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

Origins Available: German, Irish

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

Gaelic, otherwise known as Early Modern Irish, was used in Ireland from around the year 1200 until the 18th century. It is from this language that we found the first references to the name Kerns as O Ciarain or Mac Ciarain. These names are derived from the word "ciar," which means "black" or "dark brown."

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People who were accounted for by scribes and church officials often had their name recorded many different ways because pronunciation was the only guide those scribes and church officials had to go by. This resulted in the problem of one person's name being recorded under several different variations, creating the illusion of more than one person. Among the many spelling variations of the surname Kerns that are preserved in archival documents are Kieran, O'Kieran, Keiran, Keighran, O'Keiran, Kerin and many more.

First found in County Mayo (Irish: Maigh Eo) located on the West coast of the Republic of Ireland in the province of Connacht, where they held a family seat from ancient times.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kerns research. Another 199 words(14 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kerns History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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

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Ireland became inhospitable for many native Irish families in the 19th centuries. Poverty, lack of opportunities, high rents, and discrimination forced thousands to leave the island for North America. The largest exodus of Irish settlers occurred with the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. For these immigrants the journey to British North America and the United States was long and dangerous and many did not live to see the shores of those new lands. Those who did make it were essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest and most powerful nations of the world. These Irish immigrants were not only important for peopling the new settlements and cities, they also provided the manpower needed for the many industrial and agricultural projects so essential to these growing nations. Immigration and passenger lists have documented the arrival of various people bearing the name Kerns to North America:

Kerns Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • William Kerns, who landed in America in 1811
  • M Kerns, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851
  • Andrew Kerns, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1878
  • Nellie Kerns, aged 30, who emigrated to America, in 1892
  • Maggie Kerns, aged 20, who settled in America, in 1893

Kerns Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century


  • May Kerns, aged 1, who landed in America from Dungloe, in 1902
  • Elizabeth Kerns, aged 45, who landed in America from Dublin, in 1903
  • Catherine Kerns, aged 12, who emigrated to the United States from Donegal, Ireland, in 1904
  • Delia Kerns, aged 22, who emigrated to the United States from Bellymote, Ireland, in 1907
  • Patrick Kerns, aged 23, who landed in America from Newry, Ireland, in 1907


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  • Jerome David Kerns (1885-1945), American composer
  • Joanna Kerns (b. 1953), born Joanne Crussie DeVarona, American actress and director, best known for her role as Maggie Seaver on the comedy Growing Pains (1985-1992)
  • Maude Irvine Kerns (1876-1965), American artist
  • Brian Douglas Kerns (b. 1957), American politician, Republican Representative from Indiana
  • Sandra Borgsmiller Kerns (b. 1949), American movie and television actress
  • Robert Kerns (1933-1989), American baritone
  • Kevin Kerns (b. 1958), American pianist
  • Tony Kerns (b. 1969), Singapore-based American film director, screenwriter
  • Ed Kerns (b. 1945), American abstract artist and educator
  • Enrico Kerns (b. 1979), German footballer

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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: Fidens et constans
Motto Translation: Stand firm on trust.

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  1. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  2. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  3. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  4. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  5. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  6. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  7. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  8. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  9. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  10. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  11. ...

The Kerns Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kerns 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 3 December 2013 at 07:00.

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