Born in England. Arrived in Virginia in 1685 and
Born in England.
English and Scottish Origins of my Carr/Kerr ancestors:
WARNING: More work needs to be done on the English origins of the Carr family lines in America. I have included information on the English/Scottish Carr/Kerr families because of its intrinsic interest, but of course I have approached this from the American angle, since I am likely descended from two separate English Carr lines that started in New England and Virginia in the early 17th century. The connections that I have presented are tentative, and further investigation is needed to explain the connections (if indeed any can be proven). I have confidence that I have identified the English immigrant ancestors – first to arrive on these shores. However, the English origins are murky, as is often the case with these old colonial families. In general, English sources are strong when it comes to prominent families (or rather first-borns of prominent families), but weak when it comes to “second sons” and lower classes. Of course, most of those who migrated to America were of humble origins or the “second sons” of prominent families (especially true in Virginia). Unfortunately, the search for “aristocratic” connections has resulted in unfounded speculations over the years in American family histories, and these need to be constantly challenged, since fanciful accounts have often crept into the published record.
The history of the English-speaking family of the Carrs and Kerrs is as old as the Norman Conquest of England. One of the followers of William the Conqueror, taken from a roll in “Battle Abbey,” bears the name of “Karre.” The early posterity of this Norman soldier settled in the north of England, and succeeding generations spread on both sides of the borderland of England and Scotland, and afterward into northern Ireland. The name has passed through many changes and variations and is found in the old documents spelled Carre, Carr, Car, Karre, Karr, Kar, Kerre, Kerr, Ker, etc.
The Kerrs who became notable in the borderlands of Scotland were the descendants of two brothers, Ralph and Robert Ker of Ker Hall in Lancashire, England. They were living in Roxburghshire in 1340. Ralph and Robert obtained their lands from King David II of Scotland. Robert was given the lands of Oultoburn. Ralph founded the family of Ferniehirst (from which I am descended). A fierce rivalry developed between the two clans during the age of James IV, Margaret Tudor and James V.
The difficulty of tracing the early families of Carrs in England centuries back, in a definite and concise manner, is exceedingly perplexing and necessarily speculative at times. Direct lines can be traced through various peerage books of England and Scotland to Andrew Kerr I, the 6th Baron of Ferniehirst, Scotland. He was born in 1450, created Baron in 1480 and knighted in 1483. He and his son Andrew II, 7th Baron of Ferniehirst, were remarkable men for talent and undaunted courage, conspicuous in reigns of James IV and James V. Andrew Kerr II, died in 1543. His son Sir John Kerr, 8th Baron of Ferniehirst, did great service against the English and rescued Queen Mary from incursions by the English against the Scots. Sir Thomas Kerr, 9th Baron and son of Sir John Kerr, was also devoted to Queen Mary’s interests. (Quoted from Watson’s House of Carr).
I am descended from both:
- Sir Thomas Carr (1655-1724), who emigrated from England to Virginia in 1685. He is the 2nd great grandson of John Kerr, 8th Baron of Ferniehirst. He is discussed here.
- Robert Carr (1614-1684) who emigrated from England to Massachusetts in about 1635 and subsequently settled in Rhode Island. He is the great grandson of John Kerr, 8th Baron of Ferniehirst. He is discussed under his own heading.
Sir Thomas Carr and Robert Carr are 2nd cousins 1x removed, related to each other through John Kerr, 8th Baron of Ferniehirst (1500- ) as follows:
9th Baron of Ferniehirst Thomas Kerr was born 1529 in Roxburghshire, Scotland, and died Mar 1586 in London, England. He married (1st) Janet Kirkclady and married (2nd) Lady Janet Scott, who was born 1555 in Buccleuch, Ettrick, Selkirkshire, Scotland and died in Northumberland, England. She is the granddaughter of Sir Walter Scott of Brauxholm & Beccleuch. He was the hero of the battle of Pinkie 1547 and a prolific and popular writer of his time. Ironically, Sir Walter Scott was killed in a feud with Clan Kerr in 1552 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The son of Thomas Kerr and Janet Scott is Earl of Somerset Robert Kerr, born 1587, Roxburghshire, Scotland; died 17 Jul 1645, London, England. He married (2nd) Countess of Somerset Frances Howard 26 Dec 1613 in Whitehall, Westminster, England. She was born 30 Sep 1589 in Saffron, Walden, England, and died 23 Aug 1632 in Chiswick, England. Robert Kerr was a politician and favorite of King James I of England. His story is interesting, and the intrigues of Robert and his second wife, Frances Howard, landed him in the Tower of London.
About the year 1601, while an obscure page to George Home, 1st Earl of Dunbar, he met Sir Thomas Overbury in Edinburgh. The two became friends and travelled to London together. Overbury soon became secretary to Kerr, and when the latter embarked on his career at court, Overbury took the position of mentor, secretary and political advisor to his more charismatic friend, becoming the brains behind his steady rise to prominence. In 1606, most likely at the arrangement of Overbury, Kerr happened to break his leg at a tilting match, at which the king was present. According to Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, the king instantly fell in love with the young man, even helping nurse him back to health all the while teaching him Latin. Apparently entirely devoid of all high intellectual qualities, Kerr was endowed with good looks, excellent spirits, and considerable personal accomplishments. These advantages were sufficient for James, who knighted the young man and at once took him into favor.
In 1607, an opportunity enabled the king to confer upon him a more substantial mark of his affection. Sir Walter Raleigh had, through his attainder, forfeited his life-interest in the manor of Sherborne, even though he had previously executed a conveyance by which the property was to pass on his death to his eldest son. Unfortunately for Raleigh this document was rendered worthless by a flaw which gave the king eventual possession of the property. Acting on his Secretary of State, the Earl of Salisbury’s suggestion, James conferred the manor on Kerr. The case was argued at law, and in 1609 judgment was unsurprisingly given for the Crown. Apparently Lady Raleigh received some inadequate compensation, and Kerr at once entered on possession. Kerr’s influence became such that in 1610 he was instrumental in persuading the king to dissolve Parliament, which had shown signs of attacking the Scottish favorites.
On 24 Mar 1611 he was created Viscount Rochester, and subsequently a privy councilor. When Salisbury died in 1612, James had the notion of governing in person as his own chief Minister of State, with Kerr carrying out many of Salisbury’s former duties. But James’s inability to attend closely to official business exposed the government to factionalism. The Howard party, consisting of Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton; Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk; his son-in-law William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury; Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, and Sir Thomas Lake, soon took control of much of the government and its patronage. Even the powerful Kerr, hardly experienced for the responsibilities thrust upon him and often dependent on his intimate friend Overbury for assistance with government papers, fell into the Howard camp. He had done this after beginning an affair with Frances Howard, Lady Essex, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk.
On 25 Sep 1613, and supported by the king, Lady Essex obtained a decree of nullity of marriage against her husband, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, and three months later, on 26 Dec 1613, got her wish and married Kerr. Seeing as Overbury distrusted the Howards and still had Kerr’s ear, he tried to prevent the marriage. In order to remove him from court, the Howard faction manipulated Overbury into seeming to be disrespectful to the queen. Then it was no small feat to persuade the king to offer Overbury an assignment as ambassador to the court of Michael of Russia with the Howards being fully aware that his refusal would be tantamount to treason. The plan worked and Overbury declined, sensing the urgency to remain in England and at his friend’s side. On 22 Apr 1613 Overbury was placed in the Tower of London at the king’s “request”, eventually dying there five months later on 15 Sep 1613 “of natural causes”.
Thereafter, James bestowed many favors on Kerr. On 3 Nov 1613 he was advanced to the Earldom of Somerset, on 23 December appointed Treasurer of Scotland and in 1614, Lord Chamberlain. As the years progressed James showered Kerr with more gifts, until 1615 when the two men had a falling out and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, replaced Kerr. James wrote a letter that year detailing a list of complaints he then had against Kerr, including the fact that Kerr had “withdrawn” himself from James’ chamber despite the king’s “soliciting to the contrary.” Kerr still retained some favor and might possibly have remained in power for some time longer but for the discovery of the murder of Overbury by poisoning in July of that year. At the infamous trial Sir Edward Coke and Sir Francis Bacon were set to unravel the plot. After four of the principal agents had been convicted and hanged at Tyburn, Kerr and Howard were brought to trial. The latter confessed, and of her guilt there can be no doubt. Kerr’s share is far more difficult to uncover, and probably will never be fully known. The evidence against him rested on mere presumption, and he consistently declared himself innocent. Probabilities are on the whole in favor of the hypothesis that he was not more than an accessory after the fact. Fearing what Kerr might say about him in court, James repeatedly sent messages to the Tower pleading with him to admit his guilt in return for a pardon stating, “It is easy to be seen that he would threaten me with laying an aspersion upon me of being, in some sort, accessory to his crime”.
The king eventually let matters take their course, and both Kerr and Howard were found guilty. The sentence, however, was not carried into effect against either culprit. Howard was pardoned immediately, but both remained in the Tower until January 1622. Kerr appears to have refused to buy forgiveness by concessions and did not obtain his pardon until 1624. Kerr died in July 1645, leaving one daughter, Anne, the sole issue of his ill-fated marriage to Frances Howard, afterwards wife of the 1st Duke of Bedford.
The son of Robert Kerr and his first wife [name unknown] is Robert Carr, born about 1608 in England. He married Margaret Rutherford in 1650. [Note: A researcher in England has pointed out serious flaws in this theory. Until I have time to significantly re-write this section, the flaws will be laid out as follows, and the reader may make of it what he will: re: theory that Robert, who married Lady Frances Howard, had a previous wife. “Had this been so it would have been well documented, in the light of his subsequent rise at Court, by contemporaries, and would most certainly have been remarked on during the Essex divorce proceedings, yet there is not the slightest mention. There is nothing in the Dictionary of National Biography, or Debretts; added to the complete absence of any contemporary mention of a previous marriage, I find this highly significant. The many enemies he made at Court when he started to rise in the King’s favor would have pounced on such a thing, even if it had been only the merest rumor.”
Thomas Carr, my immigrant ancestor
The son of Robert Carr and Margaret Rutherford is Sir Thomas Carr, born 13 Mar 1655, Brampton, Wath-Upon-Dearne, Yorkshire, England; died Aft 1724, Topping Castle, Caroline, Virginia. Thomas Carr, his wife and possibly children of theirs left England and came to Virginia in 1685, on account of their loyalty to the Stuarts and the persecution of Cromwell. In Edson Carr’s book on the Carr family, he states that they came from the borderland between England and Scotland, and had a grant of land from the King consisting of 25,000 acres, in the counties of Louisa and Albemarle, in Virginia. This ancient document was written on parchment, granting to “our trusty and well-beloved Thomas Carr, gentleman, a tract of land in our colony of Virginia.” It is supposed that two brothers came over from England with Thomas and his wife, namely: Robert and John. Robert settled in another part of the colony and John died without issue. One of Thomas’ grandsons (Dabney Carr) was the best friend of Thomas Jefferson and married his sister, Martha (see Appendix I – Notable Kin, for details).
Thomas Carr settled at “Topping Castle”, Caroline County, Virginia. He married Mary Garland in 1676. Mary was born in 1658. This Thomas Carr is styled “Thomas Carr, gentleman” in a patent granted to him on 25 Apr 1701 for 546 acres of land in St. John’s Parish, King William County for transporting 11 persons to the colony. He was a Justice of the court in 1702; High Sheriff of King William County, 1706-1709; Burgess for Middlesex County, 1711 and Member of the Quorum of King William County, 1714.
The son of Thomas Carr and Mary Garland is Thomas Carr. He was born about 1678 in Virginia. The younger Thomas was Justice of the Peace for King William from 1714; sheriff in 1722-1723; Major of the militia and Burgess for King William in 1727-1734. He patented large tracts of land, and died in Caroline County on 29 May 1737. Thomas married Mary Dabney, born 22 Jan 1687/88 and died 7 Sep 1748.
Here the lineage branches in two directions:
Through Sarah Dabney Carr:
The daughter of Thomas Carr and Mary Dabney is Sarah Dabney Carr. This lineage continues under the heading for Meindert Doodes (1617-1677).
Through Agnes Carr:
Another daughter of Thomas Carr and Mary Dabney is Agnes Carr. This lineage continues under the heading for John Waller (1673-1754).
 Ferniehirst Castle was built around 1470 to hold the gate for Scotland and to serve as a base for military raids and cattle-lifting forays. It commands the road to Otterburn and Newcastle. Ferniehirst Castle consists of an extended and altered towerhouse, which incorporates the cellars from the 16th century castle, with larger wings and extensions. A large conical-roofed stair turret is corbelled out above the first floor level, and bartizans, with shot-holes crowning the top of the tower. The original entrance leads to a stair known as the ‘Left-Handed Staircase’, the story being that when Sir Andrew Kerr, who was left-handed, returned from Flodden in 1513 he had his followers trained to use their weapons with their left hands. This is said to be the origin of ‘Corrie-fisted’ or ‘Kerr handed’. The basement is vaulted, and the hall has a 16th-century fireplace. Ferniehirst was a property of the Kerrs and first built by Sir Thomas Kerr in 1476 on the remains of an earlier foundation, but was sacked by the English in 1523. It was recaptured with French help in 1549, and the leader of the English garrison was beheaded. Sir Thomas Kerr, protector of Mary, Queen of Scots invaded England in 1570, hoping to have her released, but all that resulted was a raid on Scotland, during which Ferniehirst was damaged. James VI destroyed the castle in 1593 because of help given by the family to the Earl of Bothwell. The castle was rebuilt about 1598. As late as 1767 the house was occupied and used by the Lord Lothian of that day but even then it was showing signs of dilapidation. Between 1934 and 1984 the Scottish Youth Hostel Association leased it, except for during World War II, when it served as an army billet. The castle was subsequently purchased for a residence and restored.
 Watson, Walter L. The House of Carr: A Historical Sketch of the Carr Family from 1450 to 1926. Providence: John F. Green Printing Co, 1926.
 Sir Walter Scott, 1st of Branxholme, 3rd of Buccleuch (about 1495-1552), known as “Wicked Wat”, was a nobleman of the Scottish Borders and the chief of Clan Scott who briefly served as Warden of the Middle March. He was an “inveterate English hater” active in the wars known as The Rough Wooing and a noted Border reiver (raider). His great-grandson was Sir Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch, the “Bold Buccleuch” (1565–1611), a border reiver famed for his role in the rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong. I have not figured out the connection, if any, with Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (1771-1832), the Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time.
 Carr, Edson I. The Carr Family Records Embacing [Sic] the Record of the First Families Who Settled in America and Their Descendants, with Many Branches Who Came to This Country at a Later Date. (Rockton, Illinois: Herald) 1894.
 Biographies of Virginia, Burgesses and Other Prominent People.
 Biographies of Virginia, Burgesses and Other Prominent People.