Surname Origins in Ireland

The origin of the surname Harnett is a complicated issue, and much research remains to be done in the British Isles. A George Arnett who died in Linsted, England in 1490, is often identified as a possible ancestor of the Harnetts at Kent Co., but work by an Irish linguistic researcher may shed some light on early origins. Edward Mac Lysaght contends that O'Hartnett/Harnet is a Gaelic Irish surname which has a long history in Ireland, and is not considered to be indigenous to England.

Mac Lysaght states in his books on Irish surnames that the early anglicized form O'Hartnedy, occured frequently in the sixteenth century Fiants in Ireland. Families of these names were located mainly in Counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick, with Harnet being more usual in Co. Limerick and Hartnett in Co. Cork, while both forms are found in Co. Kerry. In these three counties, before the transfer of ownership of land from landlords to tenants, there were four large Irish proprietors named Harnett. Of course the British Isles have always been a melting pot second only to North America, with waves of conquerors having crossed the English Channel. It is certainly possible that the Irish name Harnett was preceeded by the French name Arnet.

Because the surname was Harnett prior to about 1690, there can be no authentic Harned coat of arms. There is, however, a Harnett coat of arms outlined in John Burke’s “Encyclopaedia of Heraldry”, 1847. It is described as “Ar. a pale sa. surmounted by a saltire gu. a chief az. Crest - A hornet fly, wings elevated, ppr. The pale is formed by 2 lines drawn perpendicular from the top to the base of the escutcheon. The saltire is formed by four lines...(which produce an X across the shield). The chief is the whole upper of the field, cut off horizontally”. (ar.=silver or white; sa.=sable or black; gu.=gules or red; az.=azure or blue; ppr.=proper). We have used one rendition of this coat of arms on our home page.
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