Caviness History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Caviness is an ancient Norman name that arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Caviness family lived in Suffolk where Gernon de Montfichet was granted the lands of Cavendish by Duke William of Normandy. [1]

"The descent of the Cavendish family from Gernon has been disputed, but (as I intend to show) without reason. The Gernons were a branch of the Barons of Montfichet, Montfiquet, or Montfiket in Normandy, so named after their Scandinavian ancestor. The castle of Montfichet long remained, as well as the Church of St. Catherine in the castle, a foundation of this family. About 1050 Robert, surnamed Guernon (moustache), Baron of Montfichet, witnessed a charter of Duke William (Gall. Christ. xi. Instr. 229). He had issue, 1, William de Montfichet, who d. s. p., when the barony devolved on Wil­liam, the son of his brother; 2, Robert Guernon or Gernon, who held a great barony in Essex, &c., 1086. From his elder son William de Montfichet descended the Barons of that name, whose seats were at Stanstead Montfichet, Essex, and Montfichet Tower, London, of which city the Montfichets were hereditary standard-bearers or military chiefs in time of war. The younger branches retained the name of Gernon. Alured Gernon, brother of William de Montfichet, had estates in Essex and Middlesex 1130 (Rot. Pip.). Matthew, his son, 1135 witnessed a charter of William Montfichet (Mon. i. 803). Ralph, his son, 1165, held a fief from Montfichet in Essex, and was granted Bakewell, Derbyshire, by Richard I. (Testa de Neville). He had Ralph G., founder of Lees Priory, Essex, father of William G., who had two sons : l, Ralph, ancestor of a line of Gernon frequently mentioned in Essex, Suffolk, and Derby, and which long continued; 2, Geoffry. Geoffry, surnamed de Cavendish from his residence at Cavendish, Suffolk, appears in 1302 as bailsman with Walter de Cavendish, his son, for certain citizens of London who had been charged with the unlawful possession of some crown jewels." [2]

Early Origins of the Caviness family

The surname Caviness was first found in Suffolk, when Gernon de Montfichet was granted the lands of Cavendish by Duke William of Normandy, his liege lord, for distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. The Montfichets from Montfiquet, Calvados, in Normandy, sired the family of Cavendish, Bacon, Fitchet, and Montfitchet. The family trace their lineage back to "Sir John Canvendish, who in the reign of Edward III was Chief Justice of the King's Bench. It was John, a younger son of the Judge, who killed Wat Tyler, and from him the family are descended. [3]

Early History of the Caviness family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Caviness research. Another 144 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1384, 1592, 1592, 1676, 1594, 1654, 1630, 1691, 1660, 1676, 1617, 1684, 1624, 1674, 1659, 1680, 1675, 1623, 1673, 1673, 1700, 1695, 1700 and 1797 are included under the topic Early Caviness History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Caviness Spelling Variations

Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Cavendish, Cavendesh, Cavandish, Cavondish, Cavindish, Caviness and many more.

Early Notables of the Caviness family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Thomas Cavendish (d. 1592), a British circumnavigator of the globe, often regarded as a privateer; Sir William Cavendish (1592-1676), 4th Duke of Norcastle, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a prominent soldier, writer, and noted patron of the arts; Sir Charles Cavendish (ca. 1594-1654), an English aristocrat, Member of Parliament, and patron of Philosophers and mathematicians; Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, KG, PC (1630-1691), English politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1676; William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire (c.1617-1684), an English nobleman, Royalist supporter; Margaret Cavendish, (1624-1674), the...
Another 105 words (8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Caviness Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Caviness family to Ireland

Some of the Caviness family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 40 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Caviness migration to the United States +

Many English families emigrated to North American colonies in order to escape the political chaos in Britain at this time. Unfortunately, many English families made the trip to the New World under extremely harsh conditions. Overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the stormy Atlantic. Despite these hardships, many of the families prospered and went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Caviness or a variant listed above:

Caviness Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • George Caviness, aged 58, arrived in New York in 1915 aboard the ship "Morro Castle" from Vera Cruz, Mexico [4]
  • William Caviness, aged 22, arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1921 aboard the ship "Huron" from New York [5]
  • Alma L. Caviness, aged 63, arrived in New York in 1924 aboard the ship "Volendam" from Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Caviness (post 1700) +

  • Will Caviness (b. 1982), American jazz trumpeter from Memphis, Tennessee
  • Bob Caviness, American professor of computer science at the University of Delaware


The Caviness Motto +

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: Cavendo tutus
Motto Translation: Safe by being cautious.


  1. ^ Barber, Henry, British Family Names London: Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row, 1894. Print.
  2. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  4. ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JJ4H-4WR : 6 December 2014), George Caviness, 24 Oct 1915; citing departure port Vera Cruz, Mexico, arrival port New York, ship name Morro Castle, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  5. ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J6NQ-F6R : 6 December 2014), William Caviness, 24 Jul 1921; citing departure port New York, arrival port Rio de Janeiro, ship name Huron, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  6. ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JNWR-XZL : 6 December 2014), Alma L. Caviness, 25 Oct 1924; citing departure port Boulogne-Sur-Mer, arrival port New York, ship name Volendam, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).


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