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McFatter Name Study

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Surnames/tags: mcfatter mcphatter mcfather
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About the Project

The McFatter/McPhatter surname, according to Dictionary of American Family Names, is a Scottish variant of McPheeters, from the Gaelic mac Gille Pheadair, a patronymic from the personal name meaning "servant of St. Peter".

In this page, I will default to the McFatter spelling when discussing the earlier McFatters, as members of this family can be found under variations such as McFater, McFadder, McFalter, McFather, etc. By the early 19th century, most had settled on spellings such as McFatter and McPhatter.

According to the Clan McLaren Society, McFatter is a sept of the Clan Labhran, and it is true that all the earliest McFatter records seem to place this family in Argyll, in the Highlands of Scotland. From the book Surnames of Scotland, in the NY Public Library: "Gillipetair mac Donnchadh is a witness in the Book of Deer. Thomas Moir McGillifedder is in record in 1607 (RPC) and Duncan M'Fater appears in Deochaig, parish of Kilblaan, 1694 (Argyll Inv.)"

The earliest McFatter immigrant to what would become the United States appears to be Daniel McFater, an indentured servant freed upon the death of his master in 1741 in New Hanover County, North Carolina. Indeed, almost all the early American McFatters lived in North Carolina during the period before and immediately after the US Revolutionary War, specifically in the counties of Robeson and Bladen. The branch that remained in North Carolina settled on the spelling McPhatter. It is difficult at present to determine exactly how these early McFatters/McPhatters were related to one another, as fathers and sons, brothers, uncles and nephews, or cousins. Hopefully DNA will shed some light on this subject.

How to Join

Contact the Project Leader Jessica to join!


This is a One Name Study to collect together in one place everything about one surname and the variants of that name. The hope is that other researchers like you will join our study to help make it a valuable reference point for people studying lines that cross or intersect.

Task List

To connect orphaned profiles, to flesh out profiles with well-sourced information, and provide a base for people doing research on the families of McFatter, McPhatter, or other variants.


SCOTLAND: For McFatters in Scotland, see Space:McFatters of Argyll, Scotland.

CARRIBEAN: A handful of McFatters are resident in the Carribean at least by the 19th century.

John McFatter was the father of twin girls baptized in 1799, St James, Jamaica. Source: Ancestry.com. Jamaica, Select Births and Baptisms, 1752-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

Ann McFatter married Christopher McIntyre on 14 Jul 1814, St. James, Cornwall, Jamaica. Source: Caribbean: Marriages, 1591-1905. Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2016. (Original index: Caribbean: Marriages, 1591-1905. FamilySearch, 2014.)

Catharine McFatter married Jacob Graham Hynd on 01 Jun 1817, St. James, Cornwall, Jamaica. Source: Caribbean: Marriages, 1591-1905. Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2016. (Original index: Caribbean: Marriages, 1591-1905. FamilySearch, 2014.)

Amelia McFatter is listed in the 1833 Jamaica Almanac, resident in St. James, Cornwall, Jamaica.

NORTH CAROLINA: The aforementioned Daniel McFater is so far the earliest known immigrant to North Carolina, and he was resident in New Hanover co. NC in 1741. There are three people surnamed McFatter in the 1790 census, and they are all living in NC. Simon may have died shortly after the American Revolutionary War, as he appears on no censuses and no pension application appears to exist for him.

SOUTH CAROLINA: By the 1820 census, there is a single McFatter household in Horry co., SC, headed by William McFatter. Another McFatter household appears in Chesterfield co. SC in 1820, but this appears to be Archibald who returned to Robeson co. NC and died there.

GEORGIA: McPhatters appear in this state in the 1850 census, headed by Alexander (died after 1860) who is found living in Richmond county and who appears to be the father of a number of McFatters, including Archibald, John, Malcolm, and William J. Another family group appears in 1850 Randolph co. GA, headed by Daniel, who's given name is also sometimes David. Indeed, census takers had a very difficult time with Daniel/David's name, as his surname is spelled as McFatter, McFarlin, McFathy??, McFadder, and McFather. He was married to Caroline, who was born in Georgia, as were all of their children. He was alive and living in Randolph county at least as late as 1880. His descendants mostly seemed to have settled on the spelling McFather.

LOUISIANA: Alexander moved to West Feliciana parish in Louisiana by 1819, and at least two of his children were born there. He then moved to Mississippi, where he died in 1843. His son John Washington McFatter returned to Louisiana where he and his wife died in the 1860s. Their children are found in the 1870 census living in St. Landry parish in a household together; most of the Louisiana McFatters are descended from John Washington McFatter.

TENNESSEE: Both Alexander and Niven lived for a time in Tennessee after the War of 1812. Niven was living in Giles co. TN in the 1820 census, but he and Alexander had moved to Mississippi by 1825. Isabella had also moved to Giles co. TN by 1820, but she and her children were going by the Maultsby surname at this time.

MISSISSIPPI: All the McFatters in Carroll, Montgomery, Webster, and Attala counties appear to be children and grandchildren of Niven McFatter. Several of his descendants moved to Texas as well. The Claiborne co. MS McFatters are descended from Alexander McFatter (died 1843). The MS branch all seem to spell their surname as McFatter.

ALABAMA: A large family of McPhatters and what appear to be various other relatives appear in Mobile in the 1860 census, headed by Alexander of Robeson county and (his presumed) son Archibald, a preacher. This Alexander, a full generation younger than the Alexander who settled in Claiborne co. MS, appears to be the same man as the one found living in the 1850 census in Richmond co., GA. This family appears to have moved on as no McFatters or McPhatters appear in the 1870 census in Alabama.

FLORIDA: The children of John McPhatter of Robeson co. NC seem to have migrated to Gadsden county, Florida between 1833-1850. The siblings were Archibald (married to Sarah), Christian (wife of Daniel Johnson), John, William, Margaret (widow of a man named Rider), Mary (wife of Duncan McPhaul), and Jane (wife of Henry Lamb).

TEXAS: William A. is almost certainly another son of Niven McFatter of the Carroll-Montgomery-Webster-Attala MS branch. He was married and living in Kosciusko, MS by 1846, and moved to Lamar co. TX by 1860. He died in 1899 and his widow Sinai lived with a grandson of Margaret Caroline, probably William's sister, until her own death. Sinai on the 1900 census states that she had 3 children, none living. Two sons of Andrew J. (himself probably another brother of William A. and Margaret Caroline) likewise moved to Texas: John Niven McFatter served as Justice of the Peace in Ranger, TX for 22 years, and Daniel Riley lived in Hemphill co. TX for many years before dying in Albuquerque, NM.

KANSAS: Onslow McFatter of North Carolina, a Civil War veteran, had moved to Wyandotte at least by 1868, when he married there. He died in 1925, but despite marrying twice, had no children.

"STRAYS". Stray McFatters and McPhatters are people who do not clearly fit into any known genealogy of this family. In some cases, they may be members of families with names confused for McFatter (such as McFaddens, etc.), or children born out of wedlock or informally adopted, or perhaps known McFatters who are purposefully changing their names for some unknown reason.

John Leslie was born in the late 1870s in MS, but does not appear to fit into either the known Claiborne co. MS branch nor the Carroll-Montgomery-Webster-Attala MS branch. He spent his adult life in Virginia and New York.

Austin appears in the 1860 census in Jackson co. FL, living with a family of Pittmans. His birth place is given there as Alabama, but otherwise in later records is Florida. He could be the younger son of Archibald and Sarah found in the Gadsden co. FL 1850 census, but that child is named Christopher. There is a remote possibility that he is a son of the preacher Archibald who was living in Mobile, AL in 1860. UPDATE: Austin has been found on the 1850 census in Henry co. AL, living with his mother Nancy "McFarler". This mystery is far from solved.

William McPhatter, born about 1820 in NC, was found living in the household of Green and Frances Arnold in 1850 Gadsden co. FL. Like all the other McPhatters living in that area, he would seem to be a relative of John McPhatter of Robeson co. NC. Curiously, ten years later in 1860, Green and Frances Arnold have another young McPhatter living with them, this one a 16-year-old named Arch. This Arch is also a stray, unless he is the elder son of Archibald and Sarah found in the Gadsden co. FL 1850 census (but that child is named John in 1850).

Artemus was born in NC but living out west by the 1870s. His wife Louisa divorced him in Utah and in 1875-6, he's living in Sacramento. Despite his unusual first name, so sign of him has been found in the censuses.


Two male-line descendants of Alexander McFatter (one a descendant via his son John Washington, the other via the other son William Alexander) have had their YDNA tested and both have YDNA haplogroup R1b (further refined to R1b1a1a2).

Related Surnames and Surname Variants

McFatter, McPhatter, McFather, McFater, MacFater, McFalter.

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