Carter Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Carter Meaning
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

Carter Resources on

Carter Ancestry

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.

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

AmericaThe Ransom of Mercy
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
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
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
    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
  • 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
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,
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.

Carter family
cut their first country music record in a
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
Elizabeth Carter were early planters in Barbados, arriving there in the
1660’s.  The Carters ran the fertile Valley plantation in St.
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
  • 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

Early Carters.  Francis L. Berkeley of the University of Virginia gave this account of Carters
in his introduction to Currer-Briggs book, The Carters of Virginia: Their English

originally by trade as well as by name, were craftsmen,
artisans, and yeomen farmers during the medieval centuries, becoming
landowners in early Tudor times.  Always fecund, they sent many of
their younger children to nearby London, where in the Elizabethan and
early Stuart reigns. they became commercial venturers.  Some of
were mariners and an extraordinary number of them were vintners and
freemen of the great Vintner’s company.

The Carters in Portsmouth.  The Carters cannot avoid a charge of nepotism.  Their domination of Portsmouth in the late 18th century, through family influence and with their associates, was almost complete.  The tenacity with which they held their power perhaps prevented the establishment of more socially and religiously repressive authority.

Violet Bonham Carter has pointed out the following in their defense:

“They had to make themselves and the law look foolish if they were not
to submit to endless frustration and, at times, real persecution.
men of strong character and a long tradition of independence behind
them, they were not the kind to stand for that.  Indeed, had they
acted as they did, it is unlikely that the battle for toleration and
reform would haver been won so roundly and convincingly as it was.”

The Fate of the Carters at Deerfield.  In 1704, an Indian tribe attacked the village of Deerfield in northern
Massachusetts and force-marched the captured inhabitants in winter
three hundred
miles north to an Indian village in Quebec.  The novel The Ransom of Mercy Carter provides
an account of this harrowing journey.

The family of Samuel Carter lived at Deerfield and the following was
the fate of the Carters taken:

Name Age
Hannah Carter  30 Killed en route
Samuel Carter  12 Died in Canada in 1714
Mercy Carter  10 Remained in Canada and married
an Indian
John Carter   9 Remained in Canada, as John
Ebenezer Carter   7 Ransomed in 1707 for £24
Thomas Carter   5 Killed in the village
Marah Carter   3 Killed en route
Hannah Carter  7 mos. Killed en route (died of

The Carters who survived ended up in the protection of Jesuits at their
mission on the Prairies river.

Samuel Carter had been away from Deerfield on the day of the
attack.  He returned a day later to find his village burnt and his
family gone.  A year later, he moved to Norwalk in Connecticut and
married again.

Edmund Carter and Racial Prejudice.  Edmund Carter was born on the Landon Carter Plantation on the
Watauga river in 1790.  He was the son of
a Negro slave and an unknown white man.  He
took his name from Landon Carter who is suspected to be his father.  Edmund’s grandmother had been a native of
Africa and came to America as a victim of the slave trade.
She was called “Togo” and when she
arrived in Virginia she was presumably placed on the auction block
sold to John Carter, Landon Carter’s father.

At birth
Edmund Carter was a
free person of color as it was the law of the land that children born
of Negro
slaves and white fathers were deemed free persons.  Not
much is known of his childhood years and
the date of his marriage to Susanna has not been established.  Their son Alexander was born in Tennessee in
1816. Edmund and family migrated to Arkansas
territory and thence to Texas.

Carters were one of only 397 free Negroes in Texas.
Here they carried on various businesses of dry goods
stores, freight and grocery, supply wagons and
livestock, and
eventually started their Carter ranch.
However, in 1857, both Edmund and his son Alexander were
murdered by a
white man named Draper for reasons of prejudice, wealth and
Alexander died instantly, Edmund lingered for about 28 days.

Amon Carter and Dallas.  Carter’s
disdain for Dallas, Fort Worth’s larger and richer neighbor, was
legendary in Texas.  One of the best-known stories about Carter is
he would take a sack lunch whenever he travelled to Dallas so that he
wouldn’t have to spend money there.

Another story relates to a ceremony at the county line to bury the
hatchet between the two cities.  Carter and other leaders from
Worth and Dallas were each presented with hatchets and with shovels to
bury them.   As the ceremony was wrapping up, a young
reporter said to
Carter that the handle of his hatchet was still sticking out of the
ground.  Carter replied that he was well aware and that he might
his hatchet later.

The Carter Family: Will The Circle Be Unbroken.  In August 1927 three musicians arrived at a makeshift recording
studio in Bristol, Tennessee, to audition for a talent scout from the
Victor Talking Machine Company.  The songs A.P. Carter, his wife
Sara and her cousin Maybelle recorded that day drew upon the rich
musical traditions of their native rural Appalachia.  The Carter
Family sang of love and loss, desperation and joy, and their music
captured the attention of a nation entering the darkest days of the
depression.  In the coming years, with the release of songs such
as Keep on the Sunnyside, Will the Circle Be Unbroken
and Wildwood Flower, Carter Family record sales exploded.

The film The Carter Family: Will
The Circle Be Unbroken
draws upon rarely seen photographs,
memorabilia and archival footage to tell the bittersweet story of these
influential musical pioneers whose songs and style laid the foundations
for American folk, country and bluegrass music.

The Carter Brothers of Werribee.  The Carter brothers of Werribee in Victoria (near Melbourne)
numbered four, James, Walter, Roland, and John.  In 1911, they had
bought their first egg incubator, a Petaluma
of 100 egg capacity.  In 1919 they installed an Austral Mammoth incubator of 6,000
egg capacity and in 1924 a Buckeye
I-lot water incubator of 10,300 egg capacity.

By the 1930’s, the four brothers were the largest egg farmers in
Australia and, for many years, they had the largest egg-producing
farm in the world.  They specialized in egg production for the
table, for both the Australian market and for export to the United
Kingdom. They had an all-white Leghorn flock and hatched their own
replacement chickens each spring.

With a laying flock of 250,000 birds, the saving for the Carters
financially in
being able to separate the pullets and cockerels at a day old was
considerable.  Before they employed a Japanese chick sexer (Mr.
Kataoka) in 1935, all of their cockerels had to be reared until they
were about six to eight weeks old and then sold at Melbourne
poultry auctions – for well below the cost of the feed that they



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 was the recent fly-half for the New Zealand rugby team.

Select Carter Numbers 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)


Select Carter and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

ClintonJacksonNixonVan Buren


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