genealogies of the families
(O) CARR. KERR (O) KERRANE, (Mac) CARRY (O) CARRY, MacILHAIR MULCAIR WILHAIR
Nine synonyms of Carr were reported to the Registrar General by local registration officers. First there is the obvious Kerr. This equation was noted in the Coleraine and Lisburn districts and its spelling variants Ker and Karr in Co. Down. Kerr is a very common name in northeast Ulster. Their distribution is illustrated by the following figures which give the birth registrations for 1890, with those for 1866 in brackets:
Kerr is among the forty most numerous surnames in Scotland and the majority of the Irish Kerrs of today are of Scottish origin. Isolated cases occur in Munster even as early as 1375: in that year Richard Kerr was a collector of taxes in Co.Tipperary.
The second synonym to be noticed is Kerrane (also Kirrane). The birth registrations for these combined were 15-13 in Co. Mayo and two in Co. Galway. The synonymous use of Carr did not occur in Mayo but in Counties Galway and Sligo. Mr. P.J. Kennedy, of Galway, tells me that Kerrane and Kirrane are quite common in north-cast Galway and around Loughglynn and Frenchpark, Co Roscommon. In the parish of Ballymacward he has in his own lifetime observed the gradual change from Kerrane to Carr. While this is clearly the origin of some of the Carrs of Connacht we must not overlook the fact that the name O'Carr was found in Connacht in the sixteenth century before the pressure of anglicisation, which converted Kerrane into Carr, was noticeable. The Fiants and the Composition Book of Connacht prove that they were then numerous and not unimportant in that province, chiefly in Co. Sligo but even down to the borders of Clare. O'Dugan in the Topographical Poem mentions the sept of O'Carthaigh of Clancahill, for which O'Donovan gives O'Carthy as the anglicised equivalent, adding that the name was then (1862) unknown there: I think it more likely that it had by that time become Carr, and this view is supported by the fact that in the Fiants for the counties in question the name is spelt O'Carhy as well as O'Carre.
In the Fiants we also find, in Co. Armagh, O'Care and O'Carr -which are indistinguishable in their anglicised form from the Connacht name dealt with above. This is sept of O'Cairre. The Annals of Loch Ce note under 1095 the death of Muirchertach Ua Cairre, "steward of Cenel Aengusa and royal heir of Oilech" (i.e. one of a number of eligibles for the kingship of Ulster). Donal O'Cairre was one of the Ulster chiefs killed at the battle of Downpatrick in 1260: and seventeenth century records such as the Hearth Money Rolls and Petty's "census," record the name O'Carr as numerous in Oriel. It is manifest, therefore. that while most Kerrs are British, a great many of the Ulster Carrs are, like those of Connacht, of Gaelic-Irish origin.
Having regard to the forms of these names in Irish it is inevitable that confusion has arisen between Carr and Carry, especially as the latter also belongs to Oriel, not only as 0 Cairre but as a Mac name too. Mac Carry occurs in the 1664 Hearth Money Rolls for Co. Armagh and the census of approximately the same date found McCarry (bracketed with MacCarey) one of the most numerous names in the barony of Moycashel, Co. Westmeath, and at the same time Carr was similarly recorded Dunleek, Co. Meath. Woulfe gives two Irish surnames for MacCarry viz. Mac an Charraigh and Mac Fhearadaigh, while modem synonyms of MacCarry recorded by Matheson are MacGarry, MacHary, Maharry, Magarry etc.
Reverting to synonyms of Carr we come now to Mac, Macllhair and Wilhair. all from Co. Donegal. The two former are Mac Giolla Chathaoir (from St. Cathaoir) anglicised Kilcar(r) in Co. Donegal. Wilhair, however, is different name, viz 0'Maoilchdire (from St. Ciar) called MacKerry, Mulcair or Mulhare in Munster and Wilhair in Co. Donegal. The Donegal surnarne Carr, however is generally given the Irish form Mac Giolla Cheara.
Finally as further examples of the complexity of this subject I may mention that among the gentlemen of the barony of Ballagheen on the grand panel of Co. Wexford in 1608 was Edmond MacCarr of Tomduff; and finally Woulfe states that de Cathair (i.e. of Cahir, a placename) anglicised Carr is found in many parts of Ireland.
They are not very prominent in the political or cultural history of the countrv. Rev. George Whitrnore Carr (1779-1849), pioneer in the cause of temperance, was a remarkable character who served in the Yeomenry in 1798 and later gave vigorous support to Father Mathew and Daniel O'Connell. In recent times Dr. Thomas Joseph Carr (1840-1917), Archbishop of Melbourne, formerly Bishop of Galway, and perhaps I may add Joseph Carr, an outstanding champion amateur golfer, are well known names.
Source: More Irish Families by Edward MacLysaght MA, D Litt, MRIA - Irish Academic Press 1996