Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What's in a name?

I discovered yesterday that is back up, and with it the archived contents of the Harbison genealogy list. This invaluable resource frequently featured Chris Harbison of Mt. Macedon, Victoria, Australia, now unfortunately deceased, possibly the best family genealogist of the last generation.

Chris was no medievalist, but he knew medievalists, and he had some unorthodox ideas about the origin of the Harbison name. While the standard theory (expounded earlier) is that Harbison was a corruption of Herbertson (Her- = war, warrior -bert- = bright + son), in fact there's no real evidence the Herbertson form preceded the Harbison form; they appear virtually contemporaneously in Scotland. My data for early Scottish christenings bear this out; in fact, if anything, there were far more Harbison or variant christenings in early 17th century Scotland than there were Herbertson. He suggests the origin might be innkeeper-son. Her- still means war in Old English; but herbourg was a refuge from war, and became an inn or hostel, thence herberger. The word still exists in German, and is cognate with modern French auberge and modern English harbour. Harbour is precedent for dropping the terminal g.

And there are several Harbisons and Herbertsons well-scattered around England (northern Norfolk, Bedfordshire, Kent) about the same time. Chris suggests there might have been some eccleasiatical connection that explained the mobility. Chris was wedded to the idea of a single surname origin; the DNA simply does not support that. So there might have been bright warriors, and innkeepers, all mixed in together.

I must say I like the 'innkeeper' theory, if only because my family, from my 4th great grandfather down to my grandmother, were tavern-keepers or liquor sellers.

Anyway, more gleanings from the list, anon.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The missing Cargans

I discovered an Eleanor Harbison, married to a 'Peter Kergan', in the tiny (1000 acre) townland of Tintagh, on the slopes of the Sperrin mountains, a few miles northwest of Moneymore. Most of the townland is mountain, and settlement was clustered in the southeastern corner. The names are misspelled repeatedly in the Lissan parish register. There are three Cargans in the 1827 Tintagh tithe applotment book, and more in the 1831 census, along with a Cargin; two Kerrigans, John and Patrick, in the Griffith's valuation for about 1860; and Carrigan and Carigan families in the 1901 census. This was obviously a result of illiteracy, but it makes the names difficult to search.

It looks like a desperate place to live; how they survived the famine is a mystery.

Eleanor was most likely one of the previously unidentified daughters of Francis Harbison (1795-1837), since two of the three witnesses, Lucy and Jane, were either Francis' spouse or his daughter.

And then...nothing. No further baptisms. Peter doesn't appear in the circa 1860 Griffith's valuation; there are no plausible Irish death records for him or Eleanor; nor Irish marriage or death records for the kids. Most probably they emigrated, but because of the organization of digitized immigration records, and the plethora of Cargans, Cargins, Carrigans, Corrigans, and Kerrigans among Irish immigration records to the US and Australia (to say nothing of Scotland and England), so far I haven't tracked them down.