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

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish


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 Kerr 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.

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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 Kerr has also been spelled Kerr, Car, Carr, Ker, Cearr (Gaelic) and many more.

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.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kerr 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 Kerr History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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

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Some of the Kerr 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.

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

Kerr Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Johan Kerr, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1728
  • Christian Kerr, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1733
  • Friederich Kerr, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1742
  • Barnard Kerr, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745
  • Samuel Kerr, who landed in South Carolina in 1772


Kerr Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Thomas Kerr, who landed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1802
  • Hannah Kerr, aged 25, landed in New York, NY in 1803
  • Josiah Kerr, aged 28, arrived in New York, NY in 1804
  • Alex Kerr, who arrived in America in 1805
  • Anne Kerr, who arrived in America in 1805


Kerr Settlers in United States in the 20th Century


  • Allan Napier Kerr, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1908

Kerr Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • William Kerr of St. John's in the late 1700's
  • Dr. Kerr Robert U.E. (b. 1755) born in Scotland, United Kingdom from New York, USA who arrived in Quebec c. 1779, moving are required before settling in Fredericksburgh, Cataraqui township by 1789 he served in the 2nd Battalion of the Kings Royal Rangers of New York before being captured in 1777, escaping in 1779 he was a Assistant Surgeon, he married Elizabeth Brant Johnson in 1783 having 5 children, he died in 1824
  • Capt. Kerr James U.E. (b. 1754) who settled in Parr Town [Saint John], New Brunswick c. 1784 he served in the Queens Rangers, died in 1830 in Amherst, Nova Scotia
  • Mr. Kerr James U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784

Kerr Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • John Campbell Kerr, aged 22, a saddler, arrived in Quebec aboard the ship "Atlas" in 1815
  • John Kerr, who arrived in Canada in 1815
  • John Kerr, aged 27, a farmer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "William" from Cork
  • Bess Kerr, aged 13, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the brig "Betsy Heron" from Belfast
  • Peggy Kerr, aged 19, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the brig "Betsy Heron" from Belfast


Kerr Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Henry Kerr, Scottish convict from Edinburgh, who was transported aboard the "Agamemnon" on April 22, 1820, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • Thomas Kerr arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Glenswilly" in 1839
  • James Kerr arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "John" in 1840
  • Starr Kerr arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Dauntless" in 1840
  • Hugh Kerr arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Poictiers" in 1848


Kerr Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Alexander Kerr, aged 14, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Fifeshire" in 1842
  • John Kerr, aged 41, a farmer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Fifeshire" in 1842
  • Janet Kerr, aged 42, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Fifeshire" in 1842
  • James Kerr, aged 20, a farmer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Fifeshire" in 1842
  • David Kerr, aged 18, a farmer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Fifeshire" in 1842


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  • Brigadier-General Francis Rusher Kerr (1890-1975), American Assistant Administrator of Veteran Affairs (1946)
  • Malcolm Kerr (1931-1984), American academic
  • Cristie Kerr (b. 1977), American LPGA professional golfer
  • Walter Francis Kerr (1913-1996), American writer and Broadway theater critic awarded the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism
  • Deborah Kerr CBE (1921-2007), Scottish-born, American movie actress perhaps best known for her role opposite Yul Brynner in "The King and I" for which she received a Golden Globe Award
  • Donald Maclean Kerr Jr. (b. 1939), American physicist, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1979-1985, and director of FBI Laboratory from 1997
  • James "Jim" Kerr (b. 1959), Scottish musician and singer-songwriter, member of the Scottish rock band Simple Minds, perhaps best known for their 1985 hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
  • Mr. Peter Kerr (1875-1914), Scottish Third Class Passenger from Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom who was traveling aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking on May 29th 1914
  • Mrs. Mary Currie Kerr (1875-1914), née Russell Scottish Third Class Passenger from Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom who was traveling aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking on May 29th 1914
  • Miss Sarah Kerr (1901-1914), Scottish Third Class Passenger from Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom who was traveling aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking on May 29th 1914

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  • Christian Frederick Kerr by Elaine Ford Eaton.
  • Heasley, Kerr, Smith, Cook by Alice Heasley Dwight.
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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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Kerr Clan Badge
Kerr Clan Badge

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A clan is a social group made up of a number of distinct branch-families that actually descended from, or accepted themselves as descendants of, a common ancestor. The word clan means simply children. The idea of the clan as a community is necessarily based around this idea of heredity and is most often ruled according to a patriarchal structure. For instance, the clan chief represented the hereditary "parent" of the entire clan. The most prominent example of this form of society is the Scottish Clan system...

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Septs of the Distinguished Name Kerr
Car, Caray, Care, Caree, Carees, Cares, Carey, Careys, Carie, Carr, Carray, Carre, Carrees, Carrey, Carreys, Carrie, Carries, Carrs, Carry, Carrys, Cary, Carys, Cearr, Cessford, Curr, Garr, Harie, Harrie, Harry, Kare, Karr, Karre, Kary, Kearey, Kearie, Kearrie, Keerey, Keerie, Keery, Keir, Keirey, Keirie, Keiry, Ker, Kerr, Kier, Kiers, Maccarry, MacGhillechearr, MacHarie and more.

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

Other References

  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry Including American Families with British Ancestry 2 Volumes. London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  2. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  3. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  4. Bain, Robert. The Clans and Tartans of Scotland. Glasgow & London: Collins, 1968. Print. (ISBN 000411117-6).
  5. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  6. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  7. 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).
  8. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  9. Skene, William Forbes Edition. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1867. Print.
  10. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  11. ...

The Kerr Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kerr 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 20 April 2016 at 13:23.

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