Coat of Arms of Chief of Kerr Family Kerr Family Kerr Badge
Origins of the Kerr Family

In Border Story, The Name and House of Kerr, published by Lord Lothian, Chief of the Kerr Family states that the Kerr family settled in the Scottish Border country in the 14th century. They were probably of Viking origin and came to Scotland by way of France. Their arrival came shortly after the victory of Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Burke's Peerage maintains the original home of the Kerrs is the Stavanger area of Norway and is supported the presence of 'Kjaer' and 'Kjarr' families in the region.

Origins of the word 'kerr'
kerr Middle English bog, fen, especially one covered with low bushes
kiarr Old Norse brushwood
kjerr Norwegian wet ground, especially where brushwood grows
karr Swedish marsh
kaer Danish meadow
ker Breton house

Kerr Family in Scotland

The historic home of the Kerr Family is in the center of border with England, called the Middle Marches; the Kerrs have been among the most powerful families in this area since 16th century. In 1515, Sir Andrew Kerr of Cessford was named Warden of the Middle March.

As the border area was so far from both capitals; the region more or less ruled itself. Families on both sides of the border conducted cross-border raids for loot, revenge and women. To provide some protection from English invasion and border raids, the Scottish kings apppointed "wardens" to act as military commander, tax collector, sheriff, judge and jury.

In Steel Bonnets, George MacDonald Fraser tells of the border warfare between families on both sides of the Scottish and English border.

Kerr Motto: Sero Sed Serio

The Kerr family motto Sero Sed Serio was 'earned' at the Battle of Ancrum Moor in 1545, during one of the many English Invasions of Scotland. At the time, the English were short of soldiers, they hired mercenaries from Germany, Spain, and Scotland. Amongst their mercenaries were Kerrs, hired on as cavalrymen.

The English initially held the Kerrs back, planning to send them into battle as a weak spot developed in the Scottish lines. But as the battle developed, the Scottish lines held and troops of both sides were engaged in hand to hand combat down in the valley.

At that point, the Kerrs changed sides and attacked the rear of the English army. In all the noise and confusion, no one stopped to ask where all these Scots came from. The Scottish King, grateful for the late, but timely attack by these Scots gave the Kerrs their motto: Sero Sed Serio. Which is Latin for "Late, but in Earnest."

Kerrs' Curious Genetic Trait

"The story of the Kerr family has an irresistible appeal. It is steeped in history, revenge, bloodshed and, to cap it all, has a very clear suggestion of a dynastic legacy, a profound tendency to use the left hand." Walter Bodmer and Robin McKie in The Book of Man.

The first chapter of their book on human genetics recounts the history of the Kerr family from a genetic point of view. Ferniehirst Castle as well as other Kerr homes were designed for left-handed folk. The stairways of most castles spiral clockwise, Ferniehurst's spiral counter-clockwise, giving the advantage to left-handed swordsmen if they were forced to fight as they retreated upstairs.

The Scottish poet, Walter Laidlaw, wrote of the Kerrs in "The Reprisal":

So well the Kerrs their left-hands ply,
The dead and dying round them lie,
The castle gained, the battle won,
Revenge and slaughter are begun.

A 1974 survey by the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners found that 29.5% of all Kerrs in Britain and North America were left-handed, compared to only 11 percent of the general population. Lefties are stilled called "ker-handed" in Scotland. Curiously, no one in living memory in my family has been a lefty (either in handedness or politically).

DNA Genealogy

The oldest Kerr ancestor I was been able to find via conventional means was my great, great grandfather David Kerr (see below). Frustrated, several years ago, I took two DNA genealogy tests. One, a 46 marker test from and a 67 marker test from FamilyTreeDNA.

While I haven't, as yet, been able to reach back any further in time, I have corresponded with distant cousins and made some interesting discoveries. One cousin traces his ancestor back to John Kerr, born in 1789 in Virginia who married Polly Clement in Campbell County, Virginia in 1819. According to's algorithms, my David Kerr and his John Kerr should be brothers. Another close match, curiously enough named Robert Blair was born in 1831 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Yet another cousin has traced his ancestors to Armagh, Northern Ireland.

If you haven't taken a DNA Genealogy test, do it! It's painless. Do it! And go for the most extensive test offered. The more Kerrs who take the test will help everyone. Sign up at: and FamilyTreeDNA.

My Haplogroup is R1b1b2a, shorthand R-L23. Meaning my R1b male ancestors came from Russian steppes through Central and Southern Europe to the British Isles a long time ago.

Marker DYS393 DYS390 DYS19 DYS391 DYS385 DYS426 DYS388 DYS439 DYS389I DYS392
FTDNA value 12 24 14 11 11-15 12 12 12 13 13 value 12 24 14 11 11-15 12 12 12 13 13
Marker DYS389II DYS458 DYS459 DYS455 DYS454 DYS447 DYS437 DYS448 DYS449 DYS464
FTDNA value 29 15 9-10 11 11 26 15 19 31 14-15-17-18 value 29 15 9-10 11 11 26 15 19 31 14-15-17-18
Marker DYS460 YGATAH4 YCAII DYS456 DYS607 DYS576 DYS570 CDY DYS442 DYS438
FTDNA value 12 11 19-23 15 16 17 17 33-37 12 12 value 12 12 15 17 12
Marker DYS531 DYS578 DYF395S1 DYS590 DYS537 DYS641 DYS472 DYF406S1 DYS511 DYS425
FTDNA value 11 9 15-16 8 10 10 8 10 11 12 value
Marker DYS413 DYS557 DYS594 DYS436 DYS490 DYS534 DYS450 DYS444 DYS481 DYS520
FTDNA value 22-23 16 10 12 12 15 8 12 21 20 value 12
Marker DYS446 DYS617 DYS568 DYS487 DYS572 DYS640 DYS492 DYS565 DYS441 DYS445
FTDNA value 14 12 11 13 11 11 12 12 value 14 15 12
Marker DYS452 DYS461 DYS462 DYS463 DYS635 GGAAT1B07 Y-GATA-A10
FTDNA value value 32 11 12 24 23 10 14

Those with sharp eyes will notice FTDNA and have different values for YGATAH4 and DYS442. I don't know why.

More DNA Details

David Kerr

1787 to 9-30-1863

For years, family members believed David was born in Scotland based upon a 100 and some year old entry in the family Bible that "D. Kerr born in Scotland 1783"; an entry written over 30 years after his death. However, according to the 1860 Census, David says he was born in Virginia in 1787 or 1788. One researcher says David was born in Kernstown, Frederick County, Virginia.

During the War of 1812, David served as a sergeant in the 3rd Regiment East Tennessee Militia under Capt. Christopher Cook in General Nathaniel Taylor's Brigade.

In June 1814, David married Eleanore Dobson and they had at least 5 children: Elizabeth Kerr Guinn, Sarah Kerr Smith, Francis Marion Kerr, Robert Baker Kerr, and John McCord Kerr.

In 1829, the family moved to Owen County, Indiana. David died in Taylor, Owen Co. Indiana. Eleanore in Spencer, Owen Co. Indiana.

David told the U.S. Census taker in 1860 that he was 72 years old and born in Virginia, making him born in 1787 or 1788. For years, our family believed he was born in Scotland in 1783 based upon the notation "D. Kerr born in Scotland 1783" in the family Bible. Why that was written is unfortunately lost to time. Another researcher, John Franklin Kerr (David's great grandson) said that David was born in Kernstown, Virginia in 1787.

David served in the East Tennessee Militia under Capt Christopher Cook during the War of 1812, serving from September 1814; he was discharged on May 3, 1815.

David married Eleanore E. Dobson in Greene Co. TN in June 1814. She was born in Sept. 1796 (or ’97) in either Tennessee or Ireland. She died in the township of Spencer, Owen Co, Indiana in 1871. David died Sept. 30, 1863 in Taylor, Owen Co, Indiana.

In 1829, the family moved to Owen County Indiana. David applied for bounty land in Taylor, Owen County, IN on November 19, 1855. Eleanor Kerr, widow of David Kerr, appears on Bounty Land Warrants 3113-80-50 & 14832-80-55.

David and Eleanore had the following children:
-- Elizabeth Kerr Guinn was born about 1816.
-- Robert Baker Kerr was born Knoxville, TN on Sept. 10, 1828.
-- Sarah Kerr Smith was born about 1820.
-- Francis Marion Kerr was born in TN about 1826; apparently never married.
-- John McCord Kerr was born 1836.

In the 1860 Census; David, 72 and Eleanor, 62, are living with their daughter, Elizabeth Kerr Gyne's [Guinn] family, in Montgomery Township in Owen County. David gives his birth place as Virginia, Eleanor says she was born in Tennessee. By the 1870 Census, David is dead and Eleanor, 70, is living with her son, Robert Baker Kerr, and his family.

Elizabeth (Betsy/Betsey/Betty) Kerr (daughter of David) was born in Knoxville, TN in 1816. She married Cornelius T. Guinn on 9-26-1833 in Owen County and lived in or near Cuba, Indiana. Some references have the name as Gyne or Guyn, but marriage records at the Indiana State Library say 'Guinn' while the 1860 census has Gyne. According to that census, Cornelius was 50 and a farmer; Elizabeth, 44 and their children Francis M[arion], 16; Catherine [Kate], 14; Moses, 11; Henry, 5; and George W., 3.

Sarah Kerr (daughter of David), was born in Tennessee about 1820. According to Indiana Marriages, 1845-1920 at, Sarah married Henry Smith on 8-4-1853 in Owen County, Indiana. They certainly had three children; Louisa, Mary, George and perhaps, a fourth, Levi. 1880 Census has Sarah Smith, 61 a widow with two children still at home; Mary, 19 and George, 14.

John McCord Kerr (son of David) was born in 1837 in Carp, Owen Co.,Indiana. Married Julia H. Powell on Nov. 24, 1878 and died in Spencer, Owen Co., Indiana on Apr. 7, 1914. They had six children: Temple, Elmer, Rolla, Orville (Orval), Bessie, and Nettie.

David Kerr Details
Robert and Elizabeth Kerr

Robert Baker Kerr

9-10-1828 to 1898

Married Elizabeth Dix/Dicks on 3-14-1850. Elizabeth was born on 12-10-1832, the daughter of John Dicks and Elizabeth Edwards.

They had 8 children: George Scott Kerr, John Kerr, William Francis Kerr, Jennie Kerr, Sarah Kerr, Etta Kerr, Emma Lou Kerr, and Charles Lewis Kerr.

Robert Baker Kerr's Family
1860 US Census - Montgomery Township, Owen County, Indiana
Name Age Sex Born in Occ.
Robt V. Kerr 31 M TN Farmer
Elizabeth 28 F IN
Mary J 9 F IN
Geo S 7 M IN
Wm F 5 M IN
Sarah 3 F IN
Jno 1/2 M IN
Jno M[cCord] 22 M IN [Robert's brother]
Robert Baker Kerr's Family
1870 US Census - Montgomery Township, Owen County, Indiana
Name Age Sex Born in Occ.
Kerr, Robert B 40 M TN Farmer
---- Elizabeth 37 F IN
---- George S 17 M IN
---- Wm F 14 M IN
---- Sarah J 13 F IN
---- Jno W 10 M IN
---- Paulina E 8 F IN
---- Emma 5 F IN
---- Charles L 1 M IN
Robert Baker Kerr's Family
1880 US Census - Taylor Township, Owen County, Indiana
Name Sex Age Rel. Occ. Born in Fthr Born in Mthr Born in
Kerr, Robert B M 52 Farmer TN TN TN
--- Elizabeth F 47 Wife Keeps House IN KY IN
--- George S M 27 Son Farmer IN TN IN
--- Emmie C F 15 Dau. At Home IN TN IN
--- Charles L M 11 Son Work on Farm IN TN IN

Jonathan W. Kerr, reportedly died very young. No idea whatever happen to Mary. Sarah, later went by the name of Gennie or Jennie. Pauline E. went by Etta while Emmie and Emma are one in the same.

William KerrWilliam F. Kerr, born about 1855, may have died Dec 16 1906 (or 1910) or Dec. 7, 1916 (or 1917). He was a photographer. In 1887, he lived and worked in Indianapolis. In the 1890's he ran a photography studio in Tipton, Greencastle, and Spencer. He may have been initially married to an Ida C. Ripley, but very definitely was later married Mary Alice Bradley. William had at least three children: Alva, Leona, and Regina.

Emma (Emmie) Kerr (daughter of Robert Baker Kerr), born 11-22-1865 in Owen County, Indiana; died 4-5-1949 in Seattle, Washington. Married Preston Shelton on 11-22-1893. Preston was the son of Wyley Shelton and Malissa Surber. 1920 Census list Emma as 48, a widow and living with her niece, Stella Baily (presumably the daughter of Benjamin Baily and Etta Kerr), 23. 1930 Census has Emma, 67, living alone and working as an elevator operator. Death Certificate and obituary makes no mention of any children, only of nieces and nephews living in California.

Etta Kerr Etta (Pauline E) Kerr (daughter of Robert Baker Kerr), born 6-29-1862, died 4-28-1904. On 10-14-1879, she married Benjamin Balay (also Baily or Bailey). He was born in 1854. They probably had a daughter, Stella, who lived with her Aunt Emma in Seattle in 1920.

Sarah (Jennie) Kerr (daughter of Robert Baker Kerr), born 1856, married Enus Lucas. 1880 Census for Lafayett township in Owen Co., Indiana lists Enus, 38 a farmer; wife Jennie, 24; and two sons Elmer E, 5 and Charles R., 2.

1920 Census in Pike County, Indiana list Enos, 79 and wife Jennie, 62, living next door to their son Charles Lucas, 41; his wife Dolly, 39 and three children Russell, 16; Roy, 14 and Bonner(or Benson?), 11.

1930 Census for Washington Township, Pike Co., Indiana lists Elmer Lucas, 55, a teacher; wife Lula, 46; and children Olive, 20; Laura(?) 15, and Edward, 7. Next door lived Earl Ward, 23 and his wife Mabel, 21. Nearby are Charles Lucas, 51; wife Dolly, 48; and children Roy, 24 and Benson(?), 21.

On 8-26-1937, Mabel Ward wrote to George Scott Kerr: "Dear Great Uncle George, I am writing you for my father - Elmer. Your sister Gennie is serious ill and not expected to live long. If you want to see her alive come soon. Love, Mabel (Lucas) Ward"

Earl Ward, born 1-7-1907; died June 1979 in Petersburg, Indiana. Mabel Ward, born 9-13-1908; died Feb, 1987 in Petersburg.

Mary Kerr

Mary Kerr (daughter of Robert Baker Kerr), born 12-19-1850. Married Adam Colenbaugh on 11-7-1867. Adam was born 12-24-1837 in Coshocton, Ohio. A Civil War veteran, he served in the Indiana 53rd Regiment. Mary and Adam lived outside Worthington, Indiana on his farm. They had had two sons, Amos, born 8-23-1868 and James, 1-21-1870 - 9-19-1944. Mary died on 3-30-1875. (Information and picture courtesy of Bob and Carole Colenbaugh)

Charles Lewis Kerr (son of Robert Baker Kerr) was born in Owen County, Indiana on August 9, 1869 (1867?). He died June 12, 1935 in Bev Stone, Arkansas (at 65). He married Mettie Munday in Rockport, Parke County, Indiana on October 26, 1892. Mettie was born in 1870. Charles and Mettie had 7 children:

  • Beryl (McCarty) Kerr, born 1887. Beryl died 1964.
  • Winefred Kerr, born 1891. Winefred died in Dallas, TX. She married George Greggs in 1913. She and George had two, perhaps 3, children.
  • Mary Ann Kerr, born Feb. 17th 1893. She married Cecil Grammar in Terra Haute, IN in 1917.
  • Laura Lee Kerr, born Feb. 22, 1895.
  • Cedric Kerr was born in Rosedale, IN on Sept. 9th 1902. Cedric died 6-13-1924 off San Pedro, California on board the battleship USS Mississippi in an explosion in turret number 2. He never married and had no children.
  • Velma Marie Kerr was born Nov. 23 (or 13), 1908 or 13th. She married Ira McCullough on Nov. 18th 1922. Ira served in the military during WWI and died on Feb 20th 1954. Velma and Ira had six children and lived in Terra Haute, Indiana.
  • Dorothy Mae Kerr, born April 1, 1910. Dorothy married Mills B. Stone on May 17, 1924 and had five children, she died in 1973 in TX (?).

    Mettie died in Dallas Texas on June 13, 1932. Charles then moved to Wolf’s Bayou, Arkansas and married Mrs. Myrtle M. Elms on June 19, 1933 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Charles and Myrtle had a boy.

    Rolla Kerr (son of John McCord Kerr) born 1889, died in 1958. Married Goldie Lewis, born on Apr. 1, 1897 to William T. Lewis and Sarah Baker Lewis. Children:

  • John Franklin Kerr (of Bloomington as of 1963).
  • Frances Sybil Kerr, 1919-1989; married Garland Wineka (South Point, OH as of 1963).

    Orville (Orval) Kerr (son of John McCord Kerr) was born on Dec. 21, 1901 in Morgan Co., died 10-7-1951. Married Nancy Hunt Kerr. Their children:

  • Morris Kerr (in Bedford as of 1951)
  • Annabelle Kerr, born 1922; married Henry Curry (in Bloomington as of 1951)

    Lou/Louisa Smith (daughter of Sarah Kerr Smith) was born in July 1854, and married Francis M. Parton, born December 1834. 1900 Census shows them living at 103 Greencastle in Wayne township, Owen County with their daughter ?otie, born April 1885.

    Mary E. Smith (daughter of Sarah Kerr Smith) was born in August 1860 and married George W. Coble on 8-24-1884 in Owen County. They had a daughter named May M. Smith who was born on July 22, 1885. May married a Louis Ray Phillips on May 2, 1905.

    George Smith (son of Sarah Kerr Smith) born in 1863, married Cora J. [probably Dunn on 3-8-1892 in Hancock County], born about 1865. They had two sons Harold H. Smith, born 1900 and William, born 1908. 1930 Census shows George, Cora, William, and grandson Niles living next door to son Harold and his family; wife Eva, 21, daughter Velma, 3, Harold H. Jr., 2, and another son Delmar(?), only 5 months old.

  • Robert Kerr Details
    George Scott Kerr

    George Scott Kerr

    10-14-1852 to 2-18-1937

    He married Effie A. Vawter on 9-5-1893 in Indianapolis, IN.

    Children: Stanley Ingomar Lycurgus Kerr, Arleigh Robert Kerr, and Reese Vawter Kerr.

    George worked as a carpenter, eye glass salesman, tea distributer, and did grading for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Dreaming of going to Alaska, he got as far as Montana. By 1904, he was sufficiently established to bring his family west. Read George's thrilling account of being chased by wolves in Montana.

    George Scott Kerr George Scott Kerr (son of Robert Baker Kerr) was born in Owen County, Indiana on October 14, 1852. He married Effie A. Vawter in Indianapolis, IN, Sept. 5th 1893. Effie Vawter Kerr, Age 20 Effie was born in North Madison, IN on Aug. 10, 1872. She was the daughter of James S. Vawter and Phoebe Alameida Rawlings.

    George worked at many jobs: waiter, carpenter, eye-glass salesman, land sales, sold tea for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, did grading for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and was chased by wolves in Montana. He built the family home at 211 W. 11th in Indianapolis. He died February 18, 1937 in Los Angeles (at 84) and was buried in Inglewood, California. Effie died February 26, 1921 in Billings, Montana (at 48).

    Kerr Boys, 1904

    George and Effie Kerr had three children:
    Reese Vawter Kerr was born Aug. 5th 1899.
    Arleigh Robert Kerr, born Feb. 16th 1897.
    Stanley Ingomar Lycurgas Kerr, born Jan. 10th 1895.

    Stanley Ingomar Lycurgus Kerr (son of George Scott Kerr) born Jan. 10, 1895, died 1995 near Clovis, CA. He married Hilder Erickson on June 6, 1922. They lived in Taft, CA for many years, had a jewelry store and was mayor. Retired and moved to Arroyo Grande, CA. Stanley and Hilder had two children:
    -- Betty Lucille Kerr, born Dec. 15th 1924, died in the 1940s in Taft, CA.
    -- Evelyn Ruby Kerr, born April 30th 1930.

    Arleigh Kerr Arleigh Robert Kerr (son of George Scott Kerr), born Feb. 16, 1897 in Indianapolis, IN. See more below.

    Reese Vawter Kerr (son of George Scott Kerr), born in Indianola, IN on Aug. 5, 1899, died in Long Beach, CA on Jan. 22, 1956. He married Hazel Mildred Fulton in Billings, MT on Mar. 14, 1925. Hazel was born in Hawley, MN on July 30, 1900, the daughter of James Nelson Fulton and Cora Grace Credit. Hazel died August 26, 1990 in La Mirada, CA. Reese and Hazel had one child:

    -- Robert Alan Kerr, born July 5, 1931.
    George Kerr Details

    Arleigh Robert Kerr

    2-16-1897 to 10-14-1980

    Born in Indianpolis, IN, moved to Montana at age 7. Helped his father do grading working for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. Dad drove a 16 hourse team pulling earth moving equipment -- at age 10. During World War I, he served in the Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Stevens, Oregon. In 1927, he opened his own jewelry store in Compton, California.

    He married Karen Ingre Plond in 1946 and had one child: Arleigh Robert Kerr, Jr. born in 1950.

    Arleigh Kerr Arleigh Robert Kerr (son of George Scott Kerr), came to California in 1924 after working in Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming as a watchmaker. Initially, he lived in San Pedro, then Pasadena before opening his own jewelry store in Compton. He first married Ethel (Bobbie) Demmon on Sept. 21, 1926. Ethel died on March 8, 1940 in Compton, CA. In 1946, Arleigh married Karen Ingre Plond, Karen was born in 1913 in Audubon, Iowa. Karen was the daughter of Jens Peter Kristian Jensen Plond and Anna Madsen Plond.
    Arleigh Kerr Details
    Arleigh Kerr Jr.

    Arleigh Robert Kerr Jr.


    Married Diane Marie Daily and have two children: Andrew and Erin.

    First getting involved in politics at age 13; I campaigned for Barry Goldwater for President in 1964 and was an alternate delegate for Ronald Reagan at the 1976 and 1980 Republican Conventions. A computer programmer, specializing in Web Development and Visual Basic; my hobbies are photography, American and European History, aviation, genealogy, and travel.