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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Origins Available: Irish-Alt, Irish

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

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.

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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.

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.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cavanaugh research. Another 281 words(20 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.

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

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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

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  • 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

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  1. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  2. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  3. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  4. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  5. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  6. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  7. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  8. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  9. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  10. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
  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 23 April 2015 at 14:48.

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