Calnan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Calnan comes from the Irish Gaelic O Cathalain. The Gaelic versions of today's Irish names demonstrate a link to a proud, ancient past. The name is possibly derived from Cathalan, king of Farney slain in 1028, whose name means Little Charles, and from whom the family is thought to have descended. Cathalan was in turn descended from Coleman Mor, the king of Meath and (the 133rd Monarch of Ireland).

Early Origins of the Calnan family

The surname Calnan was first found in County Roscommon (Irish: Ros Comáin) located in central Ireland in the province of Connacht, where they held a family seat from very ancient times.

Caillin ( fl. 560), was an Irish saint, "son of Niata, descended from Rudraighe, whose grandson, Fergus Mac Roigh, flourished at the beginning of the Christian era. His mother was Deighe, granddaughter of Dubhthach, chief poet of King Laogaire in the time of St. Patrick. The authority for the history of St. Caillin is the ancient ‘Book of Fenagh,’ a series of poetical rhapsodies, written about 1400, a copy of which with a connecting narrative in prose was made in 1516. we may gather the following facts of St. Caillin's history from this curious repertory of ancient traditions: ‘The descendants of Medbh and Fergus, viz. the children of Conmac, Ciar, and Corc, grew and multiplied throughout Ireland. The children of Conmac especially were in Connaught.’ Those were the Conmaicne of Dunmor, kinsmen of Caillin's. Resolved to remedy the congestion of the population by killing each other, the Conmaicne would no doubt have carried out their plan but for the interference of St. Caillin. By the advice of an angel they sent messengers to him at Rome, whither he had gone for his education." [1]

Early History of the Calnan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Calnan research. Another 149 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1027 and 1280 are included under the topic Early Calnan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Calnan Spelling Variations

Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations of the surname Calnan are preserved in these old documents. The various spellings of the name that were found include Callan, Callanan, Caillan, Calan, Calanan, Callen, Callin, Callon, Callinan, Callinon and many more.

Early Notables of the Calnan family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Calnan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Canada Calnan migration to Canada +

A massive amount of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century for North America and Australia in hopes of finding more opportunities and an escape from discrimination and oppression. A great portion of these migrants arrived on the eastern shores of the North American continent. Although they were generally poor and destitute, and, therefore, again discriminated against, these Irish people were heartily welcomed for the hard labor involved in the construction of railroads, canals, roadways, and buildings. Many others were put to work in the newly established factories or agricultural projects that were so essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the world. The Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s initiated the largest wave of Iris immigration. Early North American immigration and passenger lists have revealed a number of people bearing the name Calnan or a variant listed above:

Calnan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Mary Calnan, aged 27, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the barque "Independence" from Kinsale, Ireland
  • Joanna Calnan, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1841
  • Jeremiah Calnan, who landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1843

Australia Calnan migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Calnan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Jeremiah Calnan, aged 38, a cooper, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Africaine" in 1836 [2]
  • Mary Ann Calnan, aged 32, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Africaine" in 1836 [2]
  • John Calnan, aged 12, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Africaine" in 1836 [2]
  • Charles Calnan, aged 8, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Africaine" in 1836 [2]
  • Michael Calnan, aged 7, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Africaine" in 1836 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Calnan (post 1700) +

  • George Charles Calnan (1900-1933), United States Navy officer and American three-time bronze medalist fencer at the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics, posthumously inducted in the US Fencing Hall of Fame in 1963
  • Michael Calnan, Irish former Labour Party politician from County Cork, Senator for Cork from 1993 to 1997
  • Wing Commander Thomas Daniel Calnan (b. 1915), English pilot and prisoner-of-war of World War II, author of his memoir Free As A Running Fox about his life at Stalag Luft III and his many escape attempts
  • Clement Noel Calnan (1888-1974), English cricketer who played from 1919 through 1929 for Essex


  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) AFRICAINE 1836. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1836Africaine.htm


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