The surname of HERLAN and its variant Harlan was a locational name. The dweller by the land infested with hares. The name was originally derived from the Old English word HAR. It appears that this name is mainly concentrated around the Middlesbrough area. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as "de", "atte", "by" or "in". The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. George and Michael Harland were Quakers who emigrated from Durham, England to Ireland. George then went to Delaware in 1687, and became governor in 1695, while Michael went to Philadelphia. George Harland's descendants, who dropped the final 'd' from their name, included a number of prominent American politicians, in particular James Harlan (1820-99) who became a senator and Secretary of the Interior. Following the Crusades in Europe a need was felt for a family name. This was recognized by those of noble blood, who realised the prestige and practical advantage it would add to their status.
The name also meant 'one who came from Haerland' in Norway. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coat of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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