Donovan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Many of the Irish surnames in use today have long rich histories behind them. The name Donovan originally appeared in Gaelic as O Donnabhain, derived from the words "donn," which means "brown," and "dubhan," a derivative of "dubh," which means "black."

Early Origins of the Donovan family

The surname Donovan was first found in County Limerick (Irish: Luimneach) located in Southwestern Ireland, in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from very ancient times at Bruree. Their hereditary territory were the lands along the banks of the river Maigues in that county. They were descended from Crom, the Chief of the Donovans, who built Crom Castle, and he in turn was descended anciently from Eoghan Mor (Eugene the Great), King of Munster. Amhailgadh II's son, Crom's great, great grandfather, was a commander with King Brian Boru in the Battle of Clontarf against the Danes, and it was at this time through marriage that they lost the throne of Munster.

Early History of the Donovan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Donovan research. Another 55 words (4 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1639, 1584, 1641, 1689, 1684, 1705 and 1689 are included under the topic Early Donovan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Donovan Spelling Variations

One name was often recorded under several different spellings during the life of its bearer because one must realize that attempting to record a Gaelic name in English is a daunting task at the best of times. Spelling variations revealed in the search for the origin of the Donovan family name include Donovan, Donavon, Donavan, Donevan, Donnovan, Donnavon, Donnavan, Donnovin and many more.

Early Notables of the Donovan family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Donal II O'Donovan (Irish: Domhnall Ó Donnabháin), The O'Donovan of Clann Cathail, Lord of Clancahill (died 1639); Donal III O'Donovan (Irish: Domhnall Ó Donnabháin), The O'Donovan of Clancahill, (born before 1584), he joined the so-called Irish Rebellion of 1641 under Donagh MacCarthy and was accordingly stripped of his estates by...
Another 58 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Donovan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Donovan World Ranking

In the United States, the name Donovan is the 897th most popular surname with an estimated 32,331 people with that name. [1] However, in Canada, the name Donovan is ranked the 969th most popular surname with an estimated 5,592 people with that name. [2] And in Australia, the name Donovan is the 556th popular surname with an estimated 6,952 people with that name. [3] New Zealand ranks Donovan as 509th with 1,356 people. [4] The United Kingdom ranks Donovan as 836th with 8,076 people. [5]


United States Donovan migration to the United States +

The 18th and 19th centuries saw many Irish families immigrate to North America in search of land and opportunities. The largest influx of Irish immigrants to the United States and British North America came during the 1840s when the Great Potato Famine laid waste to their homeland. Hundreds of thousands left the island in an attempt to escape the starvation and disease it brought. Although the arrival of such a large number of destitute Irish was not welcomed by the established population in the United States and what would become known as Canada at the time, these Irish were an essential element to the rapid development of these growing industrial nations. They filled the demand for the cheap labor needed for the work in factories and in the construction of bridges, roads, canals, and railways. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many immigrants bearing the name of Donovan or one of its variants:

Donovan Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Dennis Donovan, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1745 [6]
Donovan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Edward Donovan, aged 30, who landed in New York in 1812 [6]
  • Ml Donovan, who arrived in South Carolina in 1812 [6]
  • Amos Donovan, aged 52, who arrived in Texas in 1827 [6]
  • James Donovan, who landed in America in 1834 [6]
  • Roger Donovan, who landed in Mississippi in 1835 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Donovan migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Donovan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • William Donovan, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1812
  • Elenor Donovan, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1825
  • Jeremiah Donovan, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1826
  • Johana Heffernan Donovan, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1826
  • Simon Donovan, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1827
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Donovan migration to Australia +

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

Donovan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Donovan, English convict from Middlesex, who was transported aboard the "Ann" on August 1809, settling in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mr. Dennis Donovan, (b. 1785), aged 24, Irish convict who was convicted in Limerick, Ireland for life for burglary, transported aboard the "Boyd" on 10th March 1809, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1814 [8]
  • Mr. Lewis Donovan, Canadian covict who was convicted in Quebec, Canada for life, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 16th January 1816, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. Michael Donovan, (b. 1789), aged 29, Irish labourer who was convicted in County Kerry, Ireland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl St Vincent" on 9th August 1818, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1836 [10]
  • Mr. Daniel Donovan, British Convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 27th October 1819, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Donovan 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:

Donovan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Patrick Donovan, who landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1840
  • Robert Donovan, who landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1841
  • Mr. Denis Donovan, British settler arriving as Detachment of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Sir George Symour" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 26th November 1847 [12]
  • Mrs. Mary Donovan, British settler travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Sir George Symour" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 26th November 1847 [12]
  • Mr. John Donovan, British settler as part of the 8th Detachment of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Oriental Queen" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 18th September 1849 [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Donovan (post 1700) +

  • Raymond James Donovan (1930-2021), American business executive and politician, 17th United States Secretary of Labor (1981-1985)
  • Anne Theresa Donovan (1961-2018), American women's basketball player and coach, inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015
  • Major-General William Joseph Donovan (1883-1959), American Ambassador to Thailand (1953-1954) [13]
  • Major-General Richard Donovan (1885-1949), American Deputy Chief of Staff for Service Commands, Army Service Forces (1945-1946) [14]
  • Major-General Leo Donovan (1895-1950), American Assistant Chief of Staff Army Ground Forces (1944-1945) [15]
  • Brigadier-General Joseph O. Donovan, American Adjutant-General of California (1941-1942) [16]
  • Lisa Donovan (b. 1980), American actress and writer
  • Shaun L.S. Donovan (b. 1966), United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development appointed in 2009
  • Landon Timothy Donovan (b. 1982), American soccer player
  • John J Donovan (b. 1942), former professor of Electrical Engineering and Management at MIT, founder of nearly a dozen technology companies, has an estimated fortune of $100 Million
  • ... (Another 91 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Halifax Explosion
  • Master Harold  Donovan (1917-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [17]
  • Mrs. Agnes  Donovan, née Thompson, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [17]
HMS Cornwall
  • Brian Eric Baldock Donovan (d. 1942), British Petty Officer aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [18]
HMS Dorsetshire
  • John Donovan (d. 1945), British Chief Stoker aboard the HMS Dorsetshire when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [19]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Timothy Francis Donovan, British Able Bodied Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [20]
RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. William Donovan, English Fireman from Kirkdale, Liverpool, England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking [21]
SS Newfoundland
  • Mr. James Donovan (b. 1884), Newfoundlander from Goulds, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he survived
  • Mr. Stephen Donovan (1893-1914), Newfoundlander from Goulds, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he died during this time


  1. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  2. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  3. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  4. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  5. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Ann voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1809 with 200 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/ann/1809
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 27th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/Boyd
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/atlas
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 9th September 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-st-vincent
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 12th March 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/coromandel
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  13. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, January 24) William Donovan. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Donovan/William_Joseph/USA.html
  14. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, January 24) Richard Donovan. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Donovan/Richard/USA.html
  15. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, January 24) Leo Donovan. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Donovan/Leo/USA.html
  16. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, January 24) Joseph Donovan. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Donovan/Joseph_O./USA.html
  17. ^ Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion/halifax-explosion-book-remembrance
  18. ^ Force Z Survivors Crew List HMS Cornwall (Retrieved 2018, February 13th) - Retrieved from https://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listcornwallcrew.html#A
  19. ^ Force Z Survivors HMS Dorsetshire Crew List, (Retrieved 2018, February 13th), https://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listdorsetshirecrew.html
  20. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  21. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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