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  • Writer's picturePamela Lawton

Harrises, Hedghogs, and Clan Campbell

One of the many reasons I became interested in traveling to the UK was to delve a bit deeper into my genealogy. According to, my DNA is: 47% African (Benin/Togo-17%, Ivory Coast/Ghana-11%,Cameroon/Congo-9%, Senegal-5%, South-Central-3% and Nigeria-2%); 48% European (Ireland-27%, Great Britain-7%, Iberian Peninsula-4%, Eastern Europe-2%, Scandinavian-1%), 2% East Asian; 3% West Asian. I began by researching the origins of the surname ‘Harris.’ As a double Harris (mom’s maiden name and dad’s surname are both Harris), I was interested to see what my Celtic connections are. Harris is a derivation of the Norman name Le Herice, meaning ‘son of the estate or property ruler,” and often connected to Harry/Henry meaning “home ruler.” Normans from the north of France are actually Viking—that area having been conquered in 911 A.D. by Viking Jarl Thorfinn Rollo who became the first Duke of Normandy. William the Conqueror was descended from Rollo. In England Harrises settled in Derbyshire on lands granted them by William for assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. They eventually migrated to Devon, Cornwall, and Essex. Robert Harris, an academic and clergyman was President of Trinity College at Oxford (1581-1658). In the 17th century the Harris surname is shared by a writer, 2 politicians, a scientist and Anglican priest. In the 12th century more members of the Harris family moved north to Scotland as followers of Earl David of Huntingdon who became King of Scotland. Others moved to Ireland to keep the Protestant faith and settled in Ulster. Still others left the religious and political turmoil in Europe and headed to America. Adria Harris arrived in Virginia in 1621; William Harris (1610-1681) was one of 4 men to accompany Roger Williams to the Plymouth Colony in 1636 and became one of the original 12 proprietors of Providence. Several people named Harris were on the Titanic and died when it sank, one Englishman named Harris from Southampton (where we visited) survived the sinking, escaping on lifeboat #14.

The hedgehog, a fierce wee beastie, figures prominently on the Harris family crest (see below). The family motto is, Everywhere to remember one’s country.

In Scotland the Harris family name appears as a sept (families who followed a clan chief) of the mighty anti-Jacobite Highland Clan Campbell. The Duke of Argyll is the Chief of Clan Campbell and the ancestral home where he lives is Inveraray Castle (see below) on the west coast of Scotland. The official tartan of the clan is Black Watch (see below). I’m definitely planning a visit there while I’m here!

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