See glossary for symbol meaning.
See glossary for symbol meaning.
Surname Name Meaning, Origin, and Etymology
This is an occupational surname meaning “the harper”, a person who made their living by playing (the harp) at a festival or fair, in the same manner as the surnames Piper, Fidler, Tabor, and Crowther. In some cases, the Harper was an official position, a musical performed in the employ of great lords or other royalty. In some cases it was a hereditary title in royal households and was ranked as “the one art of music which deserves nobility”. In some areas, lands were attached to the office, which is reflected in the place name Croit a’ Chlarsair, “the Harper’s Croft” in the parish of Kiltarlity, Scotland. In his book, The Surnames of Scotland, George Fraser Black writes “The last hereditary harper appears to have been Murdoch Macdonald, harper to Maclean of Coll, who died at an advanced age in 1739”. As this name is somewhat common in the Stewartry it is possibily a translation of Macchruiter, which in Gaelic means the "son of the harper”. The name derives from the Middle Dutch word harp or the Olde English word hearp. The name is mainly English, Scottish, and Irish, with the Welsh version being Crothers or Crowther, from the word crwth, a harp of Scandinavian fiddle, from the Gaelic word cruit. Another source states the variants Harpour and Harpur have their origins in the Anglo-French word harpour. One source claims the surname Harper originally comes from the Kingdom of Dalriada or Dal Riata, a Gaelic overkingdom in western Scotland and northeastern Ireland. The name was first found in Lennox where the family held lands and titles since ancient times.
Common spelling variations on this name are: Harpur, Harpour, Harpar, and Harepur.
Early Bearers of the Surname
The personal names Erp and Hapra were recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD, which was a census of England and Wales ordered by William the Conqueror. The first known use as a last name was Robert le Harpur who was documented in the Pipe Rolls of Hampshire in 1186 AD. The Ragman Rolls of 1296 AD record several bearers of this name: 1) William le Harpur of La Lawe in Edinburgh, whose seal bears a harp, 2) Uctins le Harpur of Lanerk, whose seal has a cross pattee, 3) Ughtred le Harpur, 4) Robert le Harper of county Are, 3) Johan le Harpur of Berewyk, and 5) Rogier le Harpur of Hom. The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum, documents three people bearing this surname: Henry le Harpur in county Cambridgeshire, Ralph le Harpur in county Oxford, and Nicholas le Harpur in county Cambridgeshire. An Adam le Herper in county Somerset is documented in Kirby’s Quest during the reign of King Edward III. The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD documents Isabella Herpour, Willelmus Harper, and Rogerus Harper. Early marriages involving this surname include Mary Harpur to Sir Lister Holte at St. George’s Hanover Square in London in 1748 AD.
History, Genealogy, and Ancestry
The famous genealogist Bernard Burke’s book “The Landed Gentry” and “Peerage and Knights” does not discuss this surname. Wikitree.com has extensive pedigrees for this surname. A one Joseph H. Harper was born in 1815 in Fayette County in Pennsylvania. He married Mary V. Seachrist and had four children with her prior to dying in 1868 in Iowa: John S., Daniel, James William, and Margery. Daniel Harper was born on 1845 in Pennsylvania.
Early American and New World Settlers
The book “Genealogical Guide to the Early American Settlers” mentions two people bearing this surname. The first was Joseph Harper of Braintree. He likely had a daughter named Dorcas who married Isaax Woody in Boston in 1657. The second was Robert Harper of Sandwich. He was a Quaker. He married Prudence Butlet, his second wife, in 1666. With his first wife Deborah, he had issue named Experience (1657), Stephen (1622), and Mary (1665). He had two children with his first wife: Hannah and Mercy (1675). George Harper purchased convicted rebels in Jamaica in 1685. Another (or the same) George Harper was recorded in the parish of St. Michaells in Barbados in 1680 and had two servants. Other early settlers include John Harper (Virginina 1642), Patrick Harper (Virginia 1653), Simon Peter Harper (Georgia 1738), and Jacob Harper (Philadelphia 1773). A family of Harper’s landed in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1750 including Elizabeth, John, Mary, and Samuel.
Family mottoes for Harper includes: 1) Sibi quisque dat, meaning “Everyone gives to himself” and 2) Te Deum laudamus, meaning “We praise thee, O God”.
Famous people with this last name include: 1) Stephen Harper (1959) the former Prime Minister of Canada, 2) Robert Almer Harper (1862-1942) who was an American botanist, and 3) Nathaniel White Harper (1865-1954) who was an Australian political and businessman.
7) (Sir William Harper, Mayor of London. Visit. 1568). Az. on a fess betw. three eagles displ. or, a fret betw. two martlets of the first. Crest—Upon a crescent or, charged with a fret betw. two martlets az. an eagle displ. of the last.
8) (London). Per fesse ar. and sa. a lion ramp. counterchanged, a bordure gobonated or and gu.
9) (Bambury). Ar. on two bars az. three greyhounds’ heads erased or.
10) Erm. a cinquefoil az. on a chief gu. a lion pass. guard. or.
11) Or, a chev. gu. a chief vair.
12) (Swarkeston and Bridsall, co. Derby, and New Ross, co.Wexford: allowed by Hawkins, Ulster, 1752, to Mary, dau. of Thomas, son of Basil Harper, of New Ross, and wife of Philip Walsh, then residing in France). Per bend sinister ar. and sa. a lion ramp. counterchanged, a border gobony or and gu. Crest—A lion’s head erased per pale or and gu.
13) (Cambusnethan, Scotland, 1673). Ar. a lion ramp. sa. holding in his dexter paw a harp az. a bordure engr. of the second. Crest—A boar pass. ar. Motto—Et suavis et fortis.
14) (Edinburgh, 1870). Ar. a fess az. betw. three harps sa. stringed or. Crest—A harp, as in the arms. Motto—Te Deum laudamus.
15) (Calke, cos. Derby. Devon, and Stafford, bart., now Crewe, Bart., of Calke; Sir Henry Harper, seventh bart., assumed that surname, 1808). Ar. a lion ramp. and a bordure engr. sa. Crest—A boar pass. or, ducally gorged and crined gu.
16) (Berianherbert, co. Devon; Nicholas Harpur, of that place, Visit. 1620, grandson of John Harper, a younger brother of Harper, of Swarkeston, co. Derby). Same Arms, a crescent for diff. Crest—A boar pass. or, chained and collared gu.
17) (Chilvers Coton, co. Warwick, and Burton Hall, co. Northampton). Ar. a lion ramp. and a bordure engr. sa. Crest—On the battlement of a tower masoned ppr. a boar’s head erased fesseways.
18) Ar. two bars az. each charged with a lion's head erased or.