This most interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a variant of Kerse, which is a Scottish locational surname from the lands of Kerse near Grangemouth, on the Firth of Forth. The surname is now a rare Border name, and the placename itself is derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century element "caerse, cerse, cresse", water-cress, cress. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming common, people often used their former village name as a means of identification, which resulted in a wide dispersal of many locational names. The surname itself is first recorded in the mid 15th Century (see below); and Doncan of Keryss witnessed an Ayrshire charter, circa 1370, while David Kerse was made burgess of Linlithgw in 1472, recorded in the "Scottish Antiquary". In 1513, James 1V granted a charter to Alexander Kers of the lands of Ballincrieff, in East Lothian. Margaret Kerss was christened in Edinburgh on June 22nd 1595, and Isobell, daughter of Robert and Helen Kerss, was christened on November 20th 1664, also in Edinburgh. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert de Keris, which was dated 1344, a witness in the "Book of St. Mary of Melros", 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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