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Our 2,943 members have registered
2,500 study surnames with us
and a further 6,344 variant names.
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About the study

About the Hercus One-Name Study
The Hercus One-Name study grew out of two earlier self-published studies, firstly of of our family tree back to 1720 and related history initially in Scotland and then spreading to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA; and secondly the story of a sailing ship named Isabella Hercus, which brought early colonists to New Zealand in 1850. The present study focuses on the early medieval origin of the name in Scotland, its development, and how it spread from medieval times onwards. The study was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2014. It is intended to self-publish this “Story of the Name” in late 2015.

Variant names

The primary modern variations of the name are Hercus, Herkes, Harcus, Harkes, Harkess and Arcus. However, our name research involving Scottish records from circa 1200 to 2000 has found 101 different spellings of our family Harcarres, Hercase, Herkess, Harkiss, etc. Over this period these spellings have distilled down to the six modern variants which have essentially dominated for the last 100 years. Certain variations of the name are more likely, both historically and now, to be found in certain Scottish counties.

Name origin

The surname in its variations is a habitation one. Authoritative dictionaries say each of the names derive from one place – an estate today called Harcarse, in the parish of Fogo, Berwickshire, in South East Scotland. Our study explores what this name means and whether the surname is “single origin”. DNA testing has been used in this study.

History of the name

Our research has discovered many early family members who made notable contributions to society, or country, over the 800 years of this Study. These included a leading abbot of Melrose Abbey, a steward to two consecutive Earls of Dunbar, several knights of the realm, two sheriffs, and a customs collector for the King.

Name frequency

Our family name [including variants] has been classified by dictionary authorities as “rare”. The frequency of the name in the censuses of Scotland and England in 1881 shows there were 924 family members in Scotland and 202 in England, which is 0.005 % of the population at that time.

Distribution of the name

For further information, contact: Dame Ann Hercus, Villa 2, Roundhay, 88 Waimea Road, Nelson 7010, New Zealand E-mail: This page last updated 18 May 2015.