Berns History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The first people to use the name Berns were a family of Strathclyde- Britons who lived in the Scottish/English Borderlands. The name comes from when someone 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.

"But for the name of the Scottish poet, genealogists north of the Tweed have a different origin - His forefathers are said to have come from Taynuilt or Burnhouse there, and emigrated to Forfarshire, where they - of course they were Campbells - were designated by the name Campbells of Burnhouse, and latterly Burness or simply Burns." [1]

Further to the south in England, there is another possible origin of the name: "this surname is derived from a geographical locality. 'at the burn,' i.e. stream; Middle English burne or bourne. More especially parishes in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, and Hampshire." [2]

Early Origins of the Berns family

The surname Berns was 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.

The famed Robert "Rabbie" Burns (1759-1796), Scottish poet and lyricist is best known as the national poet of Scotland, and author of "Auld Lang Syne." He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland and was eldest of the seven children of William Burnes (1721-1784), a self-educated tenant farmer.

Early History of the Berns family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Berns research. Another 172 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1200, 1603, 1851, 1877, 1759, 1796, 1741 and are included under the topic Early Berns History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Berns Spelling Variations

Surnames that evolved in Scotland in the Middle Ages often appear under many spelling variations. These are due to the practice of spelling according to sound in the era before dictionaries had standardized the English language. Berns has appeared as Burns, Burnes, Burness and others.

Early Notables of the Berns family (pre 1700)

Another 49 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Berns Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Berns family to Ireland

Some of the Berns family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 85 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Berns migration to the United States +

The North American colonies beckoned, with their ample land and opportunity as their freedom from the persecution suffered by so many Clan families back home. Many Scots even fought against England in the American War of Independence to gain this freedom. Recently, clan societies have allowed the ancestors of these brave Scottish settlers to rediscover their familial roots. Among them:

Berns Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Anna Maria Kring Berns, who landed in Galveston, Tex in 1845 [3]
  • Christian Berns, who arrived in Galveston, Tex in 1845 [3]
  • Elizabeth Berns, who landed in Galveston, Tex in 1845 [3]
  • Johann H G Berns, who landed in Galveston, Tex in 1845 [3]
  • Johann Heinr Berns, who arrived in Texas in 1845 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Berns (post 1700) +

  • Walter Berns (1919-2015), American constitutional law and political philosophy professor emeritus at Georgetown University


  1. ^ Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)


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