Select Carter Surname Genealogy

Carter, an occupational name for a transporter of goods, derived from the Middle English carte and from the Anglo-Norman carretier and cartier.  Supporting the Norman origin of the name would be the present-day French surname Cartier.

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Select Carter Ancestry

England.  The earliest references to the use of Carter as a surname are in the south of England, in Sussex and Essex in the 13th century.   Carters also came from an early time from Kent.

Bedfordshire  The first traced family, from the 1450's, is probably the Carters from Kempston in Bedfordshire.  The local church has a memorial to the seven sons and ten daughters of William Carter, placed there by his wife Maria in 1605. 

Thomas Carter from this family embarked for America in the 1650's.  One of his descendants is thought to be the former US President, Jimmy Carter.  Another branch of the family moved to Yorkshire and settled in Knottingley near Pontefract.  Mark Carter founded a family brewing business there in 1803.  Thie business prospered and continued as an independent brewery until the 1930's.  The Carter home at Lime Grove in Knottingley still stands.

Hampshire  There was a larger cluster of Carters in the south in Hampshire.  John Carter became a successful merchant in Portsmouth in the early 1700's.  His son John Carter, later knighted, was nine times mayor of Portsmouth.  From this family has come Violet Bonham Carter, the matriarch of the old Liberal party, and Helena Bonham Carter, the present-day actress.     

Elsewhere  Despite these Carters from the south, the distribution of the Carter name in England suggests a northern bias.  Some 20 percent of the Carters in the 1891 census were to be found in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

AmericaThe Ransom of Mercy Carter tells the story of the Indian attack on the village of Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1704 and the forcible taking of the Carter family three hundred miles north to Quebec.  However, their father Samuel was absent on the day of the attack and he was able to establish a new Carter line in Norwalk (one that is recorded to Samuel Carter's 1980 book Descendants of Samuel Carter).   

Virginia  The first Carter arrival (or near-arrival) in America was in fact recorded in 1615 when a man named Carter was one of three men shipwrecked off Virginia.  The earliest actual arrivals were:
  • John Carter who came in 1626, from whom there was a long line of descendants in Virginia. 
  • two brothers from Hertfordshire, Thomas and John, who came in the 1630's.  John's son Robert, known as "King Carter," built the Shirley plantation on the James river and invested his farming profits in a merchant banking empire.  He became one of America's first millionaires.
  • another Carter family in Virginia traces from Joseph Carter in Spotsylvania in the early 1700's.
The Carter name spread from Virginia to Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

Carters in the South  Kindred Carter, a descendant of Thomas Carter, came to Georgia in the 1790's.  Jimmy Carter is the seventh generation Carter of this family to live in Georgia.  Landon Carter was a prominent early pioneer in Tennessee.  He established his Landon Carter plantation on the Watauga river.  The frame mansion that he built in 1775 in Elizabethton (a town named after his wife) still stands.  Charles Carter was one of the first settlers in Martin's Creek.  Other Carters settled in Bell and Knox counties, Kentucky.

Amon Carter, the long-time publisher of the Fort Worth Telegram Star in Texas, had Tennessee roots. During his heyday of the 1920's and 1930's, Carter personified the image of the Texas cowboy in the national mind; an uninhibited story-teller, gambler, and drinker.  The well-publicized hospitality of his Shady Oak Farm was open to any major celebrity or businessman who was passing through Fort Worth.

The Carter family cut their first country music record in a makeshift studio in Tennessee in 1927.  They continued recording until the 1950's and were an inspiration to a subsequent generation of country music singers.  Another country singer of this era was Will Carter, from Canada. 

A more remarkable singing story has been that of James Carter, an inmate at Mississippi's notorious Parchman prison who had recorded the chain-gang song Po Lazarus.  His rendition became an unlikely American chart-topper forty years later in 2002.  

Caribbean.   Edwin and Elizabeth Carter were early planters in Barbados, arriving there in the 1660's.  The Carters ran the fertile Valley plantation in St. George parish and were closely tied to the Lascelles slave trading family.

Hawaii.  Joseph Carter was a New Emgland sea captain who traded in the Pacific and made his home in Hawaii before his death in 1850.  He was the forebear of one of its most influential early families.  He himself was a descendant of the Thomas Carter who had been ordained as the first minister of Woburn, Massachusetts in 1640.

Western Australian author and historian Bevan Carter has spoken about his convict ancestry.  He numbers thirty in his family tree, including Robert Carter, a poacher sent to Australia after a gun battle with game keepers.

Charles Carter arrived in Tasmania in the late 1820's.  He later moved to Victoria and successfully fought off hostile Aboriginals, bushrangers, droughts, and bush fires as a pioneer Wimmera settler.  Later Carter arrivals in the 1850's included George and Jane Carter from Scotland and miner Joseph Carter who headed for the Victoria goldfields. 

The Carter brothers of Werribee in Victoria were the leading egg producers of Australia in the first half of the 20th century. 

New Zealand.  Charles Carter from Cumbria and John Carter from Cornwall were pioneer settlers in New Zealand:
  • Charles arrived in Wellington in 1850 and was one of its prominent early citizens.  He took a keen interest in astronomy and the Carter Observatory in Wellington was named after him. 
  • John Carter and his wife Elizabeth came to New Zealand in 1863 and farmed at Moutoa (near Wanganui).  Their fourth son Frank built up a large timber business which, after his death in 1949, became amalgamated as the Carter Holt Harvey Company.           
Select Carter Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Carter Names

Robert or "King" Carter
was one of America's first millionaires.
Violet Bonham Carter
, daughter of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, was the matriarch of the British Liberal Party in the 20th century.   Her granddaughter is the actress, Helena Bonham Carter.
Howard Carter was the English archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankamun in 1922.
The Carter Family were the first country music stars.
Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States.
Daniel Carter is the fly-half of the New Zealand rugby team.

Select Carters Today
  • 124,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 131,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 53,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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