Heron Surname DNA Project

A Meeting Place for our Ancestors
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About us

The Heron Surname DNA Project is only open to those who carry the Heron surname (or a derivative) and have Y-DNA results - Family Finder results are not compatible with this Project.

The objective of the Heron Surname DNA Project is to discover and trace the various Heron patriarchal lineages found around the world back to a common ancestor; and to identify their migration routes.  

This Project is only open to those who have tested, or would like to test, their Y-DNA, and are in a direct paternal line to the surname Heron or its many variants -- Haran, Harran, Herron, Herran, Herren, Herrin, Herring, Hairun, Heiron, Heroun, Hearon, Hern, Herne, Hearn, Hearne, Herndon, Ahern, Ahearn, Aherne, Ahearne, O’Hearain, O’hArain, O’Haron, O’Heron, O'Herron, McElheron, MacElheron, MacKerron, MacCarran, etc.

In the interests of those searching for their family connections through DNA, Dave and I would like to work in cooperation with other DNA websites connected to the numerous variants of the Heron surname. We will provide links to these projects and encourage you to share your DNA information with them as well.

A Brief History of the Heron Clan

The family of Heron became prominent in the south west of Scotland in Kircudbrightshire and the Stewartry, claiming descent from the Herons of Chipchase in Northumberland around the eleventh century. The English origin of the name seems to be from a nick-name for a thin man with long legs thus the reference to the heron bird. Walterous de Heyroun was clerk to William the Lion from about 1178 to 1180. The Herons were among many of the Borders riding clans who were crushed and scattered after the area was pacified by James VI in the decade following 1603. After the revolution in 1688, the Herons had their lands at Kerroughtree in Kircudbrightshire consolidated into the barony of Heron. Robert Heron, born in New Galloway in 1764, studied at Edinburgh University from 1780, he became an author, writing memoir of Robert Burns which has often. He spent a number of spells in debtors’ prison and eventually died in 1807. Patrick Heron of Heron was MP for Kirkcudbright, and married Lady Elizabeth Cochrane, daughter of the eighth Earl of Dundonald. Their daughter, Mary, married Lieutenant General Sir John Maxwell of Springkell, who assumed the extra surname, quartered the family arms and inherited the lands when Patrick Heron died. The current head of the family is Sir Nigel Heron-Maxwell, tenth baronet.

Heron, and variants such as Harron and Herron, can be an Irish or a Scottish name. This name is mainly found in Ulster, where it is most common in Counties Antrim, Down and Donegal.

Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt a system of hereditary surnames which developed from a more ancient system of clan or sept names.

From the 11th century each family began to adopt its own distinctive family name generally derived from the first name of an ancestor who lived in or about the 10th century. The surname was formed by prefixing either Mac (son of) or O (grandson or descendant of) to the ancestor’s name. Surnames in Ireland, therefore, tended to identify membership of a sept.

Two distinct Heron septs, in Gaelic O HEarain, the root word possibly being earadh, meaning ‘dread’, originated in Ulster: one in County Armagh and the other in County Donegal. In County Fermanagh the Herons, in Gaelic O hArain, were erenaghs, i.e. hereditary stewards, of the church lands of Ballymacataggart in Derryvullan Parish.

In the census of 1659 Heron, in the form of O Haron, was recorded as one of the principal Irish names in the barony of Keenaght, County Derry.

Heron was occasionally used as an abbreviated form of McElheron. MacElheron is derived from Gaelic Mac Giolla Chiarain, meaning ‘son of the devotee of St Kieran’. St Kieran founded a monastery at Clonmacnois, County Offaly in 548 AD. A small sept of this name originated in east Ulster, where the name was recorded in County Armagh in the 16th century Fiants.

McIlheran, in Gaelic Mac Gille Chiarain, meaning ‘son of the devotee of St Kieran’, is also a Scottish name. The McIlherans, based on the Isle of Bute, were a sept of Clan Donald who took their name from the 7th century St Kieran, the patron saint of Campbeltown in Kintyre.

Movement of Scottish settlers to Ulster began in earnest from 1605 in a private enterprise colonization of counties Antrim and Down when Sir Hugh Montgomery and Sir James Hamilton acquired title to large estates in north Down and Sir Randall MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim, to large tracts of land in north Antrim. As followers of Clan Donald many Scottish McIlherans would have settled in the Glens of Antrim. In Ulster the name was further anglicised to Heron and Herron.

The Herons were also recorded as one of the lawless riding or reiving families of the Border country between Scotland and England who raided, on horseback, and stole each other’s cattle and possessions. They lived in the Middle March on the English side of the border. In England the surname Heron originated as a nickname for a tall, thin person

Tracing their descent from Northumberland in the 11th century, the Herons were also an important family in Kirkcudbrightshire in the province of Galloway. This province of southwest Scotland was home to many of the Scottish settlers who came to Ulster throughout the 17th century. Research by Mr. Brian Mitchell from the Derry Genealogy Centre

Background and History

NORMAN ORIGIN OF THE HERON/HEARNE FAMILY -- Sir Bernard Burke says, "This family traces its settlement in England to the era of the Norman Conquest, and the name as then written, Heroun, is found amongst the persons of distinction who followed in the train of Wilham the Conqueror, AD 1066."

A work published in London, England, in 1874, upon the “Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States of America” contains the following information: "Hearne, for Heron, from Hairun near Rouen, Normandy Tihel de Heiron was in Essex in 1086. He accompanied William the Conqueror. William Heron held a barony in Normandy, time of Philip Augustus Odonel Heron, time of William Rufus, 1087, witnessed a charter in Durham, England. Alban de Hairun held a barony in Hertfordshire, England. AD 1165 Richard de Hairun held in Essex. Also in 1165 Dru de Hairun was in Yorkshire, and Jordan de Hairun in Northumberland. In the latter county the Herons were of great note, and William Heron was summoned as a baron in 1369."

In the above work the following different spellings of this surname occur: Hairun, Heiron, Heron, Hearn, Hearne, Hearon and Herron.

It is a well-known rule in heraldry that varying orthography in the spelling of a surname, 'when there is armorial identification, does not affect consanguinity.' THE SURNAME HEARNE, AS IT APPEARS ON THREE DIFFERENT COPIES OF THE ROLL OF BATTLE ABBEY. "The Roll of Battle Abbey, in the Church of Dives, Normandy of the Companions of William, the Seventh Duke of Normandy, in the Conquest of England," by M. Leopold Deliste, Member of the institute, contains in the celebrated list the name of Tihel de Heiron. Another copy of the Roll of Battle Abbey, called "Leland's Copy," contains the name of Heroun. John Leland, the author, saw the original roll in the old abbey and transcribed the name therefrom himself. Holinshed's copy of the same roll contains the names of Heiron and Herne. Thus we have this surname occurring on three different copies of this roll. This is conclusive evidence that one of the founders of the Hearne family accompanied the Conqueror and took part, as a Norman baron, in the conquest of England. One of the named was also a standard bearer to the Conqueror. THE ROLL OF BATTLE ABBEY.

The Battle of Hastings was fought in Sussex County, about fifty-six miles from London, October 14 AD 1066. In this battle 67,974 Englishmen were slain, besides those drowned and 6,013 Normans. The scene of the conflict bears the name of Battel to this day. By means of this victory, a Norman duke was seated upon the throne of England, who was enabled thereby to hand its crown down to his descendants, the present English sovereign, Queen Victoria, resting her claim partly upon the Norman blood thus transmitted.

The next year the Conqueror began to build a vast abbey on the part of the battle-field where the conflict had been the most bloody and severe, causing the high altar to be raised on the spot where the body of the opposing king, Harold, was found. The abbey he dedicated to St. Martin and endowed it with the most royal privileges. The existing ruins bear testimony to its ancient magnificence, being about a mile in circumference. An ancient chronicler, in writing of this abbey, says, in quaint old English: "He called it so then for a memorye of his batayle by which Englande he gate, in token of his mighty victorye, That Englande there he had so well overset, (To pray for the soules as was his det,). Which Abbeye is in Sussex, in that stede where the batayle was and the people dede." The day after the battle, King William caused a list or roll to be prepared of those who had passed the seas with him from Normandy to England. This roll was suspended, the tradition has it, in the abbey, and was known as the 'Roll of the Battell Abbey' and contained the "Sirnames of the Chiefe Noblemen and Gentlemen which came into England with William the Conqueror.

A venerable antiquarian thus reports this event -- "The daie after the battell verie earlie in the morning, Odo. Bishop of Baioux, soonge masse for those that were departed The Duke, after that, desirous to know the estate of his battell, and what people he had therein lost and were slaine, he caused to come unto him a clerke that had written their names when they were embarked at St Valeries, and commanded him to call them by their names, who called them all that had been at the battell, and had passed the seas with Duke William.'

The antiquarian says again -- ''Many who came over out of Normandy were nobles in their native country, whereby we understand them Lords and owners of such manours, towns, and castles from whence they took their denomination, or sirnames. THE BARONS HERON Sir Bernard Burke's "Extinct Baronages and Peerages of England" says "Jordan Hairun possessed a barony in Northumberland as his ancestors had done from the time of King Henry I, AD 1100 His grandson, William Heron, in the 32nd year of Henry III, AD 1248, was made Governor of Bamborough Castle, County Northumberland, and later Governor of Castle Pickering in Yorkshire, and still later Governor of Scarborough Castle. He married Mary, daughter of Odonel de Ford, died in 1256, and was succeeded by his son William Heron. This feudal lord was one of the barons on the part of the king at the battle of Lewes, and was summoned by Edward I., AD 1272, with other northern barons, to meet him at Norham, with horse and arms, where he went to give judgment between the competitors for the crown of Scotland. He married Christina, daughter of Roger de Norton, and had issue – Walter, who married Alice de Hastings, whose daughter Emeline married Hearne Family History. – Source of information: http://www.cragun.com/brian/hearne/history/hh001m.html