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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

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 United States in the 18th Century


  • Eleanor Burns, who arrived in America in 1796

Burns Settlers in 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


Burns Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Mr. George Burns U.E who settled in Sissiboo [Weymouth], Nova Scotia c. 1783 he served in the Kings American Regiment as well as Kings Orange Rangers
  • Mr. James Burns U.E who settled in Home District, [Niagara], Lincoln County, Ontario c. 1783
  • Mr. Philip Burns U.E who settled in St. Andrews, Charlotte County, New Brunswick c. 1783
  • Mr. Samuel Burns U.E who settled in Parr Town [Saint John], New Brunswick c. 1783
  • Mr. William Burns U.E who settled in Parr Town [Saint John], New Brunswick c. 1783

Burns Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Milton C Burns, who landed in Canada in 1830
  • Mary Burns, aged 36, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "William" from Kinsale
  • Ann Burns, aged 10, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "William" from Kinsale
  • Thomas Burns, aged 7, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "William" from Kinsale
  • Bridget Burns, aged 29, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Ugoni" from Belfast


Burns Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century


  • Mrs. A M Burns, who landed in St John, New Brunswick in 1907
  • Alice M E Burns, who arrived in St John, New Brunswick in 1907

Burns Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • John Burns, English convict from Surrey, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on April 1st, 1822, settling in New South Wales, Austraila
  • John Burns, English convict from Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on April 1st, 1822, settling in New South Wales, Austraila
  • Richard Burns, a weaver, arrived in New South Wales, Australia sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • R.H. Burns, a tin-plate-worker, arrived in New South Wales, Australia sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • John Burns, a tailor, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832


Burns Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • David Burns landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1840
  • John Burns landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • Mrs Burns landed in Nelson, New Zealand in 1841 aboard the ship Lord Auckland
  • Thomas Burns, aged 51, a minister, arrived in Otago aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848
  • Clementina Burns, aged 43, arrived in Otago aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848


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  • Robert Lewis "Bob" Burns Jr. (1950-2015), American drummer, best known for his time with the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (1964-1974)
  • Paula M Burns, American from San Diego, California, USA, aged 32, who worked aboard American Airlines Flight 191 and died in the crash on May 25, 1979
  • Miss Elizabeth Margaret Burns, aged 41, American First Class passenger from Tuxedo Park, New York who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking escaping in life boat 3
  • Gene Burns (1940-2013), American talk radio host of Dining Around with Gene Burns, a food and wine program
  • Harold Burns (1926-2013), American politician, Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives (1972–2000), Speaker of the House (1991–1996) and Senate (2000–2002)
  • Anthony Burns (1834-1862), African-American slave from Virginia who became a Baptist, "slave preacher" and emigrated to Upper Canada
  • James MacGregor Burns (1918-2014), American Pulitzer prize winning biographer (1971), and Professor of Political Science at Williams College, Massachusetts
  • Lieutenant-General Robert Whitney Burns (1908-1964), American Commander of the Air Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas (1963-1964)
  • Major-General James Henry Burns (1885-1972), American Executive Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary of War (1936-1941)
  • John A Burns (1909-1975), American Governor of Hawaii from 1962 to 1974

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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. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry Including American Families with British Ancestry 2 Volumes. London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  2. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  3. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  4. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  5. 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.
  6. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  7. 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.
  8. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  9. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. 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 29 July 2015 at 15:11.

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