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

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

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

The ancient Scottish name McGavin is carried by the descendents of the Pictish people. It was a name for a metalworker. The Gaelic form of the name is Mac Ghobhainn, which means son of the smith.

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Translation has done much to alter the appearance of many Scottish names. It was a haphazard process that lacked a basic system of rules. Spelling variations were a common result of this process. McGavin has appeared MacGowan, McGowan, MacGowin, McGowin, MacGowen, McGowen, Gow, Gowan, Gowen, Gowin, MacGavin, McGavin and many more.

First found in Inverness-shire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Nis) divided between the present day Scottish Council Areas of Highland and Western Isles, and consisting of a large northern mainland area and various island areas off the west coast, the shire was anciently both a Pictish and Norwegian stronghold, where the name is from the Gaelic 'Govha' meaning 'a blacksmith' and as such could have been a name that applied to people throughout Scotland. However, as in the case of clans like the Fletchers or Clarks, eventually the name became attributed to a specific area or region. As such, The Clan was also located in Nithsfield in the 12th century, and recorded as a Border Clan. To the west in Elgin and Galloway they were known as the MacGavins.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McGavin research. Another 315 words(22 lines of text) covering the years 1396, 1613, 1698 and 1725 are included under the topic Early McGavin History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 53 words(4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McGavin Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the McGavin family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 187 words(13 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Many Scots left their country to travel to the North American colonies in search of the freedom they could not find at home. Of those who survived the difficult voyage, many found the freedom they so desired. There they could choose their own beliefs and allegiances. Some became United Empire Loyalists and others fought in the American War of Independence. The Clan societies and highland games that have sprung up in the last century have allowed many of these disparate Scots to recover their collective national identity. A search of immigration and passenger ship lists revealed many early settlers bearing the McGavin name: Thomas Gowen who settled in Virginia in 1635; James Gowen settled in Annapolis in 1729; Duncan Gowan settled in Barbados in 1745; John and Walter Gow arrived in New York in 1820.

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  • Darren McGavin (1922-2006), American Emmy Award winning actor
  • Steven James "Steve" McGavin (b. 1969), English former professional footballer
  • Major General Sir Donald Johnstone McGavin (1876-1960), English-born, New Zealand surgeon, army health administrator and medical administrator
  • George C. McGavin FLS FRGS, Scottish entomologist, author, academic, television presenter and explorer
  • Janis McGavin, Australian actress and comedy performer
  • Dr. Hugh James McGavin (1874-1958), Canadian politician in Manitoba, Canada


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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: Juncta arma decori
Motto Translation: Arms united to merit.

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  2. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  3. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
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  5. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. The Charters of David I The Written Acts of David I King of Scots, 1124-53 and of His Son Henry, Earl of Northumerland, 1139-52. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999. Print.
  6. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  7. Bain, Robert. The Clans and Tartans of Scotland. Glasgow & London: Collins, 1968. Print. (ISBN 000411117-6).
  8. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  9. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The McGavin Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McGavin 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 7 March 2013 at 14:02.

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