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Surname:  Burns
Branch:  Burns
Origins:  Scottish
More Info:  Scotland

Background:  The surname of Burns comes from "Burnhouse" a dwelling near a burn or a stream. Although "burn" is a common word in Scotland for a stream, the word originated in Old English. The singular form "Burn" is found in Dumfries and Galloway in the 13th and 14th century. The poet Robert Burns' father came from Kincardineshire on the east coast of Scotland and spelt his name Burness. Robert and his brother adopted the spelling "Burns" a form which first appeared in written records only in the 17th century.

Motto:  Tendit ad astra fides, Faith reaches towards heaven.
Arms:  Ar. on a chev. az. betw. two spur rowels in chief and a hunting horn in base sa., three fleurs-de-lis of the field.
Crest:  A hand holding a hunting horn ppr.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The name probably derives from one or more of the places in Scotland with a similar spelling or sound. Robert Burnes, a farmer in Kincardineshire, had three sons, of whom the youngest, Willian (1721-84), left home to find work during the uncertain times that followed the collapse of the '45 Rebellion. He became head gardener on an Ayrshire estate, marrying a local farmer's daughter when he was 36, and subsequently became a tenant farmer, only to die bankrupt because of the difficulties and conditions of the times. His elder son, Robert (1759-96), dropped the 'e' from his name, and overcame the handicap of an indigent upbringing (at the age of 15 he was the farm's chief labourer) to become the most famous, and in many respects the finest, of all Scottish poets. He wrote equally well in English and in Scots, and within a comparatively short period of a short life composed numerous technically brilliant love songs, satires, nature poems, and depictions of rustic life, as well as Tam o'Shanter, his version of a scary folk tale which is today recited all over the world on his birthday.

The talents of the family did not stop with him. William Burnes's eldest brother, James, was great-grandfather of James Burnes (1801-62), writer and Physician-General of Bombay, and Sir Alexander Burnes (1805-41), explorer and diplomat, who was the first westerner to follow the course of the River Indus, and was assasinated in Kabul, having done his best to avert interference in Afghanistan by both Indian and Russia. The Burneses of Kincardineshire were originally Campbells who were immigrants from Loch Aweside.

Name Variations:  Bernis, Bernes, Bernys, Burns, Burnis, Burnice, Burness, Burnes, Burnace, Burnasse, Burns.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Neil Grant - 2000.
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia; George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire - 1994.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Ian Grimble - 1973.
World Tartans; Iain Zaczek - 2001.
Clans and Families of Scotland; Alexander Fulton - 1991.

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