By Mekenzie Kerr
My mother, Laurie Kerr, is the daughter of Roger Edward and Bette Wilson Dodrill. My father, Scott Kerr, is the son of Claude and Mildred Killam Kerr. Both of my parents know the names of their great-grandparents. These are the only facts I am certain are true about my family history.
Each of my grandparents died without leaving much ancestral history behind, just as their parents had before them. Because of this my parents know very little, and therefore I know even less.
And even more perplexing is that I have ancestries from four different individuals, two sets of parents. I was born in Buchon, South Korea to my biological mother, father and three siblings, then came home to my family at 7 months old. Tracing my Korean roots back is impossible; I’m not even certain if my Korean name, Kim, Eun Hye, was given by my biological mother or the adoption agency.
I understood from an early age that my Korean family roots would remain a mystery, but I figured there had to be a rich history from my adoptive family – immigration stories, countries where ancestors used to live, something.
I found my entire ancestral history was made up of few answers with even fewer details, amounting to a mountain of uncertainties.
I didn’t want to carry on another generation that would only lose what little history we knew. I was determined to uncover more, for both my parents and myself, with what little I had. Armed with a free 14-day trial and a list of last names, I tried to tackle the uncertainties with help from Ancestry.com.
A couple hours of searching Ancestry.com and google searches for family history for my mother’s side I was still left with every single question unanswered. Still empty-handed, I decided to trace my father’s side to see if there was any information.
My father’s grandmother’s maiden name, Killam, seems to trace its roots back to Ireland, but has documented ancestry from all over Europe. The most definitive thing I could assume from the information is that my dad’s maternal side was English, but I cannot be too sure.
What little was found
The Kerr lineage, on the other hand, is definitely Scottish, something I was able to confirm upon asking my dad. Although this was the only definite piece of information, he had no specific knowledge on where, why and when the Kerr family immigrated to the United States from Scotland, so my search was forced further.
Kerr has a lot of disputed origins including Caer (British for “fort), Cearr (Scottish Galeic for “left handed”), Ciar Scottish Gaelic for “dusky”), Mac Giolla Cheara (Irish language) and Kjrr (Old Norse for “marsh dweller”). In Scotland, where my ancestors are from, the name is pronounced so that it rhymes with the word “care,” in England it rhymes with “car” and my family pronounces it similar to “fur.”
The Kerr history is rich and the strongest link back to my ancestors, something I feel proud of.
The great Clan Ker is “well remembered in Scotland as one of the most loyal but warlike Clans of the turbulent border territories” and dates back to 1066, according to Scotweb.co.uk. Clan Kerr’s family history is full of nobility and war throughout centuries in Scotland.
Why my ancestors came isn’t clear, but there were mass numbers of Scottish people immigrating to America in the 1800s, around when my ancestors would have. Scottish immigrations to America began with the Scots fleeing to escape poverty and persecution from Edinburgh, Ayr, Inverness and Glasgow; many of them emigrated from Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Argyll and East Lothian.
As I learned about the history of Clan Kerr’s legacy in Scotland, I was both in awe of the people my dad’s side had come from, but also extremely disappointed at the remaining three-fourths of ancestry that was missing.
While many ancestral pieces are missing, both biologically and adoptively, my family history doesn’t feel like it’s missing pieces in any way. My father’s parents sailed around the world as missionaries, living in Brazil for a few years, and told the stories about their journey until the day they died. My mother’s parents moved over twelve times in under 18 years because my grandpa had a restless spirit, something I have been told many tales about. This passion and spirit for storytelling was passed from my grandparents to my parents, and then onto me. I may not have dated ancestral history, but I have stories about the older adults I grew up around, memories that make my history rich.