This originally Scottish KERR is an old border surname of local and territorial origin. The Lothian branch spells the name Kerr and the Roxburgh branch Ker. Traditionally they were of Anglo-Norman origin and descend from two brothers who settled in Roxburgh in the 14th century, but it is also claimed that the name is derived from a Celtic word meaning 'strength'. Early records of the name mention William Ker, who was witness to an agreement between the burgh of Irvine and Brice in 1205. John Kerr obtained a charter of all the lands and tenements in Auldountburn in 1357. Johannes del Kerre of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Willelmus atte Karr was documented in County Lancashire in 1400. The name was brought to Ulster in the 17th century by a number of settlers from Scotland, where it now ranks among the forty commonest surnames in Ireland. The largest number of these Kerrs settled in County Antrim but the name is found in all counties. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. In Scotland the family have many branches, among them the Marquesses of Lothian. One of their earliest recorded ancestors was Robert Kerr of Selkirk Forest, mentioned in a charter of 1357. Another branch of the family, using the spelling Carr, acquired the earldom of Somerset in 1613, when James I granted this title to his favourite Robert Carr (1587-1645) to whom he had previously granted the confiscated lands of Sir Walter Raleigh at Sherborne. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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