When I first came upon Peter, whilst compiling my comprehensive &detailed family tree of the ‘Kerrs ofHarris’ some four years ago, it was inevitable that a small frisson ofexcitement occurred: Were we related, by any chance?
Let us look at what the three censuses have to tell us about Peter& his family:
Peter Kerr, 45, Tenant, Kentulavig, b. Inverness
Margaret, 40, b. Inverness
Mary, 15, b. Inverness
Kenneth, 12, b. Inverness
John, 10, b. Inverness
Effy, 8, b. Inverness
Catherine, 5, b.Inverness
Donald, 8 months, b. Inverness
Peter Kerr, 55, Dry Mason, Kintulavick, Harris, b. Harris
Margaret, 50, Wife, b. Harris
Rachel, 16, Daughter, b. Harris
William, 11, Son, b. Harris
Peter Kerr,67, Stone Mason, Soroba Lower, Craignish, Argyll, b. Harris
Margaret,62, Wife, b. Harris
Rachel Stables, 25, Daughter, A Painter’s Wife, b.Harris
MargaretStables, 2, Granddaughter, b. Craignish
PhemieStables, 8 months, Granddaughter, b. Craignish
RoderickKerr, 6, Grandson, b. Harris
We can seethat Peter & Margaret had at least 6 or 8 children born between circa 1825and 1840 in Harris and that he was a mason. Incidentally, he would have been inthe right place at the right time to have been involved in the construction ofthe Telford Church on Berneray, but equally likely was ‘merely’ responsible fordomestic buildings and/or dykes on the island?
Peter died at2 o’clock in the afternoon of the 22nd of February 1862, aged 60, atSoroba, Craignish. He had been sufferingfrom diseased kidneys and an ulcerated bladder for several years. His parents,both deceased, were a Farmer, Donald Kerr, and his wife Sarah Ferguson, andPeter’s widow had been born Margaret MacAskill. The death was registered byPeter’s son, William.
That waspretty much all that I had established about him (although I had followed his descendantsa little further) until quite recently when I learnt that a Patrick Keir hadbeen a tenant in Rushgarry on the Island of Berneray in 1830 and that he wasbelieved to be the mason who appears a decade later on mainland Harris.
Revisitingmy research in the light of this new knowledge I realised that we havecorroboration in the form of Peter’s wife’s, his mother’s & his own namefor MacAskill & Ferguson are family names particularly well associated withBerneray whilst the Gaelic Padruig (which we see as ‘Patrick in 1830) was usuallyanglicised on the island in later years into Peter rather than Patrick.
The use of ‘Keir’in 1830 suggests to me an Anglicisation of ‘Cearr’ which also fuels anotherlittle fire of mine:
Alexander ‘Keir’ (for ‘brown or, perhaps,swarthy) Shaw was one of the possible progenitors of the Shaw families ofHarris. Did some of his descendants in the area choose to adopt his ‘moniker’as a way of distinguishing themselves from their other Shaw neighbours in theregion? If so, were my own earliest island ancestors, Malcolm Kerr & EffieShaw, perhaps distantly related by very early roots in Rothiemurchus?
I really don’tknow, but I’m reasonably satisfied that my namesake was a son of Berneray althoughthe pattern of his son’s names appears quite different to the predominantly Malcolm/Angus/Johnrepetition that occurs in my own family.
I shouldalso point out this family which appears in the ‘Register of Emigrantsfrom the Western Isles of Scotland 1750-1900, Volume 1 Isle of Harris’:
Peter Kerr,Margaret Kerr, (Wife), John, Rachel, Donald, William, Catherine, Kenneth, Effie& Mary
They are stated as having left Harris between 1850& 1859 for ‘Port Uncertain’.
I think itis clear that this is the same family and thus that their destination (or,rather, the place where at least some of the family, including both the parents,emigrated to) was Craignish in Argyll.
Finally, andtaking a real flight of fancy, if Peter’s father Donald Kerr was an (otherwiseunrecorded) farmerof that name on Berneray, then perhaps he & ‘my’ Malcolmwere in some way related, perhaps even brothers? They were certainly contemporaries( & neighbours across the Sound) so maybe my flight of fancy as to onepossible origin of my family name in these parts isn’t quite as wild as I firstthought…