Explore the Family Name Carter

The meaning of Carter

1. English: occupational name for a transporter of goods, from Middle English carter(e) ‘carter’ (Anglo-Norman French car(e)tier, Old French charetier, medieval Latin carettarius, carettator). The Old French word coalesced with the earlier Middle English word cart(e) ‘cart’, which is from either Old Norse kartr or Old English cræt, both of which, like the Late Latin word, were probably derived from Celtic. This surname is also very common among African Americans. 2. Irish: shortened form of McCarter. 3. Americanized form of German Karter ‘carder’. 4. Americanized form (translation into English) of French Cartier. History: A John Carter immigrated from England to Jamestown, VA, in 1625. One of his descendants was Robert Carter III (1728–1804) from VA, one of the wealthiest American planters and slaveholders of his time, who believed that human slavery is immoral and thus after 1791 gradually freed more than 450 of his own slaves, his deed of manumission being the largest private emancipation of slaves before the American Civil War. — Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.), the 39th president of the US from 1977 to 1981, descended from Thomas Carter from England, who settled in VA in 1635.

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd edition, © Oxford University Press, 2022.

How common is the last name Carter in the United States?

Based on the data from the Decennial U.S. Census, the popularity of the surname Carter experienced a slight dip in ranking from 2000 to 2010, moving from 46th to 49th most popular. However, the total count of individuals with this last name increased by nearly 4 percent during this same period, rising from 362,548 to 376,966. The proportion of people named Carter per 100,000 decreased by just under 5 percent.

Proportion per 100k134.4127.79-4.92%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Carter

In terms of ethnicity, the Decennial U.S. Census indicates a diverse array of ethnic identities associated with the Carter surname. In 2010, the majority identified as White (58.20 percent), followed by Black (35.59 percent). The counts for Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander ethnicities showed notable percentage increases between 2000 and 2010, with rises of 53.95 percent and 15.38 percent respectively. Those identifying as American Indian and Alaskan Native also saw a slight increase, while there was a substantial rise of 40.96 percent in those identifying with two or more races.

Two or More Races1.88%2.65%40.96%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.71%0.78%9.86%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.39%0.45%15.38%

Carter ancestry composition

23andMe computes an ancestry breakdown for each customer. People may have ancestry from just one population or they may have ancestry from several populations. The most commonly-observed ancestry found in people with the surname Carter is British & Irish, which comprises 53.3% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (20.3%) and Nigerian (5.2%). Additional ancestries include Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean, Scandinavian, Eastern European, Spanish & Portuguese, and Italian.

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British & Irish53.3%
French & German20.3%

Possible origins of the surname Carter

Your DNA provides clues about where your recent ancestors may have lived. Having many distant relatives in the same location suggests that you may all share common ancestry there. Locations with many distant relatives can also be places where people have migrated recently, such as large cities. If a large number of individuals who share your surname have distant relatives in a specific area, it could indicate a connection between your surname and that location, stemming from either recent ancestral ties or migration.

Based on 23andMe data, people with last name Carter have recent ancestry locations all within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom80.90%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom80.70%
Merseyside, United Kingdom80.50%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom80.50%
West Midlands, United Kingdom80.30%

What Carter haplogroups can tell you

Haplogroups are genetic population groups that share a common ancestor on either your paternal or maternal line. These paternal and maternal haplogroups shed light on your genetic ancestry and help tell the story of your family.

The top paternal haplogroup of people with the surname Carter is R-P311, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-P311 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-CTS241 and I-P109, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Harris, Taylor, Brown, Smith, Wilson, Hill, Johnson, Young, White, Green.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Carter surname are: H1, T2b, H. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European ancestry.

carterPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343

Your maternal lineage may be linked to Marie Antoinette

Because it is so dominant in the general European population, haplogroup H also appears quite frequently in the continent's royal houses. Marie Antoinette, an Austrian Hapsburg who married into the French royal family, inherited the haplogroup from her maternal ancestors. So did Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose recorded genealogy traces his female line to Bavaria. Scientists also discovered that famed 16th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus traced his maternal lineages to haplogroup H.

Maternal Haplo Image

What do people with the surname Carter have in common?

Spoiler alert: it's complicated. People with the same last name are usually no more genetically similar than a randomly sampled group of people from the same population. That said, people with the same surname are more likely to have similar ancestries than randomly sampled individuals. The reason is the tendency of people with similar cultural or geographical backgrounds to preferentially mate with one another. That's why people who share a surname may be more likely to share traits and tendencies in common than people within the general population. Check out the percentages below to see the prevalences of tastes, habits, and traits of people with your surname compared with prevalences among 23andMe users.



Chocolate Ice Cream

Prefers chocolate flavored ice cream over other flavors.

"Carter" Surname 42.6%

23andMe Users 41.3%




When sounds made by others, like the sound of chewing or yawning, provoke strong emotional reactions in an individual.

"Carter" Surname 29.7%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Carter" Surname 24.8%

23andMe Users 21.1%




A severe headache characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

"Carter" Surname 17.8%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Carter?

The short answer is that, if there is an association between surname and health, it's usually more about your ancestry than your name. Individuals with a given surname are no more genetically similar than the general population but often have similar ancestries. The populations of people associated with those shared ancestries often have sets of genetic variations, also known as alleles, in common. Some of those alleles are associated with a greater likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Disease variant frequency by ancestry

Disease allele frequencies in populations associated with the surname Carter are shown below. Important Note: not everyone with a disease allele will develop these health condition

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Y402H variant

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. The 23andMe Health + Ancestry DNA test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition: the Y402H variant in the CFH gene and the A69S variant in the ARMS2 gene. Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration

British & Irish 62.1%

23andMe Users 57.2%