Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Are you a left handed KERR or CARR?

Why do I ask?  Perhaps this traditional anonymous poem from Scotland will enlighten…

“But the Kerrs were aye the deadliest foes
That e’er to Englishmen were known
For they were all bred lefthanded men
And Fence against them there was none.”

This left handedness may stem back to a time of border wars between Scotland and England and to an individual named Andrew Kerr. Andrew was naturally left handed and found that he had an advantage in fighting with the sword. And in particular he could fight better when he was going down spiral staircases that went one way rather than the other.

He had a whole family of little Kerrs all of whom were left handed and they defeated all their enemies and they built castles galore all of which had left handed spiral stair cases rather than right handed spiral staircases.

Or so the story goes….

In fact there is a Kerr castle in Scotland still standing that has a left handed spiral staircase.

But is there anything to this KERR left handedness?

In 1993 a paper was published in the British Journal of Psychology entitled “The Handedness of the Kerrs and the Carrs” by Duncan Shaw and I.C. McManus. I corresponded with Dr. McManus in the UK and got a copy of his paper. Their results showed there was no evidence found for an increased incidence of left-handedness in Kerrs and Carrs.

So that’s that…it makes a good story…

That leads to another question.  How many of us KERR descendents are ambidextrous (equally skilled with each hand dependent on the task)?

I am and my siblings and several of my cousins are.

Maybe there is more to this story of KERR left handedness than we thought!

[Editor note - Participate in the KERR/CARR DNA project to reveal family tree connections between our Kerrs and Carrs.   This test is a painless saliva swab of the inner cheek.  The YDNA test (for males) will show the connections along the surname.   The Family Finder test (for males and females) will show all cousin matches in not only the Kerrs and Carrs but other branches of your family tree. Go here to learn more about the Family Finder test.]

Related KERR/CARR posts:  Serendipity DNA


77 Responses to “Are you a left handed KERR or CARR?”
  1. Robert Kerr says:

    I’m not left handed, but my grandad is, my dad and one of his two sisters is, my brother is and one of my two nephews is. We’re all Irish Kerrs, though.

  2. What part of Ireland are your KERRS from? My Kerrs are from Ireland as well but we haven’t found the specific location yet.

  3. Diane Kerr says:

    I am not left handed but my son is and my grandson and a nephew. My Kerrs were originally from Scotland but went to Ireland. I have found records from Keady, Ireland in the County of Armagh. I would like to trace them back to Scotland but cannot get any records. I think they might have been from Pebbleshire in Scotland. My great grand father who I believe went to Ireland from Scotland was Robert Kerr. Anyone have anything that would help I would love to hear from you

  4. William Kerr says:

    I, my brother and son are all ambidextrous, very few people we know are the same, we carry out tasks with whichever hand we happen to be using. When playing snooker or darts we switch hands without feeling any disadvantage. We also all kick a football with our left foot and struggle with our right foot.

  5. cindy eldermkin says:

    I am a Carr and I am ambidextrous, I can do just as well with either hand.

  6. Bronwyn Chin (nee Kerr) says:

    I am a left-handed Kerr. I think my 4 month old son is going to be aswell :)

  7. Melanie says:

    My great great great grandmother was Hannah Carr of NE England who married Richard Coxon of Alnwick in 1856. My grandfather Richard Coxon was left handed but had it belted out of him at primary school around 1906. Im left handed and so was my brother. No other sides of the family are left handed.

  8. Melanie,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  9. Brandon Kerr says:

    My son is left-handed, but the vast majority of us Kerrs are right-handed. It is said that in our family, left-handedness was “trained” out of us due to rifles being made mostly for right-handedness.

  10. We have a left handed daughter but most of us are right handed too. Thanks for your comment.


  11. Robert Kerr says:

    My brother and i are left handed, as was my grandfather. I am in fact bi-dexterous, eg, I write left but use tools right; I shoot a bow left but a gun right, ect. My father shared this trait but wrote right

  12. Hi Robert,
    It seems a lot of us Kerrs are bi-dexterous. I write with my right hand, shovel snow and do other chores with the left.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  13. Fred Kerr says:

    My daughter Melanie Kerr 19yrs old is left handed….No one is left handed on my wifes side so she is has to be a Kerr.

  14. Hi Cuz Fred,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I didn’t know your daughter was left handed. We have a left handed daughter too.


  15. Crista Cowan says:

    My grandmother was a Kerr. I’m left-handed. One of my brothers is left-handed, as is one of his sons. Another of my brothers and two of my nephews are both ambidextrous. That’s 43% of her direct descendants. Considering only 7-10% of the general population are left-handed, you might be on to something.
    .-= Crista Cowan´s last blog ..We Are All One Single Growing Thing =-.

  16. Thanks for the comment, Crista and for visiting my genealogy blog.


  17. Kevin Carr says:

    Amazing!!! I write right handed but am comfortable doing most tasks with either hand. My son is a left handed writer, plays baseball left handed but is a right handed archer as well as shooting rifle and playing other sports right handed. He also boxes from both sides with equal power and skill… My brother is truley ambidextrous and can do all right handed functions with his left naturally. This is a source of curiosity for me.

  18. I’ve found a lot of Kerrs and Carrs have similar ambidexterous experiences to you and your family. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.


  19. deirdre brennan dunne says:

    hi my kerrs are from aghadowery co derry n ireland peter kerr married maria byrns their son,thomas kerr 1856 married to jane belltheir children joseph 1887 ,annie 1889, james 1890,william 1896,nora 1903..the family where then in belfast co antrim in 1911 .

  20. Hi Deirdre,
    Thanks for stopping by. I would love to know where in Ireland our KERRs were from. I hope you find KERR connections.


  21. Mari Kerr says:

    I am left handed and so is my dad but my brother isn’t :) alot of my family is left handed aswell!

  22. david says:

    Im David Elliot Kerr, I’m right hand and it’s much stronger than my left, but i do find the I use a left hand for a few things such as Snooker, boxing and even hocker also passing the ball in rugby :) also my little brother is completely left handed and left footed

  23. david says:

    hockey* not hocker :/

  24. Hi David,
    It is always interesting to hear from other Kerrs about their handedness.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  25. Hi Mari,
    That is interesting. There must be something to the left-handedness…

    Thanks for stopping by :)


  26. Sebastian says:

    Also, Gayle Ballard is a lefty, but I keep thinking that Jasmine is left-handed.

  27. Joanna says:

    My Carr ancestry is pretty far back, but a large part of my family are leftys – I’d say about 40% of us from that lineage.

  28. Hi Joanna,
    That is interesting that there are lots of leftys in the family. Maybe it is time to do another scientific study of Kerrs and Carrs and left handedness.

    Thanks for visiting.


  29. Karen Greene says:

    My mother was a Carr and I am left handed. They tried to break me so like a lot of others, I use both hands. And it depends on the situation and the tools I am using (scissors drive me crazy).

  30. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for taking the time to comment. It seems there is more to the left handedness in Carrs and Kerrs. I can imagine scissors would be hard. Our daughter is left handed.


  31. I never really thought about how big of a difference being right or left-handed would make on stairs. It’s funny how little things like that can be such a big difference. Very insightful.
    Spiral Stair Kits´s last [type] ..Spiral Staircase Kits: For Your Home

  32. Karen Anna Verdi says:

    Ask your ophthalmologist which side of your vision is dominant. I was denied left handedness and grew up thinking I’m right handed. I remember at summer camp an astute archery teacher giving me a left handed bow. Turns out I’m left eye dominant. Bulls eye, grandpa! I’m an Andrew Kerr descendant.

  33. Hi Karen,
    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing that. The Kerrs/Carrs reading this will be very interested.


  34. Kevin says:

    Grandfather & mother are both left-handed Kerrs. Never heard about this until now. Very interesting.

  35. I am left-handed but find that the few times I went bowling, had much more success with my right hand. My father, John George Kerr was left-handed too. However, when he was in school, he was made to write with his right hand. He finally adjusted to printing with his right hand and writing with his left hand. We had 5 children in our family…3 of my sisters all looked like my mother and were right-handed, my brother was right-handed. I look like my father and am left-handed. My husband, James Michael Callanan is also left-handed. :)

  36. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for stopping by the blog to comment!

  37. Hi Sandra,
    Interesting! Do you have children and if so are they left handed?
    Thanks for stopping by to comment.


  38. G Stables says:

    I’m a granddaughter of a Kerr through the maternal line. My Mother is left handed as is my daughter. We passed Ferniehurst on Saturday but sadly it was cloded. My daughter has always wondered why she was left handed so would hav been thrilled to see the staircase!

  39. I’ve love to visit Ferniehurst someday! Thanks for your comments!


  40. Dawn-ann says:

    Great article! I’m an ambidextrous Kirkpatrick. Are we related? Actually, I do have some Kerrs and Carrs in my tree but they are way back and I haven’t verified them yet… :)
    Dawn-ann´s last [type] ..Ashcroft Museum

  41. Hi Dawn-ann,

    We’ll have to check out your Kerrs and Carrs. Maybe we are related!


  42. Carl says:

    My GrandMother was a Kerr, they were exiled in the late 1800′s. We are most all Left handed or confused about it, ie sorta ambidextrous.

  43. Hi Carl,
    I can appreciate the ‘confused about it/ambidextrous’ comment. We tend to be ambidextrous for some things and not for ours.

    Thanks for commenting.


  44. Mikie Bennett says:

    My mother was a Carr. She’s a righty but had 2 left handed daughters, including me. My daughter is a lefty. I also have a disproportionate number of lefty cousins. I think the British study is flawed due to the fact that left handedness was discouraged for so long that many people in previous generations might not even know that they were. I’ve heard from quite a few people (including my daughter’s kindergarten teacher) that they were supposed to be but weren’t allowed. Some of the older generations still view it as a bad thing.

  45. Hi Mikie,
    Good points and you may well be right. Even in my early years of school 50 years ago they were still talking about trying to change lefties to righties.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  46. kristin says:

    My great grandfather was left handed and so is my Dad. Family name CARR from Scotland.

  47. Michael Carr says:

    I am a descendant of the Ferniehurst Kerrs, Through Gov. Caleb Carr C 1620 of Rhode Island.
    I am wonderfully pleased that this discussion is still going on. It has been the suject of much speculation and debate within my own family for several years. Of my two sons, 1 is Left handed yet quite ambidextrious depending on need. His Daughter, now 2.5 years, shows the same ambidexterity that he did at that age, ie can write point and throw or catch almost equally with either hand.
    He also took a few medevil re-enactment classes and found out quickly that using his sword with his left hand gave him great advantage, so the anecdotal information about this part of the family history is definitely confirmed.
    I also take issue with both scientific studies on the fact that they do not offer ambidexterity as an option, are more concerned with genetic inheritance, and ignore important archeological and anectdotal evidence.
    in my extended family I would estimate over 40% have some ambidexterity and 30% left handed.
    Michael Carr, New Port Richey, FL

  48. Hi Kristin,
    Thank you for your comment and report on the lefthandedness in your family.


  49. Hi Michael,
    Thank you for your comments. Have you participated in the Kerr/Carr DNA study? I’m trying to track our Kerrs back to Scotland and every participant in the study leads us closer to more Kerr/Carr connections (see Family Tree DNA for more info)


  50. We have three left handed family members in our Kerr family. I think there is something to the story.
    Joyce Kerr – Anti Wrinkle Queen´s last [type] ..ManukaSea! Magic Skin Care – Our Exclusive Review


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] left handed spiral staircases in their castles.   (See my post of January 2009 entitled “Are you a Left handed Kerr or Carr” [...]

  2. [...] this true? Certainly, the castle does feature a reverse spiral staircase, but a 1993 study found no increased incidence of left-handedness in [...]

  3. [...] Are you a Left Handed Kerr or Carr? – the most commented post on this blog! [...]

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