Carr & Kerr Family Origins

Who Were the Carrs and Kerrs?

The Kerrs were recorded in the Borders of Scotland in the 12th century. Written records prove that the name was first used as a surname in Medieval England. The Kerrs are believed to have come from many families rather than a single family line. The Chief's line is believed to have been Norse, coming from an area around Bergen, Norway.

  • A Norwegian origin: “Kjarr” signifying a copse or small wood.
  • An ancient British origin: "Caer" is the Welsh term for "fort" && found in Carlisle and in several S. W. Scottish place-names, e.g., Caerlaverrock.
  • A Gaelic origin from the word for left-handed "Cearr".
  • From Arran on the Celtic West Coast comes a claim that the name is derived from the Gaelic for "strength".
  • The Gaelic theory may safely be discarded as the Gaelic language was never spoken in the Kerr territory. The Gaelic word for left-hand was probably a result of an early battle involving the KERR family, (more about that at a later date), rather than the other way around. The British theory is just credible. The Welsh language was spoken in the upper Tweeddale, where the Kerr family first surfaced in Scotland. As an example, the Wallaces of Eldersile (rent and watch the movie “Braveheart,” The Kerr family lived right where in the middle of the wars and conflicts described in that film). Name did come from the Welsh language. The most likely answer is that the Kerrs were of Norwegian ancestry. According to this theory, our ancestors came as norsemen with a norse leader whose name was Rolf the Ganger or Rollo the Walker. They settled in the angle of Brittany and the Cherbourg peninsula in 910 ad. Decedents of the Norsemen then came to England in 1066 in the routine of De Bruys, the ancestors of the Robert the Bruce. They took up land near Preston where they received, in return for being gamekeepers for the landlords, a portion of the game. The Kerr families first occupation was that of a Gamekeeper. The first recorded Scotsman with the name of KERR was (you would never guess) John Ker of Stobo, the “Hunter of Swynhope.” This John Ker is recorded as assisting with a land survey in 1190. In approximately 1200 the spelling was changed to Kerr. A Nicol Kerr signed, in 1296, the Ragman Roll, a list of Scottish landowners doing homage to King Edward I, of England.

    From this period forward, the Kerr name appears in numerous documents as landholders in Altonburn, Crailing, Kersheugh, (near Jedburgh, Scotland) one Kerr was the Sheriff of Roxburgh County. Members of the Kerr family in various spellings (Ker, Karr, Carr & Kerr) have lived in the area since 1066. Jedforest, the upper valley of the Jed River became Kerr property in 1457 when Andrew Kerr obtained it from the Earl of Angus.

    The "vikings" termed marsh dwellers "kjrr". When their descendants arrived in Britain from Normandy with William the Conqueror the term had become a name with the forms Kerand Kerr, also Carr and Carre. English Border. Some located in Midlothian, East Lothian and areas near Stirling, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The principal cities and towns in Roxburgh-shire are Jedburgh, Kelso, Morebattle, and St Boswell's. The rivers there are the Tweed and the Teviot. The neighboring families were the Homes, Scotts, Douglases, Elliots, Turnbulls and Rutherfords. The Kerr's, Scotts and Douglases were the most powerful families on the Scottish side of the border. From them were usually chosen the Wardens of the Middle Marches, but they could be little trusted to dispense justice in that office, as they themselves were often raiding the English when no squabbling with each other. They were far more disposed to rely on the axe and the sword to maintain order. Scottish records from the time of William the Lion mention John Ker, the hunter of Swinhope, but it was around 1330 that two brothers, Ralph and John, moved from Lancashire to Roxburgh to establish the principal Kerr families of Scotland. Ralph's descendants became the Kerrs of Ferniehurst, the senior branch, whilst John was progenitor of the Kerrs of Cessford. The Kerrs were Crown vassals and collecting further influential positions whilst the Douglas families collapsed. The two powerful Borders families soon became rivals. And the two families were constantly in bitter conflict the descendants of both these houses were appointed Wardens of the Middle Marches; Sir Andrew of Ferniehurst in 1502 and Sir Andrew of Cessford after the Battle of Flodden. The Kerrs continued to oppose one another during the 16th century and on the death of James IV, when his widow Margaret Tudor remarried the Douglas Earl of Angus, the Kerrs of Cessford supported the English Queen-mother and the Kers of Ferniehurst the young King, James V. Cessford was forced to flee to England when Angus was exiled only to return on the death of James V in 1542 when Sir John Kerr of Ferniehurst lost his castle. The castle was recaptured in 1549 and the English who had repeatedly raped the Kerr women, rather than being killed outright, were captured and horribly tortured.The english tried in order to preserve their lives to surrender to Kerr's french allies, but to know avail. The Kerr's bought the prisoners from them, beheaded them and played football with their heads. The rivalry continued when Sir Thomas of Ferniehurst fought for Mary Queen of Scots at Langside and Sir Walter Cessford on the side of James VI. The feud was resolved on the political level by the Union of the Crown and by the marriage of Anne Kerr of Cessford to William Kerr of Ferniehurst. From this couple descend the Earls and Marquesses of Lothian. Sir Robert Cessford, son of Sir Walter mentioned above was created Lord Roxburgh in 1637. By marraige to the heiress of the Earl of Roxburgh, Sir William Drummond became 2nd Earl of Roxburgh and assumed the name of Kerr. His descendant, John, 5th Earl was created Duke of Roxburgh. Following the failure of the line with the death of John, 3rd Duke of Roxburgh the title passed to Sir James Innes of that Ilk who was 25t h Chief of the Innes who adopted the name of Kerr. The chief of the Clan Kerr is the Marquess of Lothian and the Duke of Roxburgh is the Chief of the Innes. Andrew Kerr of Cessford aquired a charter to the barony of Old Roxburgh in 1451, becoming warden of the marches six years later. In 1502 the barony of Oxnam became Sir Andrew Kerr of Ferniehurst's by royal charter and he became warden of the middle marches. Twelve years later this office was taken by a Kerr of Cessford, another Sir Andrew. His grandson, Mark Kerr, excelled in his aquisition of power becoming the first Earl of Lothian in 1606. The male line ended abruptly with his son's death in 1624 and the title failed. Further Earldoms were bestowed on the families with Sir Robert of Ferniehurst becoming Earl of Ancram and Sir Robert of Cessford, by 1616 spelling his surname Ker, being created Earl of Roxburghe. The Earldom of Lothian was revived for the Earl of Ancram's son in 1631. This was the year that the family feuding ended thanks to the marriage of William Kerr of Ferniehurst and Ann Ker of Cessford. Following support for the dubious Union with England in 1707, the Roxburghe title was raised to a dukedom. In 1805 the dukedom of Roxburghe, through female lines, was aquired in marriage by the chief of Clan Innes, who changed his name to Innes-Ker. The Kerrs fought with the Government army against Prince Charles Edward Stewart, Bonnie Prince Charlie. There were 300 Kerr horsemen at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 under the command of Lord Mark Kerr. Earlier, the Prince and his army had marched thriugh the Borders to enlist support for his cause. the men there ignored him but the women of Jedburgh flocked into the streets to kiss the Prince's hand. Although there were Jacobites in the Borders, the Prince gained no recruits. Mary Queen of Scots spent much time in the Borders and she recuperated in a Jedgurgh house from a near-fatal illness. The Ferniehurst Kerrs were loyal to the Queen but the Cessford Kers opposed her at numerous confrontations, including the murder of her secretary Rizzio in the Queen's chambers in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Many variations in spelling of the Kerr name exist: Ker, Keir, Karr, Carr, Carre, de Ker and de Karis. The pronunciations are even more confusing. The Border aristocracy say.'car' while another Scottish version is 'care.' which appears to be prefered by Western Canadians that I have met. Some say 'cur' which pronouciation has now gained general acceptance, especially in The United States, and England. While a forth pronunciation is a softer 'kehr,' and appears to be Irish in origin. The Chief pronounces the name 'car,' which is his prefered pronunciation. The Arms are the sole possesion of the Marquess of Lothian. And may be born only by him. His immediate family may submit modified versions of the arms to the Lord Lyon for approval, and display those, but not the original arms. The arms remain in the family and pass to the eldest son upon the death of The Marquess of Lothian. The Kerr Crest or cap badge, is worn to show loyalty to the Chief. It depicts the crest of the chief inside a strap engraved with the Chief's Motto. Sero Sed Serio. This translates to Late But in Earnest. And refers to the Scottish victory over the English at the Battle of Ancrum Moor in which the Kerr's played a decisive part. The sun in splendor reflects the early religion of the northerly Brittons who were worshipers of the sun. These crest badges are most attractive and may be purchased from any supplier of Scottish products. The Kerr Tartan, or plaid design, is composed of blocks of red and green with three black lines crossing the red squares. Like other border families, the Kerr's did not wear Kilts. These are Highland dress and most Kerr's lived south of Edinburgh, far removed from the Highlands. Also, the Kerr's were horsemen and horseback riding and Kilts do not mix. Some Kerr's who went to the north of Scotland did wear the Kilt. The Kerr tartan, like most clan tartans, is not of ancient vintage but, rather, came into being only 150 years ago when most lowland and border families designed theirs in the great tartan revival of the 1820s. In early times the clans wore certain types of plant leaves for identification. The Kerrs adopted sprigs of moss myrtle as their plant badge. A poor means of identification, the sprigs were fixed on a staff, spear, bonnet or helmut. It was also believed to be a charm or talisman. There developed two main branches, the Kers of Cessford and the Kerrs of Ferniehurst, with lesser groups including the Fawdonsyde and Cavers-Carre branches. The Ferniehurst and Cessford branches were powerful rivals which often took opposing sides in Scottish conflicts. From the Ferniehurst Kerrs came Robert Kerr who was created Marquess of Lothian in 1701. From the Cessfords there was John Ker who was elevated from Earl to Duke of Roxburghe as a reward for his valuable services to the Crown in promoting the 1707 Treaty of Union which united England and Scotland. The Reiver Families

    / HUME  
    < SELBY  
    For almost400 years, from the early 14th century, the Northumberland and Scottishfamilies fought a seemingly endless series of raids and reprisals. Sheep stealing and burning each others homes became part of everyday life. They were rugged, tough people who lived by their own laws and became knownas the Border Reivers.  Today their descendants can be found all overthe World.  If you have one of the names listed above or have eversuspected that your relatives were the villainous type you can probablynow have your worst fears confirmed.

    The Carr, Kerr, Kerr families Spoke a dialect called Geordie Which, has come down to us today in the region, relativly unchanged.We were Border Reivers or Riding Families for nearly 400 years. Starting in the early 13th century, and ending in the early 17th century after Scotland and England were unified under James I. Immediatly thereafter the kings men descended on the borders like a pack of wolves.They slaughtered out of hand the worst of the perpretators, almost completely anhilating the Grahams.They banished some to the army in the low countries, and to Northern Ireland. A great number fled to Ireland on their own to avoid summary execution.Thus becoming what come to be known as the Scotch-Irish. Later in the 18th century, a great number migrated on to the American Colonys, Autralia, and New Zealand,to escape famine and the practice of rack renting of the greedy english landlords. A great number came over being destitute from the punative taxes rents, as indentured servants. An indentured servant served a master on the average 5 years to pay back his passage, and was given a start afterwards. In the later part of th 17th century, The Presbyterians refused to be forced into the english state church by the king and signed a covenentto that effect. They were known as Covenentors.Both the king and the covenentors wanted their church to be the state church. Finally Charles II outlawed the Presbyterian Faith.The King sent John Graham of Claverhouse, and whole congregations were slaughtered out of hand. The more influential were imprisoned and later banished to the colonies after first being branded and or having an ear sliced off. One of these Walter Ker along with four freinds helped start the first presbyterian church in America near Momouth New Jersey, and that church ordained the first Presbyterian minister in America. So for all practical pourposes, Every Presbyterian Church in america today owe their existance to the efforts of those five men. They were and are still a people with fierce independent spirit. They took that spirit to the front ranks of the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention afterwards.They were amongst the vangard of pioneers in america, canada, Australia and New Zealand. Look at the names on the monuments to the dead, and the great generals in all of our wars. A predominate number of those names are border scot. They excelled at standing up for themselves then and do still. Alliances were developed between family's at times but also feuds developed, such as those between the Kerrs and the Scotts,which was started by an Elliot when he ran Kerr of Cessford through with a spear in 1526.It ended when Scott of Buccleud was cut down in 1552 on High Street in Edinburgh by a band of Kerr's ending a 26 year feud. The Kerr's of Fernihurst and Cessford were frequently at odds and supported opposing factions.Cessford fought against Mary Queen of Scot's And Fernihurst supported her.

    The Following is (Excerted from The Elliot's Border Reiver Page)

    Who were the Border Reivers? The Border Reivers were a group of Anglo-Scottish families that conducted raids against towns, farms and even fortresses during some of the most turbulent years in British history. The region between Scotland and England, which includes The Borders, Dumfries and Galloway on the Scottish side, and Cumbria and Northumbria in England, were wartorn and unsettled for more than three hundred years.

    From the reign of Robert The Bruce to the ascension of James I to the throne of England, Scottish and English armies led punitive expeditions against one another, ravaging the countryside.

    These were also years of great treachery, during which many families, noble and common alike, switched allegiances as it suited them. Those families that resided along either side of the border did not know whom to trust, and took the law into their own hands to survive. Alliances developed, like the bond between the Elliotts and the Armstrongs - but so did feuds, such as those between the Kerrs and the Scotts, the Maxwells and the Johnstones, and the Fenwicks and the Elliotts. These families sallied forth against one another, stealing cattle and sheep, burning homesteads, and avenging grievances with utmost violence.Officially at peace, the raids continued. The Border Reivers became so inured to the continual strife in their lives that, when they baptized their sons, they left the right hand unblessed, so that in time of feud he would be better equipped to strike unhallowed blows on his familiy's enemy's. That was when they baptized their sons at all. The Border Reivers were not known for their piety. It was said that they would deceive and rob Jesus himself if he rode among them. A tale is often told of how a man visiting The Borders asked why there were no churches in the town, to which his interlocutor replied, "Nae, we're all Elliotts 'n' Armstrongs here." Nor were the churchmen any fonder of the reivers. The Archbishop of Glasgow publicly cursed them with a resounding ferocity that still has the power to chill our souls. Riding their shaggy ponies of Norse extraction, Called "Hobby's" dressed in an assortment of helmets and homemade armor, the Kerr's and their counterparts brought sword and musket to bear against their enemies with neither rest nor mercy. Even when England and Scotland were officially at peace, the raids continued. Where did they come from?
    The border region between Scotland and England has been a melting pot since before The Middle Ages. According to James Leyburn, author of The Scotch-Irish, the Lowland Scots were a mixture of nine main groups - Picts, Gaelic Scotti, Brythonic Celts, Irish emigrants, Angles, Saxons, including the Frisian's, Norse and the descendants of the soldiers who manned the frontier forts ofRoman Britain.

    These, plus a smattering of Norman nobles and Flemish traders - even a few Hungarian courtiers from the entourage of Margaret Atheling, bride of Malcolm Canmore - made the people of this region one of the most diverse in the Medieval British Isles.

    Certain groups were more prevalent in some areas than in others. The Flemish gravitated to Edinburgh, while Northumbria was ruled by Angles and Danes. Irish-Norwegian Vikings, fleeing from The Battle of Clontarf in 1014, sailed from Dublin to Cumbria, and settled from the coast to the Pennines. Celtic tribes like the Brigantes preceded the Norse in Cumbria, while the Gall-Gaedhil - Irish Gaels who had defected to the pagan ways of the Vikings - merged with the native Britons of Galloway. Sarmatian cavalrymen, drafted from the plains of Hungary and the Russian steppes to support the interests of Rome, stayed to settle in Lancashire. Here, over time, they became as much Celtic as Roman, possibly contributing to the legend of King Arthur's mounted knights.

    Centuries later, more soldiers came, and Norman families like the De Bruses and the De Vauxes raised castles all across the land.

    All these groups became, collectively, the ancestors of the Border Reivers. What happened to them and where are they now? The era of the Border Reivers ended abruptly when Elizabeth I died and James I was crowned King of England.(Excerted from The Elliot's Border Reiver Page)

    The Border Reivers

    Origins Are The Border Reivers (Riding Families) Really Scottish?

    If They Aren't Scottish Where did They Come From?