Recorded as Ker, Kerr and Keir, this interesting name is Anglo-Scottish, but ultimately of pre 7th century Old Norse origins. It is or was topographical and found mainly in the famous "Border counties" of the two countries. It describes someone who lived near a patch of wet ground overgrown with brushwood. The derivation of the name is from the word "kjarr", meaning copsewood, brushwood, or wet ground, which became in Northern English "kerr", describing a bog or fen, covered with low brushwood. The surname from this source is first recorded in Scotland (see below), where the Lothian branch of the family spell their name as Kerr, although the Roxburgh branch use Ker. In England the surname is first recorded in circa 1200, in the charters of Rievaulx Abbey, where one Osbert de Ker is so recorded. There is an old legend that the Scottish Kerrs were left-handed, and that the name arises from the Gaelic word "cearr", meaning wrong or left-handed, but this is unproven and unlikely. Amongst the early recordings of the name is the marriage of Margaret Kerr and Robert Haig in 1565 at Bemersyde, in Roxburgh. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johannes Ker. This was was dated 1190, in the Episcopal Register of the city of Glasgow, Scotland, during the reign of King William, The Lion" of Scotland, 1165 - 1214. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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