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An excerpt from archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Irish

Irish names tend to vary widely in their spelling and overall form. The original Gaelic form of the name Gaines is "Mag Fhionnbhairr," which is derived from the word "fionnbharr," which means "fair head."


The surname Gaines was first found in county Longford (Irish: An Longfort) traditionally known as Annaly or Teffia, and situated in the Irish Midlands, in Northwest Leinster, where they held a family seat from very ancient times.

People who were accounted for by scribes and church officials often had their name recorded many different ways because pronunciation was the only guide those scribes and church officials had to go by. This resulted in the problem of one person's name being recorded under several different variations, creating the illusion of more than one person. Among the many spelling variations of the surname Gaines that are preserved in archival documents are Gaynor, Gainor, Gainer, Gaines, Gains, McGaynor and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gaines research. Another 198 words (14 lines of text) covering the year 1172 is included under the topic Early Gaines History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Gaines Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Ireland became inhospitable for many native Irish families in the 19th centuries. Poverty, lack of opportunities, high rents, and discrimination forced thousands to leave the island for North America. The largest exodus of Irish settlers occurred with the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. For these immigrants the journey to British North America and the United States was long and dangerous and many did not live to see the shores of those new lands. Those who did make it were essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest and most powerful nations of the world. These Irish immigrants were not only important for peopling the new settlements and cities, they also provided the manpower needed for the many industrial and agricultural projects so essential to these growing nations. Immigration and passenger lists have documented the arrival of various people bearing the name Gaines to North America:

Gaines Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Thomas Gaines settled in Maryland in 1634
  • Thomas Gaines, who arrived in Virginia in 1650
  • Bernard Gaines who arrived in Virginia in 1654
  • Bernard Gaines settled in Virginia in 1654
  • David Gaines who arrived in Nevis in 1663

Gaines Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Martha Gaines, who arrived in Virginia in 1700
  • John Gaines, who landed in Virginia in 1706
  • Wm Gaines, who arrived in Virginia in 1714
  • James Gaines, who arrived in Virginia in 1745

Gaines Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • W. H. Gaines settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1822
  • Thomson C Gaines, who landed in Texas in 1835
  • William B P Gaines, who landed in Texas in 1835
  • W M Gaines, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • Mrs. L Gaines, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850

Gaines Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • John Gaines arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Aden" in 1849
  • Catherine Gaines, aged 20, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Velocity"


  • LaDonna Adrian Gaines (1948-2012), known by the stage name Donna Summer, American five-time Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter, the "The Queen of Disco"
  • William "Bill" Maxwell Gaines (1922-1992), American publisher and co-editor of EC Comics
  • Edmund Pendleton Gaines (1777-1849), United States army officer, eponym of Fort Gaines, Alabama and the CSS Gaines
  • Ernest James Gaines (b. 1933), award-winning American novelist and short story writer
  • Steven Earl Gaines (1949-1977), American musician most well-known as a guitarist and songwriter for southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • George Gaines (1933-1986), American set decorator with two Academy Awards and an additional two nominations
  • David "Smokey" Gaines (b. 1942), retired American professional basketball player and coach
  • Cassie LaRue Gaines (1948-1977), American singer


  • A Compilation of Gaines Family Data, With Special Emphasis on the Lineage of William And Isabella (Pendleton) Gaines by Calvin E. Sutherd.
  • Tinsley et al: The Ancestry of My Four Honored Grandparents, William Julian Tinsley, Georgia Ann Gaines, William Henry Clarke, Jennie Elizabeth Lavendar, Including the Families of Ballard by William Elson Tinsley.

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  1. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  2. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  3. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  4. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  5. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  6. Fitzgerald, Thomas W. Ireland and Her People A Library of Irish Biography 5 Volumes. Chicago: Fitzgerald. Print.
  7. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  8. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  9. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  10. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  11. ...

The Gaines Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Gaines 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 29 July 2012 at 08:11.

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