According to the "House of Names" website, the ancient origin of the "Harten" family is Scotish or English ("The oldests members of this family were first found in Roxburghshire were they were seated from centuries ago, believed to be there before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.").
Those "Harten" would come from a spelling derivation of the "de Hardene" old English/Scottish surname, that came from a subject called John de Hardene, whom rendered homage to King Edward in 1296. "Harden" is the name of a civil parish and village in West Yorkshire and an area north of Walsall, wich could have derivated the surname.
The name of the place Harden is a derived from the Old English words "hara", "hare", and "denu", or "valley".
Another source points out that the earliest written reference found of the family "von Harten" and it's spelling variations date February 15, 1215, "a Frisian parish record of the marriage of Frey-der-Rechte von Harten". According to this source, Frey-der-Rechte did not have children of his own, but was forced to adopt a stranger who would be baptized Gjorg von Harten, a mercenary that would fight for the prussian and in 1238 become one of the 12 Knights of The Holy Roman Empire that were commemmorated at the Royal Chapel at Koenigsberg. Gjorg believed in the fact that everyone should live at least 120 years, and supposedly lived himself from 1202 to 1347. Gjorg would have married Frey-der-Rechte's niece, so his offspring would continue with the old "von Harten" blood. However, legendary elements within this tale, and the fact that the author of this information declared at his blog to base on speculations, cancels any chances of serious genealogical reliability.
Some found variations related to a Harten surname are: Van Harten (of dutch and/or belgian origin, rather a toponymic), Von Harten (german/prussian, probably of landowners in a medieval german kingdom from one single patriarch; some say of Raubritter; could be toponymic), Hartin, Hatten, d'Harten, Hardin, Hardon, Harden, Hardten, and many others. It seems that some Whorton and/or Horton family(ies) changed their surname to Harten, and a Hartin or Harten to Martin.
With the coming centuries, surnames tend to derivate various misspelling variations that could in some cases complicate the determination of its origin and/or meaning, being the worst case when it ends up being written the same way of another family name that already exists. This last case seems to be what happened to the family name "Harten". There is not one single Harten family, but multiples, with diverse kinds of origins.
"Harten" has several meanings in german, such as "hard, rigid, stiff, strong; hard boiled; firm, stable; tough, severe; sharp, harsh, rough ". Being a last name based on traits, there must have been quite some people adopting it through Germany when people started to adopt surnames, with not having necessarily to be related to each other. "Harten" is also a word in dutch, that means "hearts", wich could be the meaning of the supposed Frisian surname.
Ancestry.com defines the Harten name meaning as: "North German: patronymic from Hart 1.Dutch: from a derivative of a Germanic compound personal name beginning with hard ‘hardy’, ‘brave’, ‘strong’.Dutch (van Harten): habitational name from a place so named near Renkum, Gelderland."
The oldest member of the Lower Saxon branch of the family "Harten" from which I descent, that I could find on the internet was Jan Harten, born in circa 1630, in Veldhausen, Neuenhaus, Lower Saxony, Germany; who probably was a landowner. His last name likely originated as a physical or personality trait, and his family may not have been the only one in that area and time period to choose or receive this last name, as last names aparently were becoming popular, but that might be unlikely as that area has such a low population. Some of his descendants later changed to others alike last names, such as Hatten.
Jan Harten, his children, and other Hartens of Veldhausen at that time early on were often registered with the writing variant "Herten" (means "deer" in dutch), which could actually bear the name's original meaning. If that's the case, it could not just be a characteristical name, but it also could have come from an offshoot of the (von) Herten family of the Herten Castle (Schloss Herten) of the Herten town.
A descendant, Jan Hendrik Harten (1757 - 1809) moved from Germany to Rotterdam, and introduced a branch of the family to The Netherlands, where the family grew and became a large family. Some descendants have spread through the globe, including:
Hendrik Weijer Harten (1882 – 1943), son of Johannes Adrianus Harten, a dutch broker, and Sapen, a javanese lady. He moved from his home land Indonesia to work as an engineer in Brazil, where he married Maria Souza Jardim (Then Maria Souza Harten, 1894 - 1952) and had 10 kids. Nowadays he has a large number of descendants, in which most of them keep the surname, through patrilineal and matrilineal lineages. He also had descendants that later moved to the USA.