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Kerr Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: SERO SED SERIO (late, but in earnest)

Let me tell you the fascinating history of your family, the Kerrs, and their remarkable journey through the Scottish Borders. The Kerrs emerged as one of the prominent riding clans in this region, known by various forms of their name including Kerr, Ker, Carr, and Carre. While the Borders became the stronghold of this noble family, their origins can be traced back to the north of Ayrshire near Beith, specifically the old barony of Kersland, the ancestral seat of the Kers of Kersland. Interestingly, unlike other Lowland Scottish surnames, it is difficult to determine whether the placename or the surname came first in this case.

The placename Kersland may have derived from the Old Scots word ‘Kerse,’ meaning fertile land near a river or loch, potentially giving rise to the surname. However, it is also possible that the surname originated from the Gaelic ‘ciar,’ meaning ‘dusky,’ or even the Gaelic word for ‘left-handed,’ which became a famous characteristic of your family. Given the location, it is plausible that a Gaelic-speaking man named Ker, the dusky man, settled near Beith, and his land became known as ‘Ker’s land,’ forming the basis for the surname ‘de Ker’ as seen in early documents.

The recorded history of your family begins with William de Ker in Ayrshire back in 1205. His lineage can be traced through several generations. Although the Kers of Kersland came to an end in the mid-sixteenth century with an heiress, there is an intriguing family tale of two sons of one of the Lairds of Kersland, Ralph and Robert. According to the story, they were involved in the murder of the Laird of the Blair and were forced to flee to England. From Lancashire, they eventually settled in Roxburgh, located in the Borders. The senior chiefly line of your family, the Kerrs of Ferniehurst, claims descent from Ralph, while their rivals, the Kerrs of Cessford, trace their lineage back to John.

Andrew Kerr of Cessford played a significant role in the family’s history. In 1451, he received a charter to the barony of Old Roxburgh, and six years later, he was appointed as the warden of the marches. The Kerr family has been associated with three peerages: Ancram, Lothian, and Jedburgh.

Throughout their history, the Kerrs demonstrated resilience and adaptability, navigating turbulent times and forging significant alliances. Their influence extended to England and Europe, as several members held prominent positions in royal courts and diplomatic circles. The family’s legacy endures with their ancestral home, Ferniehirst Castle, still standing proudly in the Borders.

From their enigmatic origins near Beith to their emergence as a powerful riding clan in the Scottish Borders, the Kerrs’ fascinating journey shaped the landscape of Scottish history. Their contributions to politics, diplomacy, and the aristocracy are woven into the rich tapestry of Scottish heritage, making them an enduring and distinguished family in the annals of Scotland’s past.

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Family Crest Motto: SERO SED SERIO (late, but in earnest)

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