Recorded as Harnes, Harness, Hiarn, Harines, and possibly others, this is a very interesting surname. Although it can now probably be best described as English at least in the spellings shown, it is of pre 10th century Norse-French origins. It was probably introduced into England after the famous Norman-French Conquest of 1066 in the spelling of 'harneis' meaning baggage, and then by a process of development as horse drawn vehicles came into popular use was 'transferred' in meaning to the strapping which held the cart to the horse. As such the surname is almost certainly occupational for a harness maker, although it is possible that it may have referred to a driver of a vehicle. Occupational surnames only became hereditary when a son followed a father into the same line of business. In this case harness making became much more popular after the 16th century as roads improved, and as this was long after surnames came into general use, it may provide the reason as to why this name is relatively rare. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving early church registers of the city of London include William Harnes who married Anne Sater at St Margarets Westminster on January 28th 1564, and Robert Harness who married Jone Trender at St Botolophs Bishopgate, on January 15th 1639.
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