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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: Dutch, Scottish

One of the most common classes of Scottish surnames is the patronymic surname, which arose out of the vernacular and religious naming traditions. The vernacular or regional naming tradition is the oldest and most pervasive type of patronymic surname. According to this custom, names were originally composed of vocabulary elements from the local language. Patronymic surnames of this type were usually derived from the personal name of the original bearer's father. The surname Karr is derived from the Gaelic name O'Ciarain or O'Ceirin, which itself comes from the Gaelic word ciar, which means black or dark brown.


The surname Karr was first found in Lancashire (located in northwest England and dates back to 1180), where one of the earliest records of a progenitor of the Clan was a John Ker, hunter, resident of Soonhope in 1190 AD. He is believed to have received a grant of land from the Crown and settled in the Border country of Scotland soon after the Norman invasion moved northwards. Within a century, two main branches evolved from two brothers, Ralph and John who lived near Jedburgh in c. 1330. They were both listed in the Roll of Battle Abbey as having descended from the Norman Karre. [1] The Kerrs of Cessford were descended from Ralph, and the Kerrs of Ferniehurst were descended from John.

Scottish surnames are distinguished by a multitude of spelling variations because, over the centuries, the names were frequently translated into and from Gaelic. Furthermore, the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent because medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules. The different versions of a surname, such as the inclusion of the patronymic prefix "Mac", frequently indicated a religious or Clan affiliation or even a division of the family. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into Scotland, accelerating accentuating the alterations to various surnames. The name Karr has also been spelled Kerr, Car, Carr, Ker, Cearr (Gaelic) and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Karr research. Another 343 words (24 lines of text) covering the years 1130, 1205, 1264, 1296, 1350, 1553, 1609, 1606, 1570, 1650, 1616, 1578, 1654, 1570, 1650, 1675, 1605, 1675, 1615, 1684, 1624, 1690, 1680, 1741, 1600, 1797 and are included under the topic Early Karr History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 211 words (15 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Karr Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Karr family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 297 words (21 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Karr, or a variant listed above:

Karr Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Jasper Karr, who landed in Virginia in 1701
  • John Karr, who arrived in New England in 1722
  • James Karr, who landed in New England in 1722

Karr Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • William Karr, aged 24, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Jacob Karr, aged 23, arrived in Missouri in 1844
  • Johan B Karr, aged 25, arrived in Missouri in 1844
  • Johann Konrad Karr, aged 60, landed in Brazil in 1845
  • Nikolaus Friedrich Karr, who arrived in Brazil in 1846

Karr Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Mr. Karr Norris U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784
  • Mr. Karr Daniel Jr., U.E., "Carr" who settled in Ernest Town [Ernestown], Lennox & Addington, Ontario c. 1784
  • Mr. Karr Norris U.E., "Carr" who settled in Adolphus Town [Adolphustown], Ontario c. 1784


  • John Andrew Karr, American author and self described programmer analyst
  • Sarah Rose Karr (b. 1984), American former child actress
  • Phyllis Ann Karr (b. 1944), American author of fantasy, romances, mysteries, and non-fiction
  • Benjamin Joyce Karr (1893-1968), American pitcher in Major League Baseball
  • David Harold Karr (1918-1979), controversial American journalist and businessman
  • Gary Karr (b. 1941), American classical double bass virtuoso and teacher
  • Mary Karr (b. 1955), American poet, essayist and memoirist
  • Kathleen Karr (b. 1946), American author of historical novels for children
  • Dean Karr (b. 1965), American photographer
  • William "Bill" Morrison Karr Jr. (1911-1979), American NFL football player



  • Karr Family Record by Nola M. Karr.

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: Sero sed serio
Motto Translation: Late but in earnest.


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  1. ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Scots Kith and Kin And Illustrated Map Revised 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Clan House/Albyn. Print.
  2. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  3. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
  4. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  5. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. The Charters of David I The Written Acts of David I King of Scots, 1124-53 and of His Son Henry, Earl of Northumerland, 1139-52. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999. Print.
  6. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  7. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Warner, Philip Warner. Famous Scottish Battles. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996. Print. (ISBN 0-76070-004-4).
  10. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  11. ...

The Karr Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Karr 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 1 February 2016 at 11:22.

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