Sunday, 20 February 2011

Robert Kerss 1788-1860

Robert was the father of Catherine Kerss.

Robert Kerss was born in Gateshead, Co Durham, England on 11 November 1788. He was the first son of Alexander Kerss, a "sugar baker" and Catherine Errington. Alexander was Scottish, and Robert was baptised in the Presbyterian Church on Silver Street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, just across the River Tyne from Gateshead.

Robert's family stayed in Gateshead but when he grew up, Robert moved to Sunderland to work as a joiner (carpenter). It's possible that he was apprenticed to a Sunderland joiner - this is something I need to look into. The next record I've found of Robert is his marriage to Frances Hunter on 12 June 1815 at Holy Trinity Church, Sunderland, Co Durham. The couple moved across the river Wear to Monkwearmouth Shore, where they had three daughters:

Catherine Kerss 1817-1877
Elizabeth Kerss 1819-??
Mary Kerss 1822-??

Frances died in early November 1824 and was buried at Monkwearmouth Church.

Robert remarried a couple of years later. On 15 October 1826 he married widow Elizabeth Ridley (nee Bonner) at St Hilda's Church in South Shields. Elizabeth had married Robert Ridley in 1818, and had two children with him (Mary Ann born 1821 and John born 1823) before his death in November 1824.

In October 1839, Robert was a witness at his oldest daughter's wedding. Catherine gave her address as Lombard Street, in Sunderland, so it's likely that this was also Robert's address at the time. He was living there in 1841, when he was recorded on the census living with wife Elizabeth, her children Mary and John, and a 17 year old Alexander Kerss who I haven't yet identified.

During the 1840s the Kerss family moved back to Monkwearmouth. Elizabeth died there in September 1848 (she was buried on 3 September at Monkwearmouth Church).

Robert married for a third time on 28 May 1849 at Bishopwearmouth Church in Sunderland. This time his bride was widow Elizabeth Smith (nee Giles). He gave his residence at this time as Dunning Street, in the parish of Bishopwearmouth. By the time of the 1851 census, the couple were living on Wreath Quay on Monkwearmouth Shore, and the 62 year old Robert was a foreman joiner.

A couple of years later, the 1853 Ward's Directory records Robert as living in (and presumably running) the Hope and Anchor Inn on North Quay, Monkwearmouth Shore.

Robert died on 8 January 1860 following a concussion. The place of death is recorded as Zetland Street in Monkwearmouth - this seems likely to be his home address at the time as the 1861 census shows his widow Elizabeth running the Zetland Inn on Zetland Street. He was still working (at 74) as a foreman joiner.

Updated - 26 Feb 2011: I've now found information on Alexander Kerss.


  1. Rebecca
    Thanks for all the work you've done and shared here. My wife's KERSS roots link in well.

    Here's an interesting snippet for you. Robert KERSS (b.1788) had a brother John (b.1792) and I believe it was his daughter Mary KERSS (b.1834) who was killed in the great fire and explosion in Gateshead in Oct 1854. (List of dead on GENUKI and fascinating account can be Googled.) The age fits (she was 21) and her abode was Church Walk, which is mentioned in Alexander KERSS's will that you so kindly provided.

  2. Thanks. I knew about the Gateshead explosion, but hadn't made the connection to Mary Kerss.

  3. I Blundered quite by chance into this blog.
    Robert Kerss born 2 Feb 1718 is my 5 great grandfather. I too have been researching these ancestor since sometime in the 1990s. and obtained some of Robert and son Alexander's information from a Kerss/Kerse researcher in New Zealand no longer with us. Our GUESS is that Robert Kerss father was a Robert Kers born 1690 in Coldstream, but I was not given a source for this.
    I have a suspicion that you have got further than I have with the 1700s Kerss family, My research has been mainly on the Borders/Newcastle family rather than the Sunderland branches. I would be pleased to hear further about this area of research and swap any info that may be of use. I live on North Tyneside. JRK

  4. Hi Rob,

    Glad you found the blog. I think we've been in touch before. I haven't done much yet on pushing back through 1700s - I'm currently going through my records, reviewing and writing them up for the blog, and trying to fill the gaps. There's a few gaps in the Sunderland branches that I need to fill as well, not the least of which is the 17 year old I mention above who I subsequently found is a son of Robert and Frances. Happy to compare notes - email me at rahudson[dot]sunderland[at]

  5. Hi Rob

    I think We corresponded many years ago re our commomn ancestors. I think I have traced them back a few more generations at the Little Swinton farm near Swinton. robert kerse's father Mungo Kers left a will, Robert and Patrick were portioners of Mungo's tenency at Little Swinton. mungo's father was probably the Quentigern Kers mentioned as witness to a deed in the 16th century.

    I'm currently at Peebles in the Scottish borders and would like to come down to Newcastle to meet up some time.

    Incidentally, Rab o' Trows Kerss is commemorated on a mural in Floors Castle Kelso as having caught the largest slamon ever on the Tweed.