This interesting surname is of Scottish territorial origin from the lands of Cairns in the parish of Mid-Calder, Midlothian. The name derives from the Old Gaelic "carn" meaning cairn i.e., a pile of stones raised as a boundary marker or a memorial. The surname first appears on records in the mid 14th Century (see below). In 1363, William de Carnys and his son, Duncan de Carnys, had a Charter of the baronies of Esterquytburne and Westirquitburne from David 11, and in 1365 one, David de Carnys, noted in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, was bailie of Edinburgh. William de Carnys was Constable of Linlithgow Castle, and afterwards of the Castle of Edinburgh in 1372. A notable namebearer was Hugh McCalmont Cairns, (1819 - 1885), Barrister of the Middle Temple, 1844; Q.C., 1856; created Baron Cairns, 1867; lord chancellor, 1868, and Earl Cairns, 1878. A Coat of Arms granted to the Cairns family depicts an anchor between three gold martlets on a red shield. A palm tree proper is on the Crest, and the motto "Virtus ad aethera tendit", translates as "Virtue reaches to heaven". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Carnys, which was dated 1349, a charter witness, in the "Records of the Cairns Family", Scotland, during the reign of King David 11 of Scotland, 1329 - 1371. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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