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An excerpt from 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]CITATION[CLOSE]
Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
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 and printed products wherever possible.


Notable among the family at this time was Mark Kerr (1553-1609), of Ferniehurst, who was made 1st Earl of Lothian in 1606; Robert Ker (1570-1650) of Cessford, who was created the 1st Earl of Roxburghe in 1616; Robert Kerr (or Carr), 1st Earl of Ancram (c. 1578-1654), a Scottish nobleman and...

Another 63 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Karr Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


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 and printed products wherever possible.


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. Paul, Sir James Balfour. An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland Second Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1903. Print.
  2. 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.
  3. Fulton, Alexander. Scotland and Her Tartans: The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families. Godalming: Bramley, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-86283-880-0).
  4. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  5. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  6. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  7. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  8. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  9. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  10. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  11. ...

The Karr Family Crest was acquired from the 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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