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Harris Surname DNA Project

The Harris Surname DNA Project is one of the larger DNA surname projects with over 250 participants. It was created as a cooperative organization to develop a collection of Harris family groups who descend from various male Harris ancestors in order to use genealogical DNA testing to compare Y-DNA to discover familial and non-familial relationships. The first test kit was submitted in 2001; the project was created in 2003 after several other DNA kits had been submitted for comparison. Some variant spellings of Harris which are part of the project include: Harries, Herries, Harriss, Harrys, Herrys, Harras, Herrick, etc. In a number of instances the Harris surname appears to be English and Welsh in origin. It is very common in southern England and South Wales as a patronymic from the medieval English personal name Harry (pet form of Henry), meaning "son of Harry." But other Harris families seem to have originated in Germany, France, and other countries.

The Harris Surname DNA Project administrators are genealogists who serve in a volunteer capacity and receive no financial or other compensation. They help maintain the project pages and results as well as answer general questions. The official testing company for the Harris DNA Study is Family Tree DNA. The Project administrators also manage Harris test results submitted to DNA Heritage.



The Harris surname (not including variant spellings) ranked as the 15th most common surname in the U.S. as surveyed in the 1990 Census (behind Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, Taylor, Anderson, Thomas, Jackson, and White).[1]

In the 2000 Census, the 25 most common surnames in rank are: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller, Davis, Garcia, Rodriguez, Wilson, Martinez, Anderson, Taylor, Thomas, Hernandez, Moore, Martin, Jackson, Thompson, White, Lopez, Lee, Gonzalez, Harris, and Clark. Harris ranks as the 24th most common surname in the United States.[2]

Harris is the 22nd most common surname in England, Wales and the Isle of Man (behind Smith, Jones, Williams, Taylor, Brown, Davies, Evans, Wilson, Thomas, Johnson, Roberts, Robinson, Thompson, Wright, Walker, White, Edwards, Hughes, Green, Hall, and Lewis).[3][4]

Probable origins for the Harris family of Essex

One branch of Harrises (the family residing in Essex, England in the 1500s) claims to derive their surname from the French term “Le Herisse.” Previously, as early as 1000 A.D., this family had been nicknamed Crispin, (Latin) meaning “sticking-up hair.” The French translation of Crispin is “Le Herisse.” A paternal ancestor, Crispin de Bec, son of Guillaume de Bec (918-1000) was bestowed the nickname of “Crispin,” meaning “curly-headed.” This Crispin de Bec’s son, Guy “Le Herisse” de Bailleul, was perhaps the first to assume the French translation of the name. This Crispin family reportedly descends from a brother of Rolf Ganger “Rollo” named Hrollaug Rognvaldsson (aka Hugh Barbatus), both sons of Rognvald “The Wise” Eysteinsson. Among numerous branches, some related families migrated to the British Isles and were known as “de Heriz” and “Heris” during the 11th & 13th centuries in Nottingham and Derby. The family was also anciently known as “Herries” in Wales and Scotland.

The ancient Le Herisse ancestor, Guy de Bailleul, is recorded as holding Harcourt in France. Crispin, Le Herisse, and de Harcourt were used interchangeably at various periods of time. One of Guy’s descendants, Ivo de Harcourt, who is often confused with a different Ivo de Harcourt of another family, began using the name of Heris in Nottingham during the 12th century. This appears to be the English ancestor of the Y-DNA I1a haplotype Harris families.

Other branches of this group of Harrises took various surnames during the period of surname formation in the 11th through 13th centuries. From various DNA studies of related patrilineal families tracing back to these same medieval ancestors, it appears that some branches of the following families also trace back to a common ancestor with this Harris family: de Bailleul, Crispin, de Clare, de Montfort, Marshal, Beaumont, Mauvoisine (de Hercy), Rosny, de Colleville, de Ifferley, Stanhope, Douglas, and Harcourt among others.

This group of Harrises which settled in Essex, England, has a corresponding Yahoo! Group for genealogy discussion called Harrisline.

Other Harris DNA projects

The Harris-2 DNA Study[5] is also being conducted by Family Tree DNA. It is centered around a separate group of Harrises whose members were tested to find out how much Native American blood was in them.

There is also a Harris-Calvert DNA Study[6] being conducted by Family Tree DNA which revolves around a group of Harrises that descend from family members whose name may have originally been CALVERT, as some of the names in early records are shown as “Calvert alias Harris,” “Calvert alias Harrison,” “Harris alias Calvert,” and “Harrison alias Calvert.” This seems to indicate that at least one family member of this group had more than one set of parents. This family group appears to descend from three brothers—Thomas, George, and Burr Calvert, sons of John Calvert (ca. 1692-1731) of early Virginia. Their mother is reported to be Jane Harrison. With DNA testing, and if a strong match can be found with a Harris, Harrison, or Calvert, it is possible that any questions of paternal origin may be solved.[7]

The Calvert Surname has a corresponding Yahoo! Group for genealogy discussion.

Y chromosome (Y-DNA) testing

Of interest is that one branch of Harrises in the United States used the name of Harris/Harrison alias Calvert and Calvert alias Harris/Harrison in the 1700s in Virginia. In later generations the name has been shortened to Harris. It is possible this branch of Harrises are actually Calverts.

Another similar family is the Tyner family from the late-1600s and early-1700s in Virginia. Descendants now carry the surname of Tyner, however they descend from a John Harris with a mistress, Sarah Tyner. DNA testing confirms that this Tyner family descends from the Harris family through the male line.

Because many Harris surname researchers have exhausted traditional genealogy research methods without identifying their elusive Harris ancestor, this project combines genetics and genealogy in an effort to break through the proverbial "brick wall."

Y-DNA test results

The Harris Y-DNA results chart[8] showing brief lineages and SNPs or DNA marker values for various kits submitted to the Harris Surname DNA Project is divided up into groups of DNA donor kits which appear to be related. Each grouping shows a modal value with the kits in each group matching closely with the modal (or proposed DNA values for a possible common ancestor). Other kits are still unmatched. On the chart, haplogroups in green have been confirmed by SNP testing. Haplogroups in red have been predicted by Family Tree DNA based on unambiguous results in the individual's personal page. SNPs are changes to a single nucleotide in a DNA sequence. SNPs or DNA markers are named with a letter code and a number. DNA markers shown in red are known to mutate faster than other markers.

A Harris DNA mailing list is sponsored by A few of the kit groupings have corresponding Yahoo! Groups for discussion of topics related to that particular Harris DNA group or its reported ancestor(s).


  1. ^
  2. ^ U.S. Census Bureau
  3. ^ A survey of the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) (1991-2000) in the United Kingdom. A similar study updated through 2002 and charted by Technoleg Taliesin Cyf came up with the same results.
  4. ^ Various surname profilers such as Hamrick Software's U.S. Surname Distribution and the Surname Profiler Project Website started by the University College London are also able to show the distribution of the Harris surname by localities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia at various time periods.
  5. ^ Harris-2 DNA Study
  6. ^ Harris-Calvert DNA Study
  7. ^ Additional information on this group can be found at the Calvert DNA Group Study website. Another place to look for information on this Harris/Harrison-Calvert connection is the HARRISON DNA Project website.
  8. ^ Another view of the Harris DNA project results is found at Family Tree DNA’s website. This link also allows you to view the mtDNA results submitted on direct female lines.

See also

Further reading

  • Arquit, Nora C. Harris. Before My Own Time and Since: Genealogy of the Harris family, 1513-1978, Their Allied Families, with Historical Sketches and Illustrations of the Places They Lived and Worked in Europe and America. Ithaca, NY: the author, 1978.
  • Baker, William Thompson. The Baker Family of England and of Central Virginia--Their Many Related Families and Kin. Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers Inc., 1974. [Contains much information on the Harris and Smythe families in Virginia and back in Essex, England which intermarried with this Baker family.]
  • Boddie, John Bennett. “Descendants of Edward Gurgany, Member of First General Assembly, 1619.” Southside Virginia Families. Vol. II. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1966. pp. 128-132.
  • Boddie, John Bennett. “Explanation of the Harris Chart.” Virginia Historical Genealogies. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1965. pp. 198-200ff.
  • Boddie, John Bennett. “Harris of Charles City and Isle of Wight Counties.” Historical Southern Families, Vol. 4. Redwood City, CA: Pacific Coast Publishers, 1960. pp. 193-220.
  • Boddie, John Bennett. “Harris of Essex, England.” Historical Southern Families. Vol. IV. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968. pp. 190-192.
  • Boddie, John Bennett. “Overton-Harris-Day.” Southside Virginia Families. Vol. II. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1966. pp. 341-349.
  • Brayton, John Anderson. The Five Thomas Harrises of Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Winston-Salem, NC: the author, 1995.
  • Clagett, Brice McAdoo. “The Will of Thomas Harris of Creeksea, County Essex.” The Virginia Genealogist 38 (1994):129-130.
  • A genealogy of the Descendants of Nicholas Harris, M.D., Fifth in Descent from Thomas Harris of Providence, R.I., and Sketches of the Harris and the Following Families Connected by Marriage, Tew, Hopkins, Smith, Arnold, Tibbits, Waterman, Olney, Williams, Carmichael, Canfield, Willoughby, Treat, and Fowler, compiled by Mrs. Thomas H. Ham. [Albany, N.Y.: C.I.F. Ham, 1904]
  • Gettys, Robert C. Harris and Smith families of Edwards and Richland Counties of Illinois. N.p.: Gettys, c1986.
  • Harris, Gale Ion. “Early Harrises of Southwestern Connecticut: Two Men and Two Women, All Apparently Unrelated.” New England Ancestors 47 (December 2004):131–37.
  • Harris, Gale Ion. “Walter and Mary (Fry) Harris of New London, Connecticut.” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (Apr. 2002):157–58; (July 2002):271–73.
  • Harris, Gale Ion. “Arthur1 Harris of Duxbury, Bridgewater, and Boston, Massachusetts: With an Account of His Apparent Grandson, Thomas Harris of Plainfield, Connecticut.” New England Register (July 2005).
  • Harris, Joseph W. Record of the Harris Family Descended From John Harris Born 1680 in Wiltshire, England. Philadelphia: Press of George F. Lasher, 1903.
  • Harris, Malcolm Hart. “Major Robert Harris ... Was He Real or a Myth?” The Virginia Genealogist. 25:3 (1981):191-203.
  • Harris, Malcolm Hart. “Three William Harrises in Hanover County.” The Virginia Genealogist 22 (1978):3-15, 99-104, 187-193.
  • Harris, Robert E. From Essex, England to the Sunny Southern U.S.A. Tucker, GA: the author, 1994.
  • Harris, Thomas. A Genealogy of the Descendants of Nicholas Harris, M.D., Fifth in Descent from Thomas Harris of Providence, R.I.. Privately printed, 1904.
  • Harris, W. Lee, et al. Captain Thomas Harris, 1586 to 1658, English Immigrant in 1611. Privately published, 1966. [Covers descendants and possible origins of Capt. Thomas Harris who settled in Jamestown, VA in 1611.]
  • Harris, William Samuel. The Harris family: Thomas Harris, in Ipswich, Mass., in 1636 and Some of his Descendants, Through Seven Generations, to 1883. Nashua, NH: Printed for the author by Barker & Bean, 1883.
  • Keifer, Sarah Jane Harris. Genealogical and Biographical Sketches of the New Jersey Branch of the Harris Family, in the United States. Madison, WI: Democrat Printing Co., 1888.
  • Key, Marie Harris. The Edward Harris Family: Its Lineage and Traditions. Corpus Christi, TX: Privately published, 1963. [Traces the family of Edward Harris, a grandson of Capt. Thomas Harris of Virginia.]
  • MacRae, Eleanor Harris. The Harris Family of Prince Edward County, Virginia. Virginia Beach, VA: Family Values Publications [1991].
  • Miller, W. H. "History and Genealogies of the Families of Miller, Woods, Harris, Wallace, Maupin, Oldham, Kavanaugh, and Brown." Richmond, KY: the author, 1907.
  • Seaver, J. Montgomery. Harris Family History. Philadelphia, PA: American Historical Genealogical Society, [1929]. [Has information on various Harris families in the U.S., Harris coats of arms, and on Harrises famous in history.]
  • Smith, Claiborne T. Jr., “Sergeant John Harris of Charles City County, Virginia: A Reappraisal.” The Virginia Genealogist 37 (1993):18-28.
  • Stevens, Richard E. Snow Hill Remembered: A History of the Harris Family of Maryland, Ohio, and Kentucky. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1994.
  • Stubbs, June A. Our English Ancestry of Chichele-Chiche-Judde-Smythe. Columbia, MO: Privately published, n.d. [Includes information on the ancestry of Alice Smythe in England, the wife of Sir William Harris of Creeksea, Essex County, England.]
  • Taylor, William R. “Evidence of Descent of William4 Harris of Goochland County, Va. and His Father William3 Harris of Henrico, New Kent, Hanover and Louisa Cos., Va. From Maj. William2 Harris, Son of Capt. Thomas1 Harris of Jamestown.” The Virginia Genealogist 22:4 (1978):261-270.
  • Wiggins, Kathryn, compiler. The Harris Papers: A Genealogical Notebook. v. Camarillo, CA: the author, 1968- . [Includes 26 genealogical notebooks on the Harris family with abstracts of deeds and deed indexes, will books, and court orders.]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Harris_Surname_DNA_Project". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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