The name Mercer is a very ancient one in Scotland, in England and in Ireland, where there was a William Mercer, Bishop of Connor in 1353-75.

It is believed that the term mercer, anciently used in England and still more in Scotland, has its origins in the Low Countries. It is further believed that it is older even than the term merchant, which is of Norman-English origin, the language of the dominant race in England.

Mercer is by no means a common name in England, unlike that of Smith or Smyth, Saddler, Glover and Hawker, which, taking into account that early England was a warlike country, such that when men first took surnames from land, trades or other accidents, there were smiths, saddlers and glovers in almost every town or village of England; hence the frequency of these names.

The early Mercer’s however were sellers of fine silks, velvets and later cottons, with silks being an article of the greatest luxury, confined only to the use of the high nobles.

The name appears as le Mercier in French, Mercator in Latin, Mercatori in Italian and Mercer, Le Mercer and even Marcer in Scotland, Ireland and England.

John Mercer - tomb 1380-1925
Family vault of the Mercers in the Church of St.John, Perth, Scotland.

Two families of the name have been settled in Scotland from a very early period – the Mercers of Innerpeffray, in Strathearn, and those of Aldie, in Perthshire, with the latter being closely connected to the city of Perth. An inscription in the family vault of the Mercers in the church of St. John there, records that one of them, John Mercer, died in 1280.

The founder of the baronial family of Aldie was John Mercer, who about 1340 was an opulent merchant burgess of Perth. He was provost of that city in 1357, 1369 and 1374, and several times commissioner for the burgh of Perth to the Scottish Estates of Parliament. He was also a frequent ambassador to England, France and Holland.

Another prominent member of the family was Sir Andrew Mercer, the Scottish Admiral, who made a successful attack on the English fleet at Scarborough. His father John Mercer, mentioned above, had been wrecked off the coast of Northumberland in 1376 and had been seized and imprisoned in Scarborough castle.

In 1214, Serle Mercer, a wealthy merchant was for eight weeks Mayor of London. He was again elected in 1217 and retained his office until 1222.

A certain John Mercer who flourished in the 17th century was the Town Clerk of Perth. He purchased Potterhill, near Perth ‘from Mr James Mercer, only son of William Mercer, son and heir of the late Andrew Mercer, Burgess of Perth, on the 15 May 1639.’

Lord William Murray, 4th son of the Duke of Athol married the heiress of Lord Nairne. His 2nd son Robert Murray Nairne married Jean, heiress of the Mercers of Aldie.

One Lieutenant-Colonel William Mercer was the author of ‘Angliae Speculum,’ or England’s Looking-glass, published in London, 1646 by David Laing, Esq. He was born in Scotland, went to England when young, with his father and from there emigrated with his family and others from Yorkshire and Lancashire, at the instance of James I, of England, by whom was formed the plantation of Ulster. He was last heard of as being at Cork in 1699.

He married four wives, the first of whom, with her children perished in the rebellion of 1641.

A Captain Bernard Mercer, Royal Marines, who married the heiress of the Slaughters was descended from one Bernard le Mercer, who signed the Ragman Roll in 1296 at Perth. Marcus Hill Mercer, who served in the Army and Trevor Mercer, Royal Navy, were also of this family.

The surname Mercer also occurs in Kent and it is believed that they are a branch of the Flemish Merciers who settled in Kent. A branch of this family went to America and some of them distinguished themselves in the Navy of the United States.

(JM)

 

(Extracted from “The Surnames of Scotland” by George F Black. New York Public Library 1946)

From the occupation, mercer (Fr mercier) a mercer, draper, dealer. The word still exists in English in the sense of a dealer in silks.

William Mercer or le Mercer witnessed two charters in favour of the Abbey of Kelso, c. 1200.

Aleumnus Mercer was party with twenty-three others to a bond given by Alexander II to Henry lll in 1244 to keep the peace. He had a grant of Tillicoultry from Walter, son of Alan. His son and successor of the same name resigned his lands into the king’s hands in 1261.

A curious story of two Mercers appears in English records, which throws an interesting sidelight on the law of the period. In 1279 “a man unknown was housed at Morpathe (Morpeth) with Geoffrey and William, the mercers of Scotland. The stranger rose through the night and stole their goods to the value of 30s., and instantly fled to Cotinwode, followed by William who slew him in his flight. Both withdrew themselves and are not discredited. They may return if they will, but their chattels are confiscated for flight.” (Apparently it was lawful to pursue a thief with hue and cry and do summary justice on him if found with the goods in his possession. The Mercers erred in not pursuing the thief in the recognised way.)

There are two old families of this name – the Mercers of Aldie and those at Innerpeffray in Strathearn. The former were intimately connected with the history and prosperity of Perth. The founder of this branch appears to have been Thomas. He had an order from Edward lll in 1341 on the coast of Bordeaux for money due for raising men and horses for service in Aquitania. John Mercer, a wealthy burgess of Perth, who flourished in the latter half of the fourteenth century, was provost of the town in 1357, 1369, 1374, and in 1355 commissioner for Perth to arrange for the liberation of David ll. He was taken prisoner by the English during a truce in 1376, and shortly afterwards released without ransom, much to the chagrin of Walsingham, who mentions his “inestimable wealth.” An old rhyme referring to the antiquity of the Mercers of Perth says:

“So sicker ’tis as anything on earth,

The Mercers aye are older than old Perth.”

Another rhyme referring to them punningly records that:

“Folk say the Mercers tried the town to cheat

When for two Inches they did win six feet.”

This alludes to the exchange of the two Inches of Perth (where the famous clan battle was fought in 1396) for the right of sepulture in St John’s Church, Perth.
(Note: alternate spelling of Aleumnus – Aleumus.)

39 thoughts on “Mercer Origins

  • 23/April/2012 at 2:14 am
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    Thank you for all you hard work on this page.

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  • 15/August/2013 at 10:41 pm
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    Very interesting

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  • 5/September/2013 at 2:16 pm
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    Fascinating! Much appreciated.

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  • 3/August/2017 at 12:52 am
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    I know very few Mercer’s, though I am one. I have wondered for years where my ancestors came from. This is very helpful. Thank you ~

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    • 4/March/2019 at 3:23 am
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      Iam Kimberly Mercer My Faimly is Hugh Mercer I shure Like to know my Faimly

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  • 21/September/2017 at 7:20 am
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    Very interesting!!

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  • 4/November/2018 at 12:15 am
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    Nice work, Thank you!

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  • 19/November/2018 at 2:54 pm
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    How would I find out if I am related to the Mercer in Scotland. I took ancestry DNA and it 28% Ireland and Scotland.

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    • 19/November/2018 at 3:44 pm
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      John,
      You would have to trace your ancestry from birth, marriage and death records starting with your parents. How you would do that would depend on the availability of those records where you happen to live. If you find a documented link back to Scotland you can continue your search by visiting the Scottish Records Office in Edinburgh or by searching on-line using the Scotland’s People website.

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      • 24/January/2019 at 3:29 pm
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        Is this Jim from Calais

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    • 27/November/2018 at 2:43 pm
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      Ask George Mercer who now is the senior Mercer if you may compare it to his. I can send you his email address, he is my brother.

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      • 25/January/2019 at 4:49 pm
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        not sure if you were replying to my post, if you were please sent it to me if don’t mind. Thank you John D. Mercer 111

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      • 17/March/2019 at 1:10 pm
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        I am not sure if I asked you for it before but can you send George Mercer email to me at firefighter2460@yahoo.com and thank you in advance.

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      • 14/July/2019 at 7:19 pm
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        I am not sure if I ask you if you send me his e-mail if may I please have it. I am still trying to figure out if I have any Scottish blood.

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        • 8/June/2020 at 5:15 pm
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          You can email me as I have now had mine done, it is on ancestry.co.uk. My email address is claire@winfrey.co.uk
          Daughter of John Laurence Mercer, direct line from George Dempster Mercer etc etc

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  • 18/December/2018 at 10:34 pm
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    This is very important, but, I really want to know if there are any Mercers that migrated in later centuries to America. I am Afro-America and is trying to discover my heritage,

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    • 4/January/2019 at 4:56 pm
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      Hi J.C.,

      My Mercer’s arrived in Barbados in the 1650’s, we then migrated up to Virginia, the Carolina’s, Kentucky and Ohio.

      Bill

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      • 5/June/2020 at 12:53 am
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        My Mercer ancestors, Christopher and Mary, and son Thomas sailed to America in 1657. Christopher and Mary sailed onto Barbados some time later but Thomas stayed in Virginia. Mary died in Liberia in 1667 and Christopher died in Barbados in 1771. Could these be some of your family?

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        • 15/October/2020 at 2:09 am
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          There are several Christopher Mercer’s. The Christopher Mercer born 1612 or 1621 (I have seen both dates on the internet) who sailed from England to Barbados in 1657 is not the same as the one who died in 1771 because that would have made him at least
          150 years old at death. Don Mercer’s research has Christopher sailing to Barbados where he died and his sons sailing to colonial Virginia some time later. This is the
          Christopher Mercer who married Mary Simson. You can find Don Mercer’s research by
          querying ‘Christopher Mercer b. 1612 in Stepney, England.” I can tell you based on CRI
          genetics that this Christopher Mercer’s male descendants are in haplogroup R1.

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          • 7/January/2021 at 6:55 pm
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            CRI genetics found my male Mercer cousin to be in ancient haplogroup N1. My feeble mind believes from internet info that R1-BY250 to be a later subclade of N1. This Mercer cousin and my brother are direct descendants of Christopher Mercer b. 1612 in Stepney, England per Don Mercer’s research.

          • 24/March/2021 at 1:58 pm
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            According to Don Mercer’s research that I have Christopher Mercer born 1612 in Stepney England relocated to Barbados in 1654. The research that I have shows his time of death as 1671 not 1771. I know that dates can get mistyped very easily but I have copies of the outlines done by Don Mercer that my Father got directly for Don Mercer himself and they show Christopher’s time of death as being 1671 which would have made him 59 years old. Fell free to contact me if you would like.

          • 24/March/2021 at 2:02 pm
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            In my earlier message you can see how easy it is to mistype something. Because where It says that my Father got records directly for Don Mercer that should say directly from Don Mercer.

    • 9/July/2019 at 9:19 pm
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      Did you have any luck finding this out

      Reply
  • 23/September/2019 at 3:12 am
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    Hello,

    I am researching my Gt Gt Gt Gt Gt Grandmother Isabella Mercer who married James Spittal on 26 June 1840 in St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh. She was born some time in 1818. Her father was James Mercer. Does anyone have a connection with her?

    They set sail for new Zealand shortly thereafter and settled in Golden Bay Nelson. Isabella died there aged 87.

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  • 25/January/2020 at 12:29 pm
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    Hi all,
    in researching the name Mercer, I was struck by the similarity between it and the old English Kingdom of Mercia. Is there some link or connection?
    I suspect, however, such similarities may well be purely coincidental but it would be nice to put this to bed one way or another.
    Thanks!

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  • 3/March/2020 at 11:07 pm
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    Great grandfather Wiley Bronson Mercer born 1846 and lived in the Black Creek area of eastern North Carolina, USA. Seeking earlier info as to when and where they migrated.

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    • 11/May/2020 at 6:42 am
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      Sandra, my Grandfather, Ben Mercer, was born in Kinston, NC in 1913.

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      • 28/February/2021 at 3:44 am
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        My grandfather Basil Mercer was born in 1919 in Jones county , NC . I’m trying to find any information about his parents and where they were from

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    • 7/January/2021 at 7:09 pm
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      Per Don Mercer’s research, Christopher Mercer b. 1612 went from England to Barbados where he died. His 3 sons were in Colonial VA either in late 1600s or early 1700s. Per a book published in VA prior to 1986, 2 of those sons remained in Tidewater, VA while the 3rd went South. If my memory serves me correctly, Thomas was in Pitts County, NC where he died. His descendants were later in Robeson County, NC and some trickled into GA. There were numerous Christopher Mercer’s in NC who I think are descendants of Thomas. Many Mercers in GA are related to Saul/Solomon Mercer who served in the U.S. Civil War under Robert E. Lee. Saul was in Appomattox when Lee surrendered to Grant and ended the war.

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      • 6/March/2021 at 2:58 am
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        I did research on our side of the Mercer’s who lived in GA. I know William Mercer lived in North Carolina before coming to Georgia. William Mercer died in 1812 or right there about. Two son’s of a William Mercer (Peter Mercer the older of the two and Jessy Mercer) went on to Texas where they had a Fort Mercer. Peter Mercer was killed by Indians. Peter’s grave is a historical landmark.

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  • 21/February/2021 at 5:19 pm
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    Amazing! Thank you

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  • 3/March/2021 at 6:40 pm
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    Hello, Sir Andrew Mercer II – Baron of Meikleour is my 13th Great-Grandfather. Took a lot of research but my timeline I have found goes from Sir Andrew Mercer II, Sir Lawrence Mercer, Robert Mercer, Andrew Mercer, Laurence Mercer, Laurence Mercer, Laurence Mercer (three in a row confused me not sure if i am on the right track anymore), William Mercer, Graeme Mercer, Judge William Mercer Wilson, Margret Wilson, Herbert Wilson Little, Donald Herbert Little, Daraline Little, Shila Stiefel, then me Mitchell Stiefel.

    Can anyone confirm I am on the right track? Please and thank you.

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    • 6/March/2021 at 6:52 pm
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      Hi, Since we have no knowledge of the most recent few generations of your family history it is impossible to verify what you say. William Mercer Wilson was given land in Walpole township, Norfolk county, Ontario, Canada. If you are sure of your link back to him then the rest should follow as per our Mercers of Perth records. (I actually live about 20 minutes away by car from Walpole township).

      Reply
  • 6/March/2021 at 2:51 am
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    I question the name coming from the word “merchant” . The reason is that the few remaining family of the kings of Mercia went to family in Scotland. There they were called “Mercers”. I will try to find the book that mentioned “the lesser Mercians left for Scotland where they had family. Anyway, this is why the name is so old.

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    • 6/March/2021 at 7:00 pm
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      There may, as you say, have been individuals from “Mercia” who migrated to Scotand but the similarity of the names is co-incidental. It is well established that the original Mercers were Flemish merchants dealing in fine fabrics like silk, satin, etc. The French version of the name is Mercier and would have no link to the English region of Mercia.

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  • 21/March/2021 at 12:42 pm
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    My Mercer line is Edmund Mercer who I believe is a son of James Mercer and Elizabeth Foster. Edmund Mercer was said to have been the Squire of Cheswick, England. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts as did many of his children after the death of his wife Sarah Elizabeth Susanna Laws. From there I have been able to trace Edmund and his children. My line was from his daughter Elizabeth Mercer who married Thomas Hitchcock. She remained in England as did one of her brothers. The rest of her siblings immigrated to the Boston area of the United States. It was Elizabeth and Thomas Hitchcock’s son Afred who immigrated to Canada in 1910 and settled in Simcoe, Norfolk County. (I live nearby.) I was told my Mercer’s were from the Huntingtower, Perth line of Mercers but I have yet to figure out that connection.

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  • 4/May/2021 at 4:26 pm
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    My great grandfather was James Mercer, born in England in 1849 later he moved to Belfast and married Margeret Walker. their first child was my grandfather Hill Walker Mercer, born in James street Shankill road. My great grandfather died in 1915. wherein England he was born I don’t know.

    Reply

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