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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: Irish-Alt, Irish

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.


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]

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.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cavanaugh research. Another 193 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1889, 1667 and 1739 are included under the topic Early Cavanaugh History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 87 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cavanaugh Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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
  • Peter Cavanaugh, aged 34, arrived in Maryland in 1812
  • John Cavanaugh, who arrived in New York, NY in 1815
  • Michel Cavanaugh, who arrived in Mississippi in 1856
  • Patrick Cavanaugh, aged 32, landed in Mobile, Ala in 1860

Cavanaugh Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Darby Cavanaugh, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1752


  • 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)
  • Ann L. Cavanaugh, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Pennsylvania, 1996, 2000
  • B. R. Cavanaugh, American politician, Village President of Bloomingdale, Illinois, 1925
  • Bartley W. Cavanaugh, American Republican politician, Candidate for Presidential Elector for California, 1940; Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from California, 1952; Presidential Elector for California, 1952
  • Daniel Cavanaugh, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Connecticut State House of Representatives from Hamden, 1940



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  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.

Other References

  1. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  2. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  3. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  4. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  5. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  6. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  7. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  8. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  9. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  10. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  11. ...

The Cavanaugh Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Cavanaugh 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 17 March 2016 at 13:52.

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