This site is dedicated to the Clan Kerr. Much of the content is attributable to online research as well as other sources of information. This site also contains information on some immediate family members (brothers, sister and parents) that have settled in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
The Kerr's are traditionally said to be of Anglo-Norman descent settling in the Scottish Borders in the 14th century. It has also been said that the line of this family goes back to the old testament times the name in Hebrew being KIR. One of the first mentions in Scottish history however, appears to be John Ker hunter of Swynhope. The two principal rival branches of the Kerr's descended from two brothers, Ralph and John who were living near Jedburgh in the 14th century; the Kers of Ferniehirst were descended from the eldest and the Kerr's of Cessford from John. Although the two families were constantly in bitter conflict, the descendants of both these houses were appointed Wardens of the Middle Marches; Sir Andrew of Ferniehirst in 1502 and Sir Andrew of Cessford after the Battle of Flodden.
The center of the family's power lay in lower Teviotdale but a number of Kerr's acquired land in Aberdeen, Stirling, Lanark, Dumfries, Peebles and even Haddington counties. During the 16th century, the Kerr's continued to oppose one another, and on the death of James IV, when his widow Margaret Tudor remarried the Douglas Earl of Angus, the Kerr's of Cessford supported the English Queen-mother and the Kerr's 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 Ferniehirst lost his castle. The castle was recaptured in 1549 and the English who had repeatedly raped the Kerr women, were captured, horribly tortured and killed. This event was documented in the poem "Reprisal" by Walter Laidlaw.
The rivalry continued when Sir Thomas of Ferniehirst 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 Ferniehirst. 1573 listing of the Kerrs shows them the Lairds of Cessforth, Fernyherst (Ferniehirst), Grenehead (also known as Greneheid), Greyden (Graden), Gaitschaw, Fadounsyde, Cavers, Linton, and Ancrum.
The history of this family is replete with revenge, bloodshed, and family honor. The expression "Kerr-handed" and "cory-fisted" pertain to the heritage of left handedness within the Kerr family. The Kerr's were fierce enemies of the English and were known by many names such as:
From Anne Kerr of Cessford and William Kerr of Ferniehirst descend the Earls and Marquises of Lothian. Sir Robert Cessford, son of Sir Walter was created Lord Roxburgh in 1637. By marriage 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 25th Chief of the Innes who adopted the name of Kerr. The chief of the Clan Kerr is the Marquees of Lothian and the Duke of Roxburgh is the Chief of the Innes.
"Be happy while you're living,
for you're a long time dead."