Select Carr Surname Genealogy

Here are some Carr stories and accounts over the years:

Carr Surname Origins

Burke's Peerage has maintained the original home of the Carrs was the Stavanger area of Norway and is supported the presence of 'Kjaer' and 'Kjarr' families in the region. 

Kjarr is Old Norse and there are variations of that name in other Scandinavian languages: 

  • kjarr (Old Norse), meaning “brushwood.”  
  • kjerr (Norwegian), meaning “wet ground, especially where brushwood grows.” 
  • karr (Swedish), meaning “marsh.”  
  • kaer (Danish), meaning “meadow,”  
  • and kerr (Middle English), meaning “bog” or "fen."

The Carrs of Ford Castle

The Carrs of Ford Castle in Northumberland were thought to have originally been Kers from across the border in Scotland.  They were in England by the time of the Battle of Flodden Field near Ford that took place between the English and the Scots in 1513.  In England the Carrs found themselves ranged against the longer-established Heron family. 

They came into possession of Ford castle sometime around 1520, but later entered into a bitter dispute with the Herons who had moved from Ford to Chipchase castle.  The Herons prevailed and the Carrs were removed from Ford by a sheriff from Berwick.  However, in 1536 the castle passed to Elizabeth Heron who went onto marry Thomas Carr, a daring military commander on the Borders.  The estate then passed back to the Carr family. 

In 1557 the Herons again disputed Ford and a year later Thomas Carr was murdered by his stepfather, John Ratcliffe of Alnwick.  The estate was then left to Thomas's three sisters and soon passed out of Carr hands.  However, the Carrs did hold Etal House nearby until 1762.

William Carr of Blyth

William Carr of Blyth in Northumberland was in his prime a prodigy of strength.  He was born in 1766 and at the early age of eleven years was apprenticed to his father as a blacksmith. 

When he had attained his seventeenth year, he was upwards of six feet three inches in height, weighed 16 stones, and could raise from the ground seven or eight hundredweight with the greatest ease.  At thirty he measured six feet four inches and weighed 24 stones.  We are told that, at this period, he carried an anchor weighing ten hundredweight from the sands to his father's shop for repairs. 

However, by his frequent and violent exertions of this nature, he became quite enfeebled and unable to sustain his immense body.  For some time he was enabled to walk by the aid of sticks.  But nature at length refused this kind of assistance and he finally took to his bed.  Distressed in mind and weakened in body, he died at Blyth in 1825 at the age of sixty.

Jonathan Dodgson Carr and Carr's Biscuits

Jonathan Dodgson Carr, the son of a Quaker grocer in Kendal, arrived in Carlisle in 1831 and set up a shop on Castle Street opposite the cathedral as a baker and dealer in meal and flour.  He then expanded into milling, buying a piece of land near the canal basin in Caldewgate to build his factory, and Carr’s biscuit works was born in 1837.  He was appointed biscuit-maker to the Queen in 1841. 

His company grew to include flour milling and he was heavily involved in the nearby port of Silloth where his successor Henry Carr opened a flour mill in 1886.  In 1890 his grandson Theodore, later MP for Carlisle, developed the firm's most celebrated product - the table water biscuit that was thin, pale and delicate in texture and proved to be an ideal complement to cheese.

Ian Carr, Jonathan’s great grandson, was the last family head of the Cumbrian milling and baking enterprise. He died in 2004 at the age of seventy five.  But his great granddaughter Margaret was still going strong in 2009 at the age of ninety one.  She opened the Carlisle Arts Festival that year which included a tribute to the company’s founder.

Carr and Kerr in Ireland

Both the Carr and Kerr surnames occur in Ireland.  While most Kerrs in Ireland are to be found in Ulster and are of Scottish descent, the Carrs are more likely to be indigenous Irish. 

The O’Cairre sept in Ulster is said to have dated back to Donal O’Cairre, one of the Ulster chiefs killed at the battle of Downpatrick in 1260.  The O’Carr spelling crops up in many 17th century Ulster records and this probably subsequently became Carr.  Carrs in Connacht could have come from O’Carr or Kerrane. 

Notable Irish Carrs were the Rev. George Carr, a pioneer in the temperance movement in Ireland in the early 19th century; and Dr. Thomas Carr, Bishop of Galway who became Archbishop of Melbourne later in the century.

Sweet Billy Carr

Some Carrs ended up in Limerick on the Irish west coast, including a certain Billy Carr who became renowned in song for his garden.

"You may travel the nation over,
From Dublin to sweet Mullingar,
And a garden you will not discover
Like the garden of sweet Billy Carr.
'Tis there that the tall trees were planted
In the days of the old Tommy Parr,
And the soft winding Shannon is flowing
Round the garden of sweet Billy Carr."

Dabney Carr and Thomas Jefferson

Dabney Carr, born on a thousand-acre farm in Louisa county, Virginia, was the great grandson of the Thomas Carr who held extensive land patents in Virginia in the early 1700’s.  He was at school with Thomas Jefferson. 

The story goes that Jefferson and Carr had studied under the “great oak” when they were school-mates. They both loved the location and pledged that whoever should die first would bury the other under the tree. 

Later both Jefferson and Carr were in the forefront of events that led to the Continental Congress and the Revolutionary War.  But in May 1773, well before those momentous events occurred, the youthful Carr died of fever in Charlottesville, Virginia at the age of 27.

But the pledge of the school-friends was indeed kept.  If you visit Jefferson’s home at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone is to be found right inside the gate.  Immediately to the right of Jefferson's own tombstone is that of Dabney Carr.  The bronze plaque at the site reads (in part) as follows: 

“This graveyard had its beginning in an agreement between two young men, Thomas Jefferson and Dabney Carr, who were school-mates and friends.  Carr, who married Jefferson's sister, died in 1773. His was the first grave on this site which Jefferson had laid out as a family burying ground.  Jefferson was buried here in 1826."

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