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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

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 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 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

Harkness Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Eliz Harkness, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Walter Harkness, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Harkness Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • William Harkness, aged 28, arrived in Saint John aboard the ship "Prudence" in 1838

Harkness Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • John Harkness arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lady Lilford" in 1839
  • William Harkness, Scottish convict from Glasgow, who was transported aboard the "Adelaide" on April 16, 1855, settling in Western Australia

Harkness Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • W Harkness landed in Nelson, New Zealand in 1842
  • Thomas Harkness arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Black Eagle" in 1861
  • Thomas Harkness, aged 22, a labourer, arrived in Bluff, New Zealand aboard the ship "Christian McAusland" in 1875


  • Charles William Harkness (1860-1916), the son of Stephen V. Harkness, eponym of Harkness Tower, Yale University
  • Lamon Vanderburgh Harkness (1839-1915), American businessman and a partner in Standard Oil, Standardbred horse breeder
  • 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
  • Harvey Willson "H.W." Harkness (1821-1901), American mycologist and natural historian
  • Edward Stephen Harkness (1874-1940), American philanthropist
  • Mr. William Herbert Harkness, English Assistant Purser from England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 15
  • Mr. William Harkness, British Engine Room Artificer, who sailed in to battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking
  • Dr Alistair Harkness (b. 1974), Australian politician from Melbourne, Victoria, member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
  • Steven "Steve" Harkness (b. 1971), English former professional footballer
  • James Harkness (1864-1923), English-born, Canadian mathematician




  1. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  2. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  3. Donaldson, Gordon and Robert S. Morpeth. Who's Who In Scotish History. Wales: Welsh Academic Press, 1996. Print. (ISBN 186057-0054).
  4. Fairbairn,. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  5. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  6. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  7. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  8. Paul, Sir James Balfour. An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland Second Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1903. Print.
  9. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  10. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

This page was last modified on 15 February 2015 at 15:07.

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