The above advertisement is not part of the Harney web site.


jbar.gif (3907 bytes)

Does the HARNEY family have a crest or coat-of-arms?

This is a frequently asked question, and various Harneys have contacted genealogical and heraldic sources in Ireland and England about this. Each inquiry received an entirely different response. Apparently there is no clear-cut answer to this question. A summary of the replies received follows.

Theory 1: from IRELAND

Birdie (Harney) Fenton of Ireland received the following information:

"Harney or more correctly O'Harney is an old Gaelic clan-family name which is derived from the Irish word O'hAthairne. Atharna means paternal, so we can take it that O'Harney means 'descended from the father'. It is believed that the original from whom the name is taken was a Norman, de Arney or de Arne, who came into Ireland during the Norman conquest of the 12th century." This reply included the following coat-of-arms, apparently taken from the Norman family of de Arney:DeArney (8995 bytes)

Shield is green on the top and bottom, with a white stripe across the center.    The white stripe is called Ermine, one of the furs used in blazoning.   It represents the skin of the little animal of that name.  A field of ermine is white with black spots of a particular shape.  The shield shown for de Arney or de Arne, has five (5) such black marks.

Motto: "This I'll Defend."

The heraldry office suggests that, over time, an Irish clan-family was established by this Norman family intermarrying with the native Celts and "thus was formed the O'Harney clan."

"In addition to the coat-of-arms, the O'Harneys had a clan kilt, the body of which was white with an orange band at the hem. They also wore a plant badge, the wild rose, on their tunics to distinguish themselves from other similar clans.

"As a clan-family the O'Harneys existed from 1280 when Teighue O'Harney was granted land in south Roscommon until the disastrous Siege of Limerick at which time the old Gaelic order crumbled. Some of the O'Harneys continued to hold land in their old ancestral ground but many were forced to emigrate or join continental armies. During the famine and penal times of the 19th century more went to Britain, Australia and America."

There are no references cited, and the name of the heraldic or genealogical office was not included. The theory that the name is derived from the Irish word O'hAthairne, is supported by Rev. Patrick Woulfe, in Irish Names and Surnames, 1969, (pronounced O h-Airne).    This has also been anglicized to Haherny. Spelling variations include O'Harney, Harney, Hartney and Harnet (the Harnet variant is found in Co. Limerick, and Hartnet is found in Cork and Kerry).  The sept was firmly established in Co. Roscommon by the middle early ages, though some clan members moved to Counties Tipperary and Waterford.

Problem: This ignores the Annals of the Four Masters, which includes O'Harny as a "clan of note in Kerry." O'Harney was Chieftain of Kerry according to this work, which covers the time period 1171-1616, likely pre-dating Teighue O'Harney's presence in south Roscommon. The original Irish, also called Milesian Chiefs, are identified by the use of O and Mac in this work. This suggests that the O'Harney family are part of the Old Irish that were dispossessed by the Normans, namely the Fitzgerald and Fitzmaurice families.

Theory 2: from IRELAND

Sheelagh (Harney) Marshall, of England, received the following information from Dublin. Oifig Gheinaelais, Baile Atha Cliath, Tuarascail.

"It does not appear that any grant or confirmation of arms has been made to any person of the name Harney, but several sketches and descriptions of arms are to be found in the manuscript books consulted, attributed to the names HARME and HARNE. ... it seems probable that the arms recorded appertain to an English or Anglo- Irish family of the surname Harne, quite distinct from any native Irish family of O'hAthairne".  

Even though they believe the Irish O'Harneys are "quite distinct" from the surnames Harme and Harne, for some  reason, the reply goes on and supplies information from Burke's General Armory, on those surnames as follows:

Problem:  If it is believed that O'Harney is "quite distinct" from the surnames Harme and Harne, why do they provide the information for those names? This adds confusion.

Theory 3: from ENGLAND

From England, a Harney researcher received the following reply.

Notice the English do NOT mention a Gaelic origin of the surname.

"The surname Harney is almost certainly a patronymic, being derived from a father's forename. The English forename Arnold, derived from the Germanic Arenvald, was the source of several modern surnames. One of the most unusual of these is Harney, which is derived from Arney, a medieval nickname form of Arnold .... In medieval times the surname is mostly found with the genitive case ending 's' added, meaning "son of Harney".   The Harneys living in Germany today, tend to support this theory.

One other possible source for the name has been suggested and that is of derivation from the Middle English word harneys, itself derived from the Old French harneis or harnais and meaning 'armour'. This known as a "trade" surname, indicating a maker of armour." The following arms was provided as belonging to the Harneys or Harnous of County Bedford, with the description "Argent, a chevron sable guttee d'or" and crest "a stag's head sable guttee d'or attired gold." herald2.gif (20636 bytes)


  The reply went on to mention several prominent men bearing the surname Harney. The list included the American General William Selby Harney. It does NOT say he was descended from the Bedfordshire Harneys, however, just that he has the same surname.

In looking at Bedfordshire records, this author has found reference to a family named Harneys in the 1300s, but was unable to trace the family as still being in residence there in the 1600s.  However there were some families by the names of Selby and Wharton in Bedford (at St. Marys), and Thomas Harvey (St. Marys), a glover, was buried 25 May 1625.  There is also the family of Richard Harvey (of Wilden), and his sons: Thomas (b.1618); Richard (b.1624); and John Harvey (b.1631).  The surnames Selby, Wharton, and Harvey are also found in the early Maryland records.  Timothy Harney's son, Thomas, married "Miss Selby" in Somerset county, Maryland.   Thomas Harney and Miss Selby had a daughter, Ann, who married Frances Wharton.   So it appears that there are ties to Bedfordshire, at least through the Selby and Wharton lines.  It still remains to be proven if Timothy Harney had ties to Bedfordshire, however.

Other family members have stated they were always of the opinion the family was of Irish descent. William Selby Harney, and his brothers John Milton and Benjamin Harney, were mentioned in articles published in the Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society in 1900. This, too, would imply an Irish heritage. (See Descendants of Timothy Harney).

Theory 4: 

Correspondent Edgar Harney sent away for "the authentic Harney crest" and received a reply that indicates a Scottish Laird (Tavish or MacTavish) owned land in Ireland. He gave the land to his son or grandson who called the estate Atharne, which means 'fatherly or  grandfatherly'. This source indicates that since then all those who worked on the estate were denoted as being from Atharne.  In time the 'At' was dropped from the front and the 'y' added to the end, and this became "Harney".

Theory 5:  From Dublin

Late correspondent and Harney researcher, Ed Hrusosky, received the following information from "The Hall of Names", Dublin, in 1994:  "We found that the family name Harney was first recorded in Connacht where they had been seated from very ancient times. . . They branched to the counties of Limerick and Kerry in mediaeval times, and also to county Cork where the name was spelt Hartnett. Their Irish Gaelic name being O'Harney, they were strong allies and neighbours of the distinguished Scanlon clan.  Their ancient seat was at Ballyhenry in county Kerry but they also held lands in counties Roscommon and Tipperary.  Notable amoungst the family at this time was O'Harney of Connacht."  hharney.jpg (14571 bytes)

Included with Hrusosky's papers is the coat-of-arms pictured to the right.  Note it is very similar to the one supplied above, Theory 3, from England.  Perhaps this is just a different artist's rendition.  This one shows the drops of gold on the chevron, and different style armour.  It is described as follows: Argent a chevron sable guttee d'or.  Crest - a stags head couped sable guttee d'or armed or.  No motto was recorded.

Theory 6: 

This author requested a "family name history" from The Historical Research Center, which is on the Internet. Their reply follows:
"The Irish surname Harney is an Anglicization of the Gaelic name O hAthairne.    This name is in turn derived from the Gaelic work "atharda" which meant "paternal".  It would therefore seem that the original bearer was one who was caring and wise in his manner.  Although this surname was originally rendered with the prefix "o", this prefix only rarely accompanies the surname today.    This surname was originally found in county Roscommon and it is still most numerous in Connacht."

Blazon of Arms:    Azure a chevron sable guttee d'or. Translation:         The chevron, or inverted V-shaped band, signifies Protection and was often granted as a reward for a deed of Faithful Service.
Crest:  A stags head sable guttee d'or attired in gold Translation: The stag (deer) is a symbol of Purity, Fleetness and Solitary Life

This description agrees with that shown in Theory 5 above.



In Irish Pedigrees, by John O'Hart, 1976, O'Harney is listed as a Chief in County Kerry.  This agrees with the Annals of the Four Masters.

The Book of Family Crests, Vols. 1 & 2, 1882, by Henry Washbourne, includes the crest for the name Harneys and Harnous, of Bedfordshire. It is the same crest mentioned above (and shown in Theory 3) for this name.

Irish Names and Surnames, by Rev. Patrick Woulfe, 1969, says Harney is a different name (from Hartnet, Harknett and Harnedy).  The surname Harney comes from O'hAthairne alias Haherney, which belongs originally to south Roscommon, but is now also found in Counties Tipperary and Waterford.

Kevin J. O'Hea, a native of county Cork, and presently employed with The Historical Research Center, here in Salt Lake City, Utah, suggests there may be an ancient family connection between the various families mentioned above. 


So the question remains, are there several distinct families of Harneys from different backgrounds (Old Irish, French/Norman, English, Scottish, German)? Or is there one Harney family, who early on, emigrated across the Irish sea, then later spread to Canada, America, and Australia and beyond.  Both the Irish sources and the English sources mention records where established Harney families were found in the 1200's in each country, and more vague references of earlier presence. 

Since I have traced many of the American, Australian, and Canadian branches of the Harney family to Ireland, I tend to accept the Gaelic origin, rather than Germanic. However, I have as yet found NO reference to the Norman family de Arney, and coat-of-arms of that family being one and the same with the family of Gaelic origin descended from O'hAthairne in Ireland.   


Perhaps Kevin J. O'Hea is correct when he suggests there may be ancient family connections between all the old Harney, Hartnet families. 

If you are thinking of purchasing a coat-of-arms, you'd best make your own decision, based on what you know about your branch of the family. The most common arms cited by Heraldic offices is that shown in Theories 3 and 6.  But if you believe your family is Gaelic with a Norman (French Normandy) background, then you should choose the arms shown in Theory 1.

Sorry to disappoint you!   There is no clear-cut answer.

References: Burke's General Armory, 1842 & 1884; The Armoire of England, Scotland & Ireland, by Crawfurd; Boutell's Heraldry, 1983, revised by J.P. Brooke-Little; Heraldry: Historical & Popular, by Rev. Charles Boutell, 1863; Fairbairn's Crests, by James Fairbairn, 1911; The Annals of Ireland, translated from the original Irish by The Four Masters, by Owen Connellan, Esq.

colorbar.gif (1090 bytes)

cbut3.gif (1101 bytes) Return to Index

 cbut9.gif (997 bytes)  NEW e-mail address: harneyfamilyresearch@yahoo.com

Last updated 19 Nov 2020 by Linda Harney MacDonald