Show ContentsCavanaugh History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Irish names tend to vary widely in their spelling and overall form. The original Gaelic form of the name Cavanaugh is Caomhanach, an adjective denoting association with St. Caomhan. The first Kavanagh, Donal, the son of Dermot MacMurrough, was fostered by a successor of this saint.

Early Origins of the Cavanaugh family

The surname Cavanaugh was first found in County Carlow (Irish: Cheatharlach) a small landlocked area located in the province of Leinster in the South East of Ireland, where they held a family seat from very ancient times. The Kavanaghs (Cavanaghs) were descended from the MacMorough stem and were Lords of Leinster. Donoch McMorough was the King of Leinster, son of Dermod and it was from Donoch from which the Cavanaghs sprang. They were descended directly from the Heremon Line of Irish Kings. Donell, son of Dermot MacMurrough acquired the name Caomhanach, or Cavanagh. His sister Eva married Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, the leader of the English invasion of Ireland. [1]

Early History of the Cavanaugh family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cavanaugh research. Another 96 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1889, 1554, 1538, 1540, 1541, 1543, 1667 and 1739 are included under the topic Early Cavanaugh History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cavanaugh Spelling Variations

Many spelling variations of the surname Cavanaugh can be found in the archives. One reason for these variations is that ancient scribes and church officials recorded names as they were pronounced, often resulting in a single person being recorded under several different spellings. The different spellings that were found include Cavanagh, Kavanagh, Kavanah, Cavanaugh, Keevan, Cavanaw, Kavanaw, Cavenaugh, Cavanough, Cavaneagh, Cavana, Cavena, Cavinaugh, Kavina, Kavena, Kavanaugh, Cavanach, Kavanach, Cabenagh, O'Cavanagh, O'Kavanagh, Keaveney, Geaveney, M'Cavanna and many more.

Early Notables of the Cavanaugh family (pre 1700)

Prominent amongst the family at this time was Cahir Mac Art Kavanagh, Lord of St. Molyns, Baron of Ballyann (d. 1554), the eldest son of Art Kavanagh of St. Molyns (Teach Molyns), and Chief of his Sept. He took part in the rebellion of the Leinster Geraldines, but submitted to Lord Leonard Grey in 1538. "He renewed his submission to Sir Anthony St. Leger in November 1540, and preferred a request to be allowed to hold his land in feudal tenure. He was anxious, he declared, to imitate his ancestor, Dermot Mac Murrough, king of Leinster, who had introduced the English...
Another 141 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cavanaugh Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cavanaugh Ranking

In the United States, the name Cavanaugh is the 2,461st most popular surname with an estimated 12,435 people with that name. [2]

United States Cavanaugh migration to the United States +

In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Cavanaugh family came to North America quite early:

Cavanaugh Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Michael Cavanaugh, who landed in New York, NY in 1811 [3]
  • Peter Cavanaugh, aged 34, who arrived in Maryland in 1812 [3]
  • John Cavanaugh, who arrived in New York, NY in 1815 [3]
  • Michel Cavanaugh, who arrived in Mississippi in 1856 [3]
  • Patrick Cavanaugh, aged 32, who landed in Mobile, Ala in 1860 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Cavanaugh migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cavanaugh Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Darby Cavanaugh, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1752

Australia Cavanaugh migration to Australia +

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

Cavanaugh Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William Cavanaugh, British Convict who was convicted in London, England for life for stealing, transported aboard the "Countess of Harcourt" on 8th April 1821, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [4]

New Zealand Cavanaugh migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Cavanaugh Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • M. Cavanaugh, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Storm Cloud" arriving in Bluff, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 8th December 1862 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Cavanaugh (post 1700) +

  • Frank W. "The Iron Major" Cavanaugh (1876-1933), American football player and coach, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954
  • James Michael Cavanaugh (1823-1879), American politician, U.S. Representative from Minnesota (1858-1859)
  • Christine Cavanaugh (b. 1963), former American voice actress
  • David "Dave" Cavanaugh (1919-1981), American composer, arranger, musician and producer, best known for his work on Nat King Cole's 1958 album Welcome to the Club
  • John William Cavanaugh (1921-1985), American sculptor
  • John J. Cavanaugh (1899-1979), American priest and academic, 14th President of the University of Notre Dame (1946-1952)
  • Dean Cavanaugh (b. 1966), award-winning American artist, screenwriter, film and TV producer and music producer
  • Carey Cavanaugh (b. 1955), former U.S. Ambassador
  • Matthew Andrew Cavanaugh (b. 1956), former American NFL football quarterback
  • John Joseph Cavanaugh III (b. 1945), Nebraska Democratic politician
  • ... (Another 40 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th March 2021). Retrieved from
  5. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from on Facebook