Surname Saturday – Carter Clan
Carter Coat of Arms – Source:

The surname Carter is an occupational one meaning carter of goods, or one who builds carts. It is thought to be from the Celtic work “cairt” and it is a very common surname. According to Wikipedia it is the 44th most common surname in the United States. My Irish Carter roots are from my father’s grandmother, Mary Carter, born in Ireland sometime between 1868 and 1872. Mary Carter married John Mahoney in Brooklyn, New York about 1892. Little is known of Mary Carter Mahoney’s parents, except that their names were John and Mary Carter, and that they were also born in Ireland.

My father was very close to his grandmother, and she lived nearby to the Doran family in Harrison, New Jersey, when he was a child. He called her “Nana” and he said she was a washer woman, mainly for some of the Irish members of the Harrison Police Department. He also said she knew how to speak Gaelic or Irish fluently, and that she had the gift of second sight, and was known to predict the future. My father and some of his siblings thought this side of the family was from Dublin and also County Cork. His mother was Mary Margaret Mahoney Doran (1895-1961) and she was born in Brooklyn, NY. She is the only one of my grandparents that was born in the United States.

The first step my sister and I did, was to get Mary Carter Mahoney’s death record. My sister had found her date of death from LDS microfilm records for Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, in East Orange, NJ. In 2004, my sister, Veronica, and I visited the cemetery, but although there wasn’t a headstone, we remembered having visited the same spot with our family. The informant on the death record was Mary’s son, Peter Mahoney. This gave her birth-date as April 1872 in Ireland, and the information that her parents were John and Mary Carter [Source: LDS records for Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. Mahoney, Mary; Feb. 18, 1933. Grave 2, Lot No. 405, Section W; Died Feb. 15, 1933, Cause of Death Lobar Pneumonia, Funeral from Harrison, NJ, Place of Birth (blank), Age 60, Certificate by Rev. G.L. Fitzpatrick, Undertaker T.F. Casey].

Death Record for Mary Mahoney 15 February 1933. source: Source: NJ State Department of Health - Bureau of Vital Statistics
Death Record for Mary Mahoney 15 February 1933. Source: NJ State Department of Health – Bureau of Vital Statistics.

On the majority of the Federal Census records that Mary Carter Mahoney was enumerated on, she put her immigration year from Ireland at 1889. Her birth was listed as May 1868 in 1900. My sister and I researched the 1905 and 1915 New Jersey Census records at the New Jersey Archives in Trenton, NJ. The 1905 census listed the family living at 59 Hamilton Street, in Harrison, Hudson County. Her husband, John Mahoney, was 45 years old, born June 1860 in Ireland, in the country 21 years. Mary was 35 years old, born May 1870 in Ireland, and in the country 16 years. Also listed were their children: John, age 11, born August 1893 in NY; Mary, age 10, born September 1894 in NY; Timothy, age 8, born October 1896 in NY, and Peter, age 1, born March 1904 in NJ.

The 1915 New Jersey Census had the family living at 41 Cleveland Ave., Harrison, Hudson County. John Mahoney was 54, born June 1860 in Ireland, and in the country 35 years. Mary was 48 years old, born May 1868 in Ireland, and in the country 27 years. Their children were listed as: John, age 21, born August 1893 in NY; Mary, age 20, born April 1895 in NY; Timothy, age 17, born December 1897 in NY; and Peter, age 12, born March 1904 in NJ. These two NJ Census records gave us much needed information, especially since John Mahoney, Mary’s husband, died in January of 1916.

The 1920 Federal Census lists Mary Mahoney living at 58 Harrison Ave., Harrison, Hudson County, NJ. She was 49 years old, immigrated 1890, born in Ireland, speaks English, with Irish as her native tongue, occupation washer woman. Her sons, John, Timothy, and Peter were all living at home, along with a boarder, Francis Riely. The men worked at a charcoal company as laborers [Source:].

Since our family doesn’t have any photographs of John and Mary Carter Mahoney, the closest family resemblances are from my grandmother, Mary, and her children. The three children in this photo below take after their mother, more than their father, Bernard Doran.

Doran family, taken on Hamilton Street, Harrison, NJ
Bernard and Mary Mahoney Doran – with children – Margaret, Elizabeth and Joseph, taken on Hamilton Street, Harrison, NJ, early 1940s.

Looking at immigration records for Mary Carter, I have only one result that looks promising. I found the record below at the Castle Garden site in 2005. Ellis Island didn’t open until 1892, and by then Mary Carter was living in Brooklyn, New York. Unlike most of the Ellis Island records, the Castle Garden site didn’t record much information.

Record for Mary Carter. Source:
Record for Mary Carter. Source:

Searching for birth and baptism records for Mary Carter, born in Ireland between 1868 and 1872 one set looks promising for  a Mary or Maria Carter born in Galway. The parish is listed as Rahoon, and that is a suburb on the west side of Galway City.

Source: Record accessed November 9, 2011.
Source: Record accessed November 9, 2011.
Record accessed November 9, 2011 at
Record accessed November 9, 2011 at

The baptismal record, with one of the sponsors being a Margaret Carter, may also prove helpful in the future. Searching the family of John and Mary Mullen Carter, it seems they may have re-located to the city of Dublin, in Ireland, because there is a similar family listed there in the 1901 Irish Census, without Mary, who would have been living in the United States. I’m looking forward to the National Library in Ireland to release baptismal and marriage records of Roman Catholic Ireland parishes this summer, to look deeper into my Carter and Mahoney roots.

Surname Saturday is a blogging prompt suggested by GeneaBloggers. Happy Saturday!

Copyright 2015 by Maryann Barnes and Genealogy Sisters.

5 thoughts on “Surname Saturday – Carter Clan

  1. Hi, I have been trying to research my family ancestry,and have been shocked that they came from Ireland. The surname is Carter.I did not realise that Carter could be be an irishour name. I don’t know how to start looking for them, and I wondered if you could give me any ideas?
    Kind regards, David Carter.


    1. Hi David, As I’m sure you know, the Carter surname is a very common one. Since your last name is Carter I would suggest you look into the Y-DNA male only testing done at Family Tree DNA out of Houston, Texas.
      I just checked the link for the Group Project for Carter and there are 689 participants. If you test and you match with a group it helps pinpoint where your Carter Clan lived.
      There are a few companies that also test autosomal DNA, and that you receive from both parents. I have tested at Family Tree DNA and also and I match a few Carters. All of these tests seem to go on sale in December. When doing your research start with your Carter grandfather. Did he come from Ireland, or has your family been in the USA or another country than Ireland for quite a few generations?
      Here are the two links for DNA testing, and I do feel it is a very important tool in family research. The tests are still expensive, so that may not be an option for you. I will say my husband tested under the Barnes Group Project and that really helped since that too is such a common surname.
      Thanks for contacting us! Below is the link for Family Tree DNA.
      Best regards, Maryann Barnes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s