Cairn History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

It was in the Scottish/English Borderlands that the Strathclyde-Briton people first used the ancient name Cairn. It was a name for someone who lived in Midlothian. The name Cairn is also derived from the Gaelic word carn, which means pile of stones, and referred to the stone burial chambers we now call cairns. [1]

Early Origins of the Cairn family

The surname Cairn was first found in Midlothian, in the lands of Cairns in the parish of Mid-Calder.

"The first of the name recorded is William de Carnys, who appears as a charter witness in 1349. Though this is the earliest mention of the name in record there must have been many of the surname living at an earlier date, as in the latter half of the fourteenth century many individuals of the name are mentioned in documents referring to the adjoining counties of Midlothian and West Lothian. In 1363 William de Carnys and his son, Duncan de Carnys, had a charter of the baronies of Esterquytburne and Westirquitburne from David II. Two years later David de Carnys appears as a bailie of Edinburgh." [2]

Early History of the Cairn family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cairn research. Another 271 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1350, 1372, 1386, 1395, 1406, 1431, 1455, 1401, 1408, 1418, 1430, 1452, 1454, 1503, 1572, 1639, 1665, 1732, 1673, 1743, 1669, 1707, 1703, 1707 and are included under the topic Early Cairn History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cairn 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. Cairn has appeared as Cairns, Cairn, Kairnes, Carnys and others.

Early Notables of the Cairn family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Cairn Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Cairn family to Ireland

Some of the Cairn family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 127 words (9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Cairn 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:

Cairn Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Cairn, who landed in New York, NY in 1836 [3]
  • Joseph Cairn, who arrived in Arkansas in 1879 [3]

New Zealand Cairn migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Cairn Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Jane Cairn (Cann), (b. 1815), aged 43, British matron travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Mystery" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 29th March 1859 [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name Cairn (post 1700) +

  • Paul Cairn Vellacott CBE, DSO (1891-1954), English Headmaster of Harrow School and Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
  • Mr. Cairn Frederick Newton-Evans B.E.M., FRSA (b. 1991), born in Swansea, Wales, British Special Chief Officer for Dyfed-Powys Police, was appointed Medallist of the British Empire Medal 29th December 2018 for services to Policing and to the LGBT community in Wales [5]


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  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)
  4. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  5. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018, www.thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists


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