Gan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Throughout history, very few Irish surnames have exclusively maintained their original forms. Before being translated into English, Gan appeared as Mac Cana, which is derived from the word cana, which means wolf cub.

Early Origins of the Gan family

The surname Gan was first found in County Armagh (Irish: Ard Mhacha) located in the province of Ulster in present day Northern Ireland, at Clanbrasil, a region on the southern shore of Lough Neagh.

The family supplanted the O'Graveys at the time of Strongbow's Anglo- Norman invasion in 1172 as lords of this area and became known as the Lords of Clanbrassil. One of the earliest records of the name was Amhlaibh Mc Canna (died 1155), described by the Four Masters as "pillar of chivalry and vigour of Cinel Eoghin" [1]

Early History of the Gan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gan research. Another 38 words (3 lines of text) covering the years 1155, 1718 and 1598 are included under the topic Early Gan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gan Spelling Variations

The Middle Ages saw a great number of spelling variations for surnames common to the Irish landscape. One reason for these variations is the fact that surnames were not rigidly fixed by this period. The following variations for the name Gan were encountered in the archives: MacCann, MacCanna, MacCan, MacAnn, MacAn and others.

Early Notables of the Gan family (pre 1700)

Another 45 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Gan migration to the United States +

A great mass of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century, seeking relief from various forms of social, religious, and economic discrimination. This Irish exodus was primarily to North America. If the migrants survived the long ocean journey, many unfortunately would find more discrimination in the colonies of British North America and the fledgling United States of America. These newly arrived Irish were, however, wanted as a cheap source of labor for the many large agricultural and industrial projects that were essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the western world. Early immigration and passenger lists indicate many people bearing the Gan name:

Gan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Sofia Gan, who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1812 [2]

Contemporary Notables of the name Gan (post 1700) +

  • Gan Anton Vassallo (1817-1868), Maltese writer, poet and academic


The Gan 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: Crescit sub pondere virtus
Motto Translation: Virtue thrives under oppression.


  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. ^ 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)


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