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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the Irish Kirwan family come from? What is the Irish Kirwan family crest and coat of arms? When did the Kirwan family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Kirwan family history?

Many variations of the name Kirwan have evolved since the time of its initial creation. In Gaelic it appeared as O Ciardhubhain, which is derived from the words "ciar" and "dubh," both of which mean "black."

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Those scribes in Ireland during the Middle Ages recorded names as they sounded. Consequently, in this era many people were recorded under different spellings each time their name was written down. Research on the Kirwan family name revealed numerous spelling variations, including Kirwan, O'Kirwan, Kerovan, Kyrvan, O'Quirivan, Kirwin, Kerwin, Kerwan and many more.

First found in County Galway (Irish: Gaillimh) part of the province of Connacht, located on the west coast of the Island, where they held a family seat from ancient times.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kirwan research. Another 185 words(13 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1530, 1531, 1534, 1535, 1550, 1551, 1589, 1661, 1650, 1721, 1686 and 1688 are included under the topic Early Kirwan History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 101 words(7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kirwan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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During the 19th century thousands of impoverished Irish families made the long journey to British North America and the United States. These people were leaving a land that had become beset with poverty, lack of opportunity, and hunger. In North America, they hoped to find land, work, and political and religious freedoms. Although the majority of the immigrants that survived the long sea passage did make these discoveries, it was not without much perseverance and hard work: by the mid-19th century land suitable for agriculture was short supply, especially in British North America, in the east; the work available was generally low paying and physically taxing construction or factory work; and the English stereotypes concerning the Irish, although less frequent and vehement, were, nevertheless, present in the land of freedom, liberty, and equality for all men. The largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. Research into passenger and immigration lists has brought forth evidence of the early members of the Kirwan family in North America:

Kirwan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • William Denbow Kirwan, who arrived in New York in 1812
  • Elizabeth, Maria, Michael, and Thomas Kirwan, all arrived in Philadelphia between 1820 and 1844
  • Mary Kirwan, aged 50, arrived in New York in 1849
  • Michael Kirwan, who landed in Mobile, Ala in 1855
  • David Kirwan, aged 29, arrived in Mobile, Ala in 1872

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  • Michael Joseph Kirwan (1886-1970), American politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio (1937-1970)
  • William English "Brit" Kirwan (b. 1938), American academic, the 3rd Chancellor of the University System of Maryland
  • Richard Kirwan FRS MRIA (1733-1812), Irish scientist, one of the last supporters of the theory of phlogiston
  • Dervla Kirwan (b. 1971), Irish actress, known for her roles in Ballykissangel and Goodnight Sweetheart
  • Sir John James Kirwan KNZM MBE (b. 1964), New Zealand rugby player and coach
  • Sir Archibald Kirwan (1907-1999), British Archaeologist and geographer
  • Sir John Waters Kirwan KCMG (1869-1949), Australian politician, President of the Western Australian Legislative Council
  • Frances Clare Kirwan FRS (b. 1959), British mathematician, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford
  • Eugene Kirwan (b. 1993), Antiguan international footballer
  • Patrick Kirwan (1899-1984), British screenwriter


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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Mon Dieu, mon Roi, et ma patrie
Motto Translation: Mon Dieu, mon Roi, et ma patrie.

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  1. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  2. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  3. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  4. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  5. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  6. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  7. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  8. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  9. Vicars, Sir Arthur. Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536-1810. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The Kirwan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kirwan Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 12 October 2014 at 13:48.

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