Ker History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The earliest forms of hereditary surnames in Scotland were the patronymic surnames, which are derived from the father's given name, and metronymic surnames, which are derived from the mother's given name. Scottish patronymic names emerged as early as the mid-9th century. The patronyms were derived from a variety of given names that were of many different origins. The surname Ker 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.

Early Origins of the Ker family

The surname Ker 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.

Now we draw the reader's attention to a slightly different origin with a different timeline but similar. "Two brothers, of Anglo-Norman descent., who bore this name [Karre] are said to have settled in Scotland during the 13th century. No one known which was the elder of the two, for 'neither house would yield the superiority to the other, forming two distinct races of war-like Border chieftains.' The Kerrs of Fernihirst are represented by the Marquesses of Lothian, the Kers of Cessord by the Dukes of Roxburghe." [2]

We believe that the reference to the 13th century is a typo, as it should have read 14th century (the 1300's) not the 1200's.

Early History of the Ker family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Ker research. Another 172 words (12 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 Ker History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ker Spelling Variations

The frequent translations of surnames from and into Gaelic, accounts for the multitude of spelling variations found in Scottish surnames. 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 Ker has also been spelled Kerr, Car, Carr, Ker, Cearr (Gaelic) and many more.

Early Notables of the Ker family (pre 1700)

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 writer; Robert Ker, 1st Earl of...
Another 57 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Ker Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Ker family to Ireland

Some of the Ker family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 155 words (11 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Ker migration to the United States +

Some of the first North American settlers with Ker name or one of its variants:

Ker Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Daniel Ker, who arrived in New England in 1685 [3]
  • Walter Ker, who arrived in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1685 [3]
Ker Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William Ker, who settled in New Hampshire in 1718
  • George Ker, who landed in New York in 1798 [3]
Ker Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Robert Ker, who landed in New York in 1801 [3]
  • Ann Blair Ker, who landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1810 [3]
  • James Ker, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811 [3]
  • John Cessford Ker, who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1820 [3]

Canada Ker migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Ker Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • John Ker, who landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1749-1752

New Zealand Ker 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:

Ker Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • E M Ker, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1844
  • Mr. Thomas Ker, (b. 1840), aged 24, Scottish joiner from Roxburghshire travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "William Miles" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 22nd October 1864 [4]
  • Henry Ker, aged 24, a joiner, who arrived in Bluff, New Zealand aboard the ship "Adamant" in 1875 [5]
  • Janet Ker, aged 30, who arrived in Bluff, New Zealand aboard the ship "Adamant" in 1875 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Ker (post 1700) +

  • Crawford Francis Ker (b. 1962), former American college and NFL professional football player
  • David Ker (1758-1805), American first "presiding professor" (president) of the University of North Carolina
  • William H. Ker, American Democratic Party politician, Postmaster at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1829-39 [6]
  • David C. Ker, American Democratic Party politician, Postmaster at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1829 [6]
  • William Paton Ker (1855-1923), Scottish literary scholar and essayist
  • George "Geordie" Ker (1870-1880), Scottish footballer in the 1870s and 1880s
  • Robert Ker (1824-1879), Scottish first Auditor General of the Colony and then Province of British Columbia
  • Humphrey Ker (b. 1982), award-winning British actor, writer and comedian
  • Lucas Arnold Ker (b. 1974), Argentine professional tennis player
  • Major Allan Ebenezer Ker VC (1883-1958), Scottish lieutenant in the British Army, who received the Victoria Cross for deeds during WWI


The Ker Motto +

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.


  1. ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 2 of 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 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  6. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


Houseofnames.com on Facebook