Putative Extended but Unproven Genealogy of the Verner/Varner Families

The surname VERNER is undoubtedly an anglicization of the German surname WERNER. Since the letter "W" is pronounced as a "V" in the German language, it is easy to understand how the name WERNER in Germany has morphed into VERNER outside of Germany. There are people named VERNER in Sweden, Austria, Eastern Europe, France, and Spain, as well as in the British Isles for the same reason.

The German name WERNER is a fairly common name in Germany, but its most illustrious first family was that of Bishop Werner of Habsburg (Habichtsburg or Hawk's Castle) the progenitor of a family dynasty of European rulers, named for their castle on the Aar river near its junction with the Rhine, built by Werner, Bishop of Strasbourg and his brother-in-law, Count Radboto, in the year A.D. 1028. This family spread their prolific progeny into nearly all the royal families of Europe, and has a well known genealogical record that can be found, drastically summarized, in most major encyclopedias.

In the 16th century, the Habsburg dynasty ruled over Spain and all its dominions in Europe and in the New World. In particular, the Province of France, now known as Franche-Compte, was under Spanish Habsburg rule, starting in 1556. Many of the administrative officers of Franch-Compte who moved in to help rule the province were minor members of the Habsburg dynasty, and some of them took the surname, Vernour, and others Vernier, as French versions of the old germanic Habsburg family name, Werner. The famous inventor of the Vernier scale, still used in modern measuring instruments, Pierre Vernier, was a member of this branch of the extended Werner family. One can see from Pierre's biography that he was well connected to the ruling classes in Franche-Compte.

The following is a quote from Samuel Phillips Verner, who enjoyed spinning a phrase while among his pretentious cousins at a Verner family reunion in Charleston SC:

"The Habsburgs were important, but only a minor branch of the Verner family."
S.P. Verner
But, as the tides of history ebb and wane, the French people grew increasingly impatient with Spanish rulers, even if (or especially if) they were Germans under their skin, and revolt became the fashion. Sometime, around the year 1641, there was a certain Hapsburg Duke, perhaps surnamed Vernour who had been assigned to some important but visible post in the governance of some French province Franche-Compte, who prefered to go into exile, rather than face an angry mob of unruly subjects, who were likely to have stoned him to death if they could catch him. This is probably how one William Verner showed up in London, as an exiled Duke of some French province, possibly Franche-Compte, and perhaps a distant cousin of Pierre Vernier who found his exile in the mathematics and engineering of mechanical things to keep himself out of trouble with the mobs. William Verner was attracted to an exile in England because he wanted to help Oliver Cromwell's Puritan revolution to overthrow the English Crown. William Verner is said to have helped Cromwell in his military pursuits in Northern Ireland, probably with the idea that once King Charles was deposed, perhaps the Habsburgs could get a foot into the British Isles, and recover the glories of being rulers as they once were in Franche-Compte.

Perhaps William was first sent to Scotland to help recruit and hire Scottish mercenaries to assist in the conquest and re-settlement of Northern Ireland. It may have been during this period that William married a Scottish woman of the Acheson family and moved to Northern Ireland. and possibly had a descendants named William and Henry Verner. William was awarded some land that had been wrested away from Catholic Irish hands along with the help of Presbyterian Scottish mercenaries hired by Cromwell. This is how the Verner family came to be in Northern Ireland, and the family folklore has correctly supposed that the Verner name was French, German, or Austrian sometime before. The Verner household in Armagh was once a large fortified country house, not quite a castle, but accessible only by a bridge, known as Verner's Bridge which is in use to this day. The house, it is said, has been reduced to ruble after centuries of conflict, and it is no longer suitable for respectable human habitation.

The Verner/Wingfield Collection of about 2000 documents pertaining to the subsequent family history is in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

The descent from William Verner to John Verner (c1725-1798/9) is thought to be as follows:

William Verner* of London, deposed and exiled to London from Franche-Compte, France, in c 1641, and was sent to North Ireland by Oliver Cromwell to military service against the Catholic Irish. He had sons, including:
Henry Verner* of County Armagh, Ireland, who had a son named Henry Verner. born in the 1640s, who had at least three or four sons: