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Ancrum or Ankrom is derived from the Gaelic Crom, 'the crooked,' 'the crook', and Alne or Ane, the name of a small branch of the Teviot River in Scotland. Ancrum village is situated in a bend of Alne water, a tributary of the Teviot. It is of prehistoric antiquity, antedating all authentic events in Scottish history. The earliest date definitely known is that of the church build in the time of David I, King of Scotland, 1124-1153.

The Kers, Kerrs, of Cessford were a famous border family. One branch, the Earls of Roxburghe, spelling it Ker; the other, the Earls of Lothian, writing it Kerr. Mark Kerr, was Abbot Newbattle, 1584. His son, Mark Kerr, was made Lord of Newbattle, 1587, and Earl of Lothian in 1606. His wife was Margaret Maxwell, daughter of John Maxwell, the 4th Lord Herries. Of their 31 children, Robert Kerr, first son, 2nd Earl of Lothian, died without heirs. Anne Kerr, second child married William Ker, her 4th cousin of the Roxburghe line, and by special charter of the King inherited the Kerr estate. (Robert Ker, of the Roxburghe line, was bestowed the first Earl of Ancrum in 1633. His son, William Ker, after his marriage with Anne Kerr, was created 3rd Earl of Lothian in 1631 and inherited his father's title Earl of Ancrum).

John Kerr, 2nd son, 3rd child of Mark Kerr, 1st Earl of Lothian, was granted a small estate near Ancrum. He assumed the ancient Celtic name Ankrom, and encouraged Celtic customs and language in preference to the English speech and manners of the titular line of the family. He was known as John Kerr of Ankrom and his descendants as the Kerr-Ankroms, which name later was registered as Ankrom in Scottish family history. Of this family, William Ankrom (Ancrum) resided in England and came to Virginia before 1700. He was styled "an English gentleman of means", but not an ardent supporter of English royalty.