Carter Clan of County Mayo

Work in progress (September 2022)

Thanks to DNA testing, we finally found where in Ireland our Carter clan came from. A place we had not even considered – County Mayo. But more about that later. First, how our search began.

In the early/mid 1990s, as my sister and I were getting deeper into researching our family history, my sister asked Dad what his maternal grandmother was called. He thought for a while and said “Nana.” While that was sweet and nice to know, it really didn’t help with the search. He did tell us some stories and it was apparent he loved her very much.

Despite over 25 years of searching for any bit of information about her, we found very little. Especially compared to the massive amounts of information we have found about our other ancestors and their families. Maria’s maiden name of Carter was mentioned in the baptism and birth records of her children and on her death record.

In all these years of researching, we have found no relatives of hers in the US. None. Even the baptism and confirmation sponsors for their children, both in Brooklyn NY and Harrison NJ turned out to be Mahoney relatives, friends or neighbors as far as we can determine.

No link seemed to exist to trace back to her family in Ireland other than that provided by her son Peter Mahoney on her death record. He stated her parents were John and Mary Carter (maiden name unknown). Given that the information he provided on the death record for his brother Timothy was wrong, this could hardly be considered more than a clue. But we began searching for a Mary Carter born to John and Mary Carter in a roughly ten year time frame.

We also searched immigration and passenger records. Two passenger records show a Maria/Mary Carter coming from Ireland in 1888 and in 1889 to New York City. The New York passenger records for this time frame do not include the name of any relatives or friends as do later records. They give an age, a country of origin and an occupation. A Maria Carter was noted on the 1892 New York Police Census and a Brooklyn street directory around the same time) both within walking distance to where John Mahoney was living at 1424 Gates Avenue.

While they were probably married in Brooklyn they might also have been married in New Jersey where John Mahoney’s brothers and mother were living. We estimate they were married around 1892-1893. No marriage record has been found in all of our searches throughout New York and New Jersey. A search of the marriages between 1891 & 1893 at St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, NY made by the local researcher in early 2022 was unsuccessful in finding a marriage record for the couple. However, several baptism records were found for their children.

Their first son, also called John Mahoney, was born at 1424 Gates Avenue in August 1893 and was baptized at St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church on Linden Street in Brooklyn as were 3 of his siblings. The birth location for each of them was noted as 1424 Gates.

Several newspaper articles in The Brooklyn Eagle also put John Mahoney at that address prior to and during his marriage.

Back to square one

We tried relying on old hearsay. An Aunt and Uncle said, “I kind of remember hearing she came from outside of Dublin.” We searched every Maria/Mary Carter born in the Dublin area in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Nothing panned out.

We did know that she was an Irish speaker, as was her husband, and that they always spoke Irish at home. So that led us to believe she was from the West of Ireland and not from Dublin, although her last residence in Ireland could have been Dublin if she’d gone there to seek work.

On various census records, Maria Carter’s birth month is given as May. “Oh yes,” someone else in our family remembered, ” her nickname was Mae because she was born in that month.

So we searched for a Maria/Mary/Mae Carter born in the month of May in the same 5 – 10 year time frame in the West of Ireland. Eureka! Or so we thought. A Maria Carter was born to a John Carter and Mary Mullen in Galway on May 1, 1868! Unfortunately, we began to realize after further research of this family, that this Maria Carter had emigrated to the Boston area and had married. Her marriage record gave her parents names as John Carter and Maria Mullen of Galway. (If anyone copied this incorrect information on their family trees, we apologize and suggest you remove it.)

We do know the name James was an important one for Maria Carter. She named two sons James Mahoney. Unfortunately, both of these two sons died as young infants. We were told our father was christened James “after an uncle”. He didn’t have any living uncles named James that we know of, but maybe there was one back in Ireland?

DNA Testing

DNA testing at first wasn’t much help. Our DNA map pointed to Connaught and to Munster. We knew for sure that the Mahoneys were from Ballineen and Enniskeane in West Cork, Munster, so no surprise there, but Connaught? Our Dorans and Halls were from Belfast, where family had lived for at least a hundred years.

We did not seem to have any DNA matches with any close relatives, other than our cousins, on the Carter side. The Irish matches that we couldn’t attribute to the Mahoney (County Cork), Doran (Belfast), Hall (Belfast) didn’t form any particularly useful cluster for a long time.

Over time, our DNA map began to converge in County Mayo on the towns of Castlebar and Westport and surrounding area.

FINALLY, we began to see a distinct cluster and pattern emerging.

Carter Clan of County Mayo

One by one, we began to find matches whose family trees had a James Carter living in the Townland of Balloor West, Killawalla, Castlebar. While he was not a “John” Carter as our grandmother’s brother stated, his father was John Carter (and his mother Catherine Fitzpatrick), and he did have a wife named Mary. According to their marriage record, Mary Brady was from Curveigh North, Aughagower, which is in the Westport district while James Carter was from the Castlebar district. The couple married in June 1861. James Carter (1835-1889) and Mary Brady (1843-1867) had two (possibly 3) children born to her before her untimely death at age 24 in December 1867. One child was named John Carter (b. 1862) and the other Mary Carter (b. 1865). John’s baptism sponsors were Thomas Brady & Jane Carter. Mary’s baptism sponsors were Thomas & Bridget Brady.

After Mary’s death, James Carter married a second time, to Catherine Cannon (aka Cunnane) on 1 February 1868. Five children were born between 1870 and 1878. One anomaly stands out as in January 1868 James and Catherine baptized two girls nine days apart. The first, Mary Carter was baptized 6 January 1870 and the second child, Bridget Carter was baptized on 15 January 1870. Why? Are they twins? Or could this Mary Carter be the daughter of Mary neé Brady who was baptized in 1865? If not, what happened to the first Mary Carter? While it doesn’t prove anything, no additional records (marriage, death, or census records) have been found in County Mayo that seem likely to be either the Mary Carter baptized 1865 or Mary Carter baptized 1870. Our theory is that Catherine dearly loved Mary and wanted her to be re-baptized as her own daughter, while the other child, being a boy and already seven years old might not have been as close to her.

James Carter died in February 1889 at Balloor West. If the two passenger records are for the same person, Mary might have gone to New York in 1888 but came back to see her father and then returned to the US in September 1889. We may never know, but it seems plausible.

Back to the Carter Clan and our DNA matches on Ancestry.com!

I won’t use names but I will use initials to identify the different matches.

N.C. (matches me and my brother @ 14 cM, not a match to my sister.)
Has Michael Joseph Carter (1894-1953) of Westport, Co. Mayo. Son of John Carter (1866-?) & Bridget McGing, grandson of James Carter & Mary Brady.

M.C. (matches me @ 13 cM, my brother @ 14 cM, and my sister at 8 cM)
Linked to the same tree as above, not apparent who the common ancestor is, but perhaps through the Gibbons?

J. G. (matches me at 10 cM, my brother at 13 cM, not a match to my sister.)
John Carter & Catherine Fitzpatrick. Louisburg, County Mayo
Jane Carter & Michael Greevy. also Catherine Greevy & Michael Gibbons

The search for further confirmation goes on. Until we can find Mary Carter’s marriage record, and maybe her naturalization paperwork, we will continue to look through the DNA matches, family trees, church and civil records for additional proof.