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

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

The ancestors of the Burns family lived among the Strathclyde-Briton people of the Scottish/English Borderlands. Burns is a name for someone who lived in the county of Cumberland. On the onset, it is best first to establish that the family name Burns is in fact a Clan rather than a Sept of the Campbell Clan. A Roll of the Clans and Chiefs in 1597 shows the Burns Clan as having territories in the eastern Border marches of Scotland in East Teviotdale. They were described as an unruly Clan. However, to relate the origins of this great Clan, we must go back to the year 1329, when their territories were located in the parish of Glenbervie. They had moved into these lands during the reign of King Edward I of England, from Burneshead, Cumberland, sometime around 1296. Little is known about their previous history, but it is thought that they derived from a race called the Boernicians, a race of early Scots that ruled the north East coast of England as far north as Edinburgh. By 1375, the Clan had extended its territories to include Burnhouse of Kair, Burnside of Monboddo, Bralinmuir and Bon Jordan in Inchbreck, and Bernys in the barony of Renfrew.

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Spelling and translation were hardly exact sciences in Medieval Scotland. Sound, rather than any set of rules, was the basis for spellings, so one name was often spelled different ways even within a single document. Spelling variations are thus an extremely common occurrence in Medieval Scottish names. Burns has been spelled Burns, Burnes, Burness and others.

First found in Cumberland, where the original name was Burness. Even Robert Burns and his brother both agreed to shorten their name to Burns due to the difficulty in pronunciation by the Gaelic tongue. Later, the name was also spelled Bourne, Burn and even Bernes.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burns research. Another 252 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1200, 1603, 1851, and 1877 are included under the topic Early Burns History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Burns Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Burns family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 264 words(19 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Such hard times forced many to leave their homeland in search of opportunity across the Atlantic. Many of these families settled along the east coast of North America in communities that would become the backbones of the young nations of the United States and Canada. The ancestors of many of these families have rediscovered their roots in the 20th century through the establishment of Clan societies and other patriotic Scottish organizations. Among them:

Burns Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Eleanor Burns, who arrived in America in 1796

Burns Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Mick Burns, aged 25, landed in New York, NY in 1803
  • Agnes Burns, who arrived in America in 1805
  • Catherine Burns, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811
  • Elizabeth Burns, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811
  • Darby Burns, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811


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  • John A Burns (1909-1975), American Governor of Hawaii from 1962 to 1974
  • Lindsay Burns (b. 1965), American Olympic rower
  • Allan Burns (b. 1936), American screenwriter and television producer
  • George Burns (1896-1996), born Nathan Birnbaum, Academy Award-winning Jewish-American comedian and actor
  • Arthur Frank Burns (1904-1987), American (Austrian-born) economist and diplomat, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (1970-1978), and U.S. ambassador to Germany (1981-1985)
  • James MacGregor Burns (1918-2014), American Pulitzer prize winning biographer (1971), and Professor of Political Science at Williams College, Massachusetts
  • Ken Burns (b. 1953), American documentary filmmaker
  • Major-General James Henry Burns (1885-1972), American Executive Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary of War (1936-1941)
  • Lieutenant-General Robert Whitney Burns (1908-1964), American Commander of the Air Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas (1963-1964)
  • Anthony Burns (1834-1862), African-American slave from Virginia who became a Baptist, "slave preacher" and emigrated to Upper Canada

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  • The Burns Family and Allied Lines of North Carolina, Alabama, and Texas by Estella Mae Burns Stewart.
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Burns Clan Badge
Burns 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 Burns
Bearns, Berns, Burn, Burns and more.

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  1. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  2. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  3. Skene, William Forbes Edition. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1867. Print.
  4. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  5. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  6. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  7. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
  8. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  9. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  10. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  11. ...

The Burns Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Burns 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 27 July 2014 at 21:22.

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