This is an English surname which for unproven reasons, is much associated with the county of Yorkshire. It is probably occupational for a member of the Medieval Watch, the early police who patrolled the dark streets, and tried to maintain some order. If so the derivation is from the pre 7th century Olde English word 'herkien' meaning to listen or harken. It is also possible that the name is a nickname for an eavesdropper, but such names, and there were plenty in the 12th century which were either robust, obscene, or both, generally died out if they were uncomplimentary. That this name is relatively popular, would suggest that the meaning was logical and practical. However over the past thousand years or so, the meanings of many words and occupations have changed significantly, and it is now very difficult with Olde English to be absolutely certain as to the original meaning. Occupational surnames were given in the first instance to a person with a particular skill, but did not usually become hereditary until such times as a son followed his father into the same line of business. Surprisingly perhaps, many did not, and the (sur)name would then die out, perhaps to be revived later in a different place. In this case the earliest known recording is believed to be that of Robert le Hearkere in the Assize Rolls of Somerset in 1279, whilst Ralph Harka appears in the Gildersome Rolls for Yorkshire in 1479, and Agnes Harker, who married William Johnson, at Settrington, East Yorkshire, on October 23rd 1574.
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