This distinguished surname, with thirty entries in the "Dictionary of National Biography", and having no less than forty Coats of Arms, is of early medieval English origin. It is a patronymic form of the medieval male given name Harry, itself a pet form of Henry, from the Old French "Henri", via the Old German "Haimric", composed of the elements haim", home, and "ric", power. Introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066 in the form "Henri", the name became enormously popular and was borne by eight kings of England.It appears as "Henricus" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and subsequently generated a great variety of diminutive and pet forms including Herry, Harry, Hann, Hal and Hankin. Early examples of the surname recording include: John Harryson in the records of the city of Sheffield, Yorkshire, dated in 1445, whilst a large and influential American family of the name are descended from Benjamin Harrison, who emigrated from England to Virginia in 1633 - 1634. Colonel Thomas Harrison (1606 - 1660) was a famous parliamentarian and regicide of King Charles 1st in 1649. William Henry Harrison (1773 - 1841), and Benjamin Harrison (1833 - 1901), both became presidents of the United States. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Harriesone, which was dated 1355, in the "Calendar of Pleas for the City of London", during the reign of King Edward 111, known as "The Father of the Navy", 1327 - 1377. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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