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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

Where did the Scottish Kerr family come from? What is the Scottish Kerr family crest and coat of arms? When did the Kerr family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Kerr family history?

The earliest forms of hereditary surnames in Scotland were the patronymic surnames, which are derived from the father's given name, and metronymic surnames, which are derived from the mother's given name. Scottish patronymic names emerged as early as the mid-9th century. The patronyms were derived from a variety of given names that were of many different origins. The surname Kerr is derived from the Gaelic name O'Ciarain or O'Ceirin, which itself comes from the Gaelic word ciar, which means black or dark brown.

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The frequent translations of surnames from and into Gaelic, accounts for the multitude of spelling variations found in Scottish surnames. Furthermore, the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent because medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules. The different versions of a surname, such as the inclusion of the patronymic prefix "Mac", frequently indicated a religious or Clan affiliation, or even a division of the family. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into Scotland, accelerating accentuating the alterations to various surnames. The name Kerr has also been spelled Kerr, Car, Carr, Ker, Cearr (Gaelic) and many more.

First found in Lancashire (located in northwest England and dates back to 1180), where one of the earliest records of a progenitor of the Clan was a John Ker, hunter, resident of Soonhope in 1190 AD. He is believed to have received a grant of land from the Crown and settled in the Border country of Scotland soon after the Norman invasion moved northwards. Within a century, two main branches evolved from two brothers, Ralph and John who lived near Jedburgh in c. 1330. The Kerr's of Cessford were descended from Ralph, and the Kerr's of Ferniehurst were descended from John.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kerr research. Another 343 words(24 lines of text) covering the years 1130, 1205, 1264, 1296, 1350, 1553, 1609, 1606, 1570, 1650, 1616, 1578, 1654, 1570, 1650, 1675, 1605, 1675, 1615, 1684, 1624, 1690, 1680, 1741, 1600, 1797 and are included under the topic Early Kerr History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 211 words(15 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kerr Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Kerr family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 297 words(21 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the first North American settlers with Kerr name or one of its variants:

Kerr Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Johan Kerr, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1728
  • Christian Kerr, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1733
  • Friederich Kerr, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1742
  • Barnard Kerr, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745
  • Samuel Kerr, who landed in South Carolina in 1772


Kerr Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Thomas Kerr, who landed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1802
  • Hannah Kerr, aged 25, landed in New York, NY in 1803
  • Josiah Kerr, aged 28, arrived in New York, NY in 1804
  • Alex Kerr, who arrived in America in 1805
  • Anne Kerr, who arrived in America in 1805


Kerr Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century


  • Allan Napier Kerr, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1908

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  • Donald Maclean Kerr Jr. (b. 1939), American physicist, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1979-1985, and director of FBI Laboratory from 1997
  • Deborah Kerr CBE (1921-2007), Scottish-born, American movie actress perhaps best known for her role opposite Yul Brynner in "The King and I" for which she received a Golden Globe Award
  • Walter Francis Kerr (1913-1996), American writer and Broadway theater critic awarded the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism
  • Cristie Kerr (b. 1977), American LPGA professional golfer
  • Malcolm Kerr (1931-1984), American academic
  • Brigadier-General Francis Rusher Kerr (1890-1975), American Assistant Administrator of Veteran Affairs (1946)
  • John Graham Kerr (1869-1957), Scottish embryologist and Member of Parliament
  • William Alexander Kerr VC (1831-1919), Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Roy Patrick Kerr (b. 1934), New Zealand mathematician and physicist
  • Sir John Robert Kerr (1914-1991), Australian politician, Governor General of Australia from 1974-1977

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  • Christian Frederick Kerr by Elaine Ford Eaton.
  • Heasley, Kerr, Smith, Cook by Alice Heasley Dwight.
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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Sero sed serio
Motto Translation: Late but in earnest.

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Kerr Clan Badge
Kerr Clan Badge

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A clan is a social group made up of a number of distinct branch-families that actually descended from, or accepted themselves as descendants of, a common ancestor. The word clan means simply children. The idea of the clan as a community is necessarily based around this idea of heredity and is most often ruled according to a patriarchal structure. For instance, the clan chief represented the hereditary "parent" of the entire clan. The most prominent example of this form of society is the Scottish Clan system...

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Septs of the Distinguished Name Kerr
Car, Caray, Care, Caree, Carees, Cares, Carey, Careys, Carie, Carr, Carray, Carre, Carrees, Carrey, Carreys, Carrie, Carries, Carrs, Carry, Carrys, Cary, Carys, Cearr, Cessford, Curr, Garr, Harie, Harrie, Harry, Kare, Karr, Karre, Kary, Kearey, Kearie, Kearrie, Keerey, Keerie, Keery, Keir, Keirey, Keirie, Keiry, Ker, Kerr, Kier, Kiers, Maccarry, MacGhillechearr, MacHarie and more.

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  1. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  2. Scots Kith and Kin And Illustrated Map Revised 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Clan House/Albyn. Print.
  3. Bloxham, Ben. Key to Parochial Registers of Scotland From Earliest Times Through 1854 2nd edition. Provo, UT: Stevenson's Genealogical Center, 1979. Print.
  4. Fairbairn,. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  5. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  6. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Socts Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Modern Application of the Art of Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  7. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  8. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  9. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  10. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  11. ...

The Kerr Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kerr Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 16 July 2014 at 13:45.

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