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About the study
About the Hercus One-Name Study
The study is the story of the name and medieval origins of the Scottish family of Hercus, Herkes, Harcus, Harkes, Harkess and Arcus. Written by New Zealanders John and Ann Hercus, and based on two decades of research, it was published in 2017 under the title "One Family, Six Names". (ISBN 978-0-473-38446-3). Copies of the book can be purchased through the contact details below.
The primary modern variations of the name are Hercus, Herkes, Harcus, Harkes, Harkess and Arcus. However, our name research involving Scottish and English records from circa 1200 to 2000 has found 101 different spellings of our family name.eg Harcarres, Hercase, Herkess, Harkiss, etc. Over this 800 year period these spellings have distilled down to the six modern variants which have essentially dominated for the last 100 years. Certain modern variations of the name are more likely, both historically and now, to be found in certain Scottish counties eg Arcus in Shetland, Harkess in East and Mid Lothian, Harcus in Orkney, Hercus in Edinburgh.
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. DNA testing was used to prove to a very high degree of probability that all six modern variations of the name derive from this one place, with a likely "founder ancestor" circa 1200. It is therefore considered a single origin name, with six modern variations.
Historical occurrences of the name
Our research has discovered a number of medieval family members who made notable contributions to Scotland. 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.
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 141 counts of Hercus, 138 of Herkes, 396 of Harcus, 182 of Harkes, 69 of Harkess, and 101 of Arcus. This means each one of the six variations of our family name is rare. Other records suggest the name, including its variants, has consistently held a rare status for 800 years.
Distribution of the name
The name has spread outside Scotland and can still be found today in England, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
For further information, contact:
Dame Ann Hercus,
52 Somme Street,
This page last updated 2 Jan 2018.