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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the Scottish Harkness family come from? When did the Harkness family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Harkness family history?

In ancient Scotland, Harkness was a Strathclyde-Briton name for someone who lived in Dumfries. Some believe that the surname Harkness is derived from the Old English words here, which means army, and nss, which means headland or cape.


Prior to the first dictionaries, scribes spelled words according to sound. This, and the fact that Scottish names were repeatedly translated from Gaelic to English and back, contributed to the enormous number of spelling variations in Scottish names. Harkness has been spelled Harkness, Harkniss, Harckness, Hackness, Herkness and many more.

First found in Dumfriesshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Dhn Phris), a Southern area, bordering on England that today forms part of the Dumfries and Galloway Council Area, where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Harkness research. Another 148 words(11 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Harkness History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Harkness Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Harkness family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 267 words(19 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


In such difficult times, the difficulties of raising the money to cross the Atlantic to North America did not seem so large compared to the problems of keeping a family together in Scotland. It was a journey well worth the cost, since it was rewarded with land and freedom the Scots could not find at home. The American War of Independence solidified that freedom, and many of those settlers went on to play important parts in the forging of a great nation. Among them:

Harkness Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Adam Harkness, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1730
  • Thomas Harkness, who arrived in New England in 1733
  • John Harkness, who landed in New York in 1797

Harkness Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Thos Harkness, aged 12, landed in New York, NY in 1803
  • Jane Harkness, aged 36, arrived in New York, NY in 1803
  • James Harkness and his wife and six children settled in New York State in 1803
  • Abigail Harkness, aged 8, arrived in New York in 1803
  • Margaret Harkness, aged 10, arrived in New York, NY in 1803


  • Edward Stephen Harkness (1874-1940), American philanthropist
  • Harvey Willson "H.W." Harkness (1821-1901), American mycologist and natural historian
  • Stephen Vanderburgh Harkness (1818-1888), American businessman who was a silent partner with oil titan John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in the founding of Standard Oil
  • Lamon Vanderburgh Harkness (1839-1915), American businessman and a partner in Standard Oil, Standardbred horse breeder
  • Charles William Harkness (1860-1916), the son of Stephen V. Harkness, eponym of Harkness Tower, Yale University
  • Phillip Harkness, New Zealand Publisher
  • Douglas Harkness PC OC GM ED (1903-1999), Canadian war hero best known for his distinguished career in federal politics
  • James Harkness (1864-1923), English-born, Canadian mathematician
  • Steven "Steve" Harkness (b. 1971), English former professional footballer
  • Dr Alistair Harkness (b. 1974), Australian politician from Melbourne, Victoria, member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly



  1. Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3).
  2. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  3. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  4. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  5. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  6. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  7. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry Including American Families with British Ancestry 2 Volumes. London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  9. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  10. Skene, William Forbes Edition. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1867. Print.
  11. ...

This page was last modified on 4 July 2014 at 03:48.

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