Select Carroll Surname Genealogy

Carroll is an Irish sept name, derived from the Gaelic personal name Cearbhall.  The name comes from the Gaelic word cearbh meaning “slaughter” and possibly described a fierce and warlike warrior.  The O’Carrolls of the Ely O’Carroll clan claimed descent from Olioll Ollum, a third century king of Munster, and Sadhbh, the daughter of Conn Cétchathach (Conn of the Hundred Battles).

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Select Carroll Ancestry

Ireland.  The Carroll clan is best known for its ties to the region known as Ely O’Carroll country, an area comprising mostly of county Offaly and North Tipperary.  Locations such as the Slieve Bloom mountains and towns such as Birr in Offaly and Roscrea in Tipperary have had close links to the Ely O’Carrolls. There were many castles associated with them, the most famous or possibly the most notorious being Leap Castle.

The Ely O’Carroll clan
, also known as the Ely and Clan Cian, may have begun with
Cearbhaill, the King of Ely, who fought with Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.   Donald O’Carroll was King of Ely at the coming of the English under Strongbow and was the forebear of the main lines of the family.

There was much internecine bloodshed within the O’Carroll clan during the first half of the 16th century.  With the arrival of the English, the O’Carrolls were out of favor and then in favor.  Roger O'Carroll was ousted from his estates by Cromwell.  But Charles O’Carroll later found support from Charles II and James II.  They were not able to restore him to his paternal estates.  James II did grant him tracts of land in Maryland and he emigrated there to prosper in 1688.  Two years later his brother Thomas died in Ireland fighting for King James at the Battle of the Boyne.

There have been Carroll lines elsewhere.  Donough O’Carroll, the Prince of Oriel, left his mark with the refurbishment of St Mary's Abbey in county Louth in 1148.  The O’Carroll name later became common in the Dundalk region.  P.J. Carroll started a tobacco shop in Dundalk in 1824 which was the forerunner of Carroll’s, Ireland’s oldest tobacco manufacturer.  His line has been traced back to James Carroll who was born in nearby Drumgoolin in 1699. 

Today the Carroll name is fairly well spread across Ireland.

America.  Charles Carroll, the forebear of the Carrolls in Maryland, arrived in Maryland in 1688 in what was then a Catholic colony.  Although his royal patron James II soon lost his throne and Catholicism came to be repressed in Maryland, the Carrolls endured and prospered as one of the first families of the New Republic.  The main Carroll lines in Maryland descended from Charles the settler and his brother Kean.  Their family story was told in Ronald Hoffman's 2002 book Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga.

There were other Carroll families in America.  One Carroll line began with Burton Carroll, born in South Carolina in 1808, who ended up in Suwannee county, Florida after the Civil War.  Other Carrolls, some of whom claimed a relation to the Maryland Carrolls, headed for Texas:
  • Benjamin Carroll brought his family from South Carolina first to Mississippi and then to Texas in 1848.  They settled there in Navarro county.
  • Benajah Carroll, a Baptist minister, came to Burleson county from Arkansas in 1858.  His son James became one of the leaders of the Baptist community in Texas.
  • Colonel Ferdinand Carroll arrived from Virginia after the Civil War to Hopkins county where he helped found the town of Carroll Os Prairie (which later became Como).  Son Tom Benton Carroll and his wife Emily lived at Carroll Os Hill until they died in the 1920's.
  • while George Carroll came with his father Frank to Beaumont, Texas from Louisiana in 1868.  His father started a lumber mill there.  He himself lucked out as an investor in the Spindletop oil gusher of 1903.  He subsequently ran on the prohibition ticket for Governor of Texas and as Vice President of the United States, but in both cases was unsuccessful.
Canada.  Joseph Carroll was a saddler from county Down in Ulster who fought on the British side in the American Revolutionary War and then was shipwrecked off the coast of New Brunswick.  He later settled in York (Toronto) where his wife Mollie ran a boarding house.  Their son John grew up to be a Methodist minister who became better known for his literary writings.

James O'Carroll meanwhile had apparently been banished from his hometown of Armagh and settled in Newfoundland sometime in the 1780's.  His son Patrick, born in Newfoundland, died in his old age on his way to the Mormon colony in Salt Lake valley.  

Select Carroll Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Carroll Names

Donald O’Carroll was King of Ely at the coming of the English under Strongbow and the forebear of the Ely O’Carroll clan.
Charles Carroll
was the first of the Carrolls to come to America.  He settled in Maryland, the forebear of a prominent Catholic family there.
Father John Carroll
was the first Catholic Archbishop in America and a founder of Georgetown University.

P.J. Carroll
founded Carroll’s, Ireland’s oldest tobacco manufacturer.
Lewis Carroll
of Alice in Wonderland fame was the pen name of the Victorian writer Charles Dodgson.

Select Carrolls Today
  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 44,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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