MacElhair History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
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 MacElhair 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 MacElhair family
The surname MacElhair 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.  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." 
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 MacElhair family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our MacElhair 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 MacElhair History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
MacElhair Spelling Variations
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 MacElhair has also been spelled Kerr, Car, Carr, Ker, Cearr (Gaelic) and many more.
Early Notables of the MacElhair 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 MacElhair Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the MacElhair family to Ireland
Some of the MacElhair 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.
Migration of the MacElhair family
Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name MacElhair, or a variant listed above: William Ker, who settled in New Hampshire in 1718.
Related Stories +
The MacElhair 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.
- ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
- ^ 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