriam reminisci [French, which says in English]: To remember your country everywhere.

Again, from J. Montgomery Seaver: All of these families of Harris, Heris and Herice are united, not merely by the similarity of their surnames, but, which is more important, by the identity of their amorial bearings, three hedgehogs or "Herissons" which appearing in the earliest times are still borne by the Earls of Malmesbury. (End of quote from Seaver)

The important significance of the foregoing information from BURKE and SEAVER to this writer (insofar as the current discussion of probable origins of the Harris family is concerned) is that the ancestors of the Harris families in the British Isles came from Normandy and/or France.

The information concerning the similarities of the Coats of Arms among these families is strong evidence that these families came from common roots.

Summary discussion of the origins of the peoples who made up the

Population of the British Isles in the time period 1400-1600 A. D.

The writer studied the origins of the inhabitants of the British Isles in some detail in making this analysis of the probable origins of the Harris family. This study is summarized herein. The Encyclopaedia Britannica was used extensively in this part. The writer found this study to be quite helpful in this process.

A. Peoples of Celtic origin.

Peoples of Celtic origins were the first identifiable permanent inhabitants of the British Isles.

The Celtics are described as Indo—European tribal people who populated Northern Europe and the British Isles by the Fifth Century B. C.

Our records of early world history come chiefly from the peoples who lived around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Greeks and the Romans discovered the Celtics living north of the Alps in Europe about 500 years before the time of Jesus Christ. The Romans called them Gauls. The Greeks called them Keltoi. The Greeks considered them to be barbarians, along with the Scythians and the Persians.

The Celtics were remarkable to the Greeks and Romans for their height, muscularity and fair skin color.

The early Celtics worshiped many gods, over 400 in number.

The religious ceremonies and rites of the early Celtic tribes were similar to those practiced by certain tribes in India.

These ceremonies were presided over by the Druids who were a priestly order among the Celtics.

The Celtic tribes had dialects which appeared to have come from a common language.


This map, borrowed from the 15th Edition (1975) of Encyclopedia Britannia, shows the areas on the continent of Europe from which our Harris ancestors migrated into the British Isles, during and after the Norman Invasion in 1066. These areas included the Duchy of Normandy and (Means. There were, of course, many of the Harris family who remained on the continent.


The Celtics appeared to have a strong preference for tribal or local governments They were not inclined to extend their boundaries of control so as to dominate other peoples. They, also, strongly resisted the efforts of outsiders to dominate them.

As the Germanic tribes began to be active in Central Europe. and as the Roman armies began their campaigns in northern and western Europe, the Celtic tribes moved west ward into the British Isles.

It is believed that all of the Celtic tribes finally moved into the British Isles.

As other groups moved into the British Isles, the Celtics moved westward and north ward to get away from them.The Celts divided into two groups, the Goidalic and Brythonic. The Goidalic in­cludes the Irish, Scots and Manx. The Brythonic includes the Welsh, Cornish and Britons.

B.     The Roman Army.

The Romans, under Julius Caesar, invaded the British Isles in the year 56 B. C.

Roman rule prevailed in large areas of England until 410 A. D. when the Romans could no longer repel the raids of the Saxons and the Picts.

C.     The Picts.

The Picts lived in southeastern Scotland. Their origin is a mystery. Some believe that the Picts were of Celtic origin. Others do not agree and believe they entered Scotland from the mainland of Europe at another time.

The Picts had a distinctive culture which was noted in their carved stones and uniquely shaped towers and building.

The Picts also had a habit of using tattoo marks on their bodies.

The Picts were rather ferocious warriors and raided the English villages on a regular basis.

The Scots and the Picts were finally united in government in Scotland under the rule of Kenneth I, MacAlpine, in 843 A. D.

D.     The Germanic Tribes: the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. The German tribes were the next to make the British Isles their home.

The Angles (from which the word "English" was derived) had lived along the northern coasts of present day Germany in the area of present day Schleswig and the mouth of the Elbe River. They moved into England in the Fifth Century A. D. and settled in large numbers in the areas of Mercia, Anglia and Northumbria (just south of the old Scottish border).

The Saxons had also lived in the northern areas of present day Germany, along the Baltic Sea, and in Niedersachsen, between the cities of Bremen and Hanover. The Saxons entered England in the Fifth Century A. D. and settled in large numbers in the eastern and southern areas of England.

The Jutes had lived in Juteland (the continental area of present day Denmark). They also settled in England in the 5th Century A. D. in the areas of Kent, Hampshire and Isle of Wight (Southern England).

The Angles, Saxons and Jutes were separate groups of people. Their languages were classified as Germanic and strongly influenced the evolving "English" language.

E. The Scandinavians - the Vikings.

The Vikings were groups of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish warriors seeking new homes. They settled along the coasts of Scotland, England and continental Europe. They brought with them their Scandinavian names, cultures and languages.

They settled in sufficient numbers in some areas of England to be able to rule the Northumbria, in the Tenth Century, was ruled by Norse Kings, Eric and Olaf.

F.   The Scandinavians - The Normans.

The Normans, like their Viking cousins, were from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They settled on the mainland of Europe and established the nation of Normandy. Normandy was so named because it was the country of the Nortmanni or Northmen.

These Normans underwent several important changes. They developed a Roman type system of laws and government and became skilled in its operation. Many accepted Christianity and adopted the Latin spoken by the Roman soldiers in the area, now called the French language. They started using Biblical names and, also, names that were popular in central Europe. The latter type names are now called "old high German". They brought these names into England with them.

England, early in the year 1066 A. D., was ruled by King Edward, the Confessor. Ed­ward's father was King Ethelred II, a Saxon. Edward's mother was Emma, a Norman, who was the sister of Richard, Duke of Normandy. Edward did not have a child to succeed on the throne.

When William (the Conqueror) became Duke of Normandy, he visited with his cousin, Edward. According to William, Edward named William to be his successor to the throne ,of England.

Edward, however, at the point of death, named one of his barons, Harold of Wessex, to succeed him on the throne.

As anticipated by King Harold, William defended his claim to the throne of England by bringing his army into southern England. Harold's army was defeated at Hastings.

William, the Conqueror, became William I of England. He was crowned on Christmas day in 1066.

We have now discussed all of the principal groups that made up the population of the British Isles in the time period 1400-1600 A. D.

Many of these groups have retained their ethnic identities. This is especially true of most of the Celtics. This, of course, includes the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Britons. Some of the Vikings who settled directly into England have also re­tained their identities.

The Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Normans, seemingly, have melted into the descriptive terms, English and Anglo-Saxon.

Previously, we established that the early migrations of Harris families into England were from Normandy and/or France. France, from a small beginning around Paris, grew gradually as a nation with the breakup of the old Carolingian Empire in central Europe. This emerging nation was in competition with others, including the Normans, for new land areas to govern. At one time, the Normans ruled about one half of the land areas of present day France, including some areas around Orleans. Many descendants of the Normans still live in northwestern France. Actually, peoples of many origins make up the present population of France. The word France came from the the word Frank or Franks, the German people who ruled the Carolingian Empire. The Franks living in the area of Paris joined with others in supporting Hugh Capet, a very early ruler of France.

Most of the people who entered England from these areas were, indeed, Normans.

One early theory was that the Harris family was of Welsh origin. That theory was encouraged by the presence of a Harris family living in Wales in the early years of the Norman rule of England. For several generations, that family held the title and position of Earl of Malmesbury. There may have also been the impression that Wales was the principal or only area in England where Harris families lived.

Several factors detract from the Welch origin theory of the Harris family:

A.           Harris families lived in several other areas of England at the same time they lived in Wales. Most of these families lived in southeastern England.

B.            The position and title of Earl is given, retained or withdrawn at the will of the king in power at the time. An Earl, as the highest official outside of the royal family, is intended to serves as the personal representative of the king. The Norman Kings, with few exceptions, appointed their friends to these posts whether or not they were related to the people among whom they lived.

C.            It was determined later, as stated above, that the ancestors of the Harris Earls of Malmesbury had migrated from Normandy or France to England.

After this discovery, a theory was developed that even earlier a group of Welch people had left Wales and migrated to Normandy where they associated themselves with the Normans. These Welch people, according to the theory, then reentered England with the Normans and lived, again, in Wales.

This theory is not convincing. Such conduct would be totally out of character for any Celtic families to do this.

One group of Celtics, from the Britons, did migrate to the coastal area south of Normandy. They established a colony or duchy there and maintained their own language and culture in that place. This group, steadfastly, refused to be drawn into any close associations with the peoples who lived around them.

D.           The given names that the Harris families have handed down for these many generations have not been Welch names.

The names the Harris families have handed down for many generations are a mixture of Biblical names and the names the Normans brought into England. These are the names now called "old high German".

The Biblical male names used by the Harris families include: Aaron, Abner, Adam, Amos, Andrew, Benjamin, Daniel, David, Eli, Elijah, Elisha, Gideon, Isaac, Jacob, James, Jared, Jason, Jeptha, Jeremiah, Jesse, Joel, John, Jonathan, Jordon, Joseph, Joshua, Lemuel, Matthew, Michael, Moses, Nathan, Nathaniel, Paul, Peter, Philip, Reuben, Sampson, Samuel, Simeon, Simon, Stephen, Solomon, Thomas and Timothy.

Biblical female names used by the Harris family include: Anna, Bernice, Deborah, Elizabeth (and its other forms -. Eliza, Lizzy, Beth, etc.), Esther, Eunice, Hannah, Judith, Julia, Lois, Martha, Mary, Phebe, Priscilla, Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Susannah, Tabitha (Dorcas) and Zilpah (Zelpha).

The non-Biblical male given names used by this family include: William, the most commonly used, was for William The Conqueror. Robert, widely used for generations was the name of William's father and also one of his sons. Other names used which are also from the Norman Kings are: Henry, Richard, Edward and Charles.

Female given names used by the Harris families (from the Normans) include: Emma, Matilda and Anne (Ann).

Other factors indicate that the Harrises were of Norman descent:

A.  They came into England from Normandy and/or France. They were speaking French.

B.   They intermarried with the Normans. The Percy family was, indeed, Norman.

C.   They lived among the Normans. The area of Creeksea, Essex, along the Crouch River, was largely populated with people of Norman ancestry. An ancient name for this area was "Danes Island".

D.  As stated earlier, they named their children for the Norman Kings. Children are usually named to honor relatives and friends of the parents.

This writer believes that the preponderance of the indicators and the evidence favors a determination that the Harris families were French speaking Normans who came into England from Normandy and/or France during or after the Norman invasion.

This means that they were of Scandinavian ancestry. Perhaps they were Danes.

Also, the Harris family was as English as any family can be.




Pages 909-925

Pages 934-943 


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