Kerr tartan image by Celtus. Licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
The Kerr surname originated in Scotland. Clan Ceàrr was a border clan, located near the border between Scotland and England. They were among the clans called Border Reivers or Borderers. As part of the people who were moved to Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the 1600s, they became known as Ulster Scots, and those who came to North America in the early 1700s were referred to here as Scotch-Irish.
In Scotland, the name sounds like care; in my family, it sounds like cur. My Kerr lineage, firmly rooted in Pennsylvania for at least five generations, is said to be as follows:
- James Kerr, born 1702 in Tyrone, Ireland. He was first married to Jane Stewart. They immigrated in 1731 and settled in Donegal Township, Lancaster County, Pennsyvania. After Jane's death, James married Susannah Stevenson, probably before or about 1742. James relocated to Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, in 1766, and he died there in 1777. James and Susannah were my sixth great-grandparents.
- James Kerr II, born 1752 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was married about 1775, but his wife's name is unknown. The date of his death is also unknown, but would certainly have been after 1780. James Kerr II was my fifth great-grandfather.
- James Kerr III, born 1776 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. He married Margaret Alcorn in 1799 in Lancaster County. Together they raised thirteen children. He died in 1842. James Kerr III was my fourth great-grandfather.
- Robert Kerr, born 1805 in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. With his first wife, Hannah Gardner, he had about six children. After her death in 1842, he married Jane ---. It appears he had at least three more children with her. He died 11 December 1894 in Oil Creek Township, Crawford County. Robert Kerr was my third great-grandfather.
- Andrew Jackson Kerr, born 31 October 1832 (during the administration of President Andrew Jackson, also of Scotch-Irish descent) in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. He married Esther Alice Carroll on 11 September 1862. Together they raised three children. He died in Mercer, Mercer County, Pennsylvania on 19 July 1911. Andrew Jackson Kerr was my great-great-grandfather.
- Milton E. Kerr, born 15 July 1863 in Oil City, Venango County, Pennsylvania. His first wife was Bess Zahniser, with whom he had a daughter. He and Bess were married just short of a year when she died on 4 September 1887 in Mercer. Milton relocated to Nebraska where he met Kate E. Pettis. They were married on 15 December 1889 in Omaha. Their first son (also named Milton E. Kerr) was born in Chicago in 1891, but they appear to have moved back to Pennsylvania before the birth of their second son a year later. Milton was 32 years old when he died 27 September 1895. He was buried in Mercer. Milton E. Kerr was my great-grandfather.
- Rosmer Pettis Kerr, born 30 September 1892 in Mercer, Pennsylvania. He married Evelyn Hauer on 12 June 1916 in Detroit, Michigan. They had three daughters, two of whom lived to adulthood. Rosmer died 9 February 1969 in Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan. Rosmer was my grandpa.
- Mary Roslyn Kerr, born 22 October 1922 in Detroit, Michigan. She married Russell M. Krentz on 5 January 1946 in Dearborn, Michigan. Together they raised my sister and me. My mom died 23 April 2005 in Clinton Township, Macomb County, Michigan.
Although Robert Kerr's children are listed in the typescript, there's little additional information about them there. This large family was enumerated in the 1850 census of Oil Creek Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. In the 1870 census, Robert and Jane and their youngest children were enumerated immediately before the family of Andrew Jackson Kerr.
There are additional source items for Robert. At some point, probably on my only research trip to Pennsylvania in the early '90s, I noted in my database that there was a Robert Kerr will (Crawford Co. Will Book H, p.288) proved and registered 14 Dec 1894, three days after this Robert Kerr's death. It appears I haven't gotten a copy of it yet. I also noted that news of his death appeared in The Crawford Journal (20 December 1894, p. 2 col. 1) and The Morning Star (14 December 1894, p. 2 col. 3), but I don't have copies or transcripts of those items either. (I may have found that information in an index.) My research trip was far too brief to do all I would have liked to do.
I have a number of source items pertaining to my more recent Kerr ancestors. Some have been mentioned in previous posts here at Before My Time; others will surely become the subjects of future posts.
Proposed Ancestry of Andrew Jackson Kerr, in PDF format, is posted at The Vertical File. It includes some family group information for the first four generations listed above.
See also Kerr Surname Origin.