Cairns History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The surname Cairns was first used in the Scottish/English Borderlands by an ancient Scottish people called the Strathclyde- Britons. It was a name for someone who lived in Midlothian. The name Cairns 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 Cairns family

The surname Cairns 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 Cairns family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cairns research. Another 226 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1350, 1372, 1386, 1395, 1406, 1431, 1455, 1401, 1408, 1418, 1572, 1639, 1665, 1732, 1673, 1743, 1669, 1707, 1703, 1707 and are included under the topic Early Cairns History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cairns Spelling Variations

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. Cairns has been spelled Cairns, Cairn, Kairnes, Carnys and others.

Early Notables of the Cairns family (pre 1700)

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

Ireland Migration of the Cairns family to Ireland

Some of the Cairns family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 128 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 Cairns migration to the United States +

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:

Cairns Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Cairns, who settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1775
Cairns Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William Cairns, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1803 [3]
  • Hugh Cairns, aged 24, who arrived in New Jersey in 1812 [3]
  • John Cairns, aged 36, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Mary Cairns, who landed in New York, NY in 1816 [3]
  • Samuel Cairns, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Cairns migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cairns Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Patrick Cairns, aged 24 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Broom" departing from the port of Liverpool, England but died on Grosse Isle in September 1847 [4]

Australia Cairns migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Cairns Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Thomas (Peter) Cairns, British Convict who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 5th November 1835, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land)1836 [5]
  • Mr. Michael Cairns, English convict who was convicted in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Blenheim" on 11th March 1837, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [6]
  • Hugh Cairns, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Recovery" in 1839 [7]
  • Cause Cairns, aged James Phillips, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Recovery" in 1839 [7]
  • Ann Cairns, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Recovery" in 1839 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Cairns 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:

Cairns Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • G S Cairns, who landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1840
  • Miss Agnes Cairns, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Euphemus" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 12th February 1857 [8]
  • Mr. Francis Cairns, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Mariner" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd June 1859 [8]
  • Ann Cairns, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "William Watson" in 1859
  • Mr. Robert S Cairns, (b. 1856), aged 2 years 6 months, Irish settler from County Down travelling from London aboard the ship "Strathallan" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 21st January 1859 [9]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Cairns (post 1700) +

  • Tommy Cairns (1890-1967), Scottish footballer
  • Kenneth Cairns MBE (b. 1957), British swimmer who won five Paralympic gold medals across five Games, inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2015
  • Alexander "Alex" Cairns (b. 1993), English footballer
  • Eric Cairns (b. 1974), Canadian retired NHL ice hockey defenceman and current pro scout for the New York Islanders from Oakville, Ontario
  • Christopher Lance Cairns ONZM (b. 1970), New Zealand former all-rounder who played for the international cricket team
  • Hugh McCalmont Cairns PC, QC (1819-1885), 1st Earl Cairns, a British statesman who served as Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom
  • Rachael Cairns (b. 1988), British model and actress
  • Leah Cairns (b. 1974), Canadian actress
  • James Ford Cairns (1914-2003), Australian politician
  • David Cairns (b. 1926), British journalist, non-fiction writer and musician
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Thomas Cecil Cairns, British Stoker 2nd Class, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and died in the sinking [10]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Cyril Cairns, British Stoker 2ne Class, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [11]
HMS Royal Oak
  • John Cairns (1920-1939), British Seaman with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [12]
RMS Titanic
  • Mr. Alexander Cairns (d. 1912), aged 28, American First Class passenger from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking [13]


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York, Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  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. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 17)
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 28th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1835
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 15th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/blenheim
  7. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) RECOVERY from London 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839Recovery.htm
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  9. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  10. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html
  11. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  12. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html
  13. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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