Kavanagh History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Irish names tend to vary widely in their spelling and overall form. The original Gaelic form of the name Kavanagh 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.

Early Origins of the Kavanagh family

The surname Kavanagh was 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. The Kavanaghs (Cavanaghs) were descended from the MacMorough stem and were Lords of Leinster. Donoch McMorough was the King of Leinster, son of Dermod and it was from Donoch from which the Cavanaghs sprang. They were descended directly from the Heremon Line of Irish Kings. Donell, son of Dermot MacMurrough acquired the name Caomhanach, or Cavanagh. His sister Eva married Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, the leader of the English invasion of Ireland. [1]

Early History of the Kavanagh family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kavanagh research. Another 96 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1889, 1554, 1538, 1540, 1541, 1543, 1667 and 1739 are included under the topic Early Kavanagh History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kavanagh 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 Kavanagh were encountered in the archives: 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.

Early Notables of the Kavanagh family (pre 1700)

Prominent amongst the family at this time was Cahir Mac Art Kavanagh, Lord of St. Molyns, Baron of Ballyann (d. 1554), the eldest son of Art Kavanagh of St. Molyns (Teach Molyns), and Chief of his Sept. He took part in the rebellion of the Leinster Geraldines, but submitted to Lord Leonard Grey in 1538. "He renewed his submission to Sir Anthony St. Leger in November 1540, and preferred a request to be allowed to hold his land in feudal tenure. He was anxious, he declared, to imitate his ancestor, Dermot Mac Murrough, king of Leinster, who had introduced the English...
Another 141 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kavanagh Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Kavanagh migration to the United States +

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 Kavanagh family came to North America quite early:

Kavanagh Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • J. Kavanagh, who settled in Baltimore Maryland in 1822
  • James, John, Lawrence, Michael, Patrick, Peter, Thomas Kavanagh, all, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1811 and 1843
  • James Kavanagh who arrived in New York State in 1852

Canada Kavanagh migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Kavanagh Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Patrick Kavanagh, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1806

Australia Kavanagh migration to Australia +

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

Kavanagh Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Michael Kavanagh, Irish convict who was convicted in Kerry, Ireland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 29th November 1801, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [2]
  • Mr. Patrick Kavanagh, Irish convict who was convicted in Dundalk, Ireland for life, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 29th November 1801, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [2]
  • Mr.James Kavanagh, (Cavanagh), (b. 1790), aged 29, Irish farm labourer who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Bencoolen" on 24th April 1819, arriving in New South Wales, Australia before being transferred to Tasmania via the "Admiral Cockburn" [3]
  • Mr. Michael Kavanagh, British convict who was convicted in Gibraltar for 14 years, transported aboard the "Barossa" on 8th December 1839, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [4]
  • Hugh Kavanagh, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Kavanagh 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:

Kavanagh Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Joseph Kavanagh, British settler travelling from Liverpool aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 19th October 1859 [6]
  • Edward Kavanagh, aged 21, a farm labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "British Queen" in 1883
  • Miss Ellen Kavanagh, (b. 1864), aged 20, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Florida" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 10th March 1884 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Kavanagh (post 1700) +

  • Edward Kavanagh (1795-1844), American statesman and congressman
  • Thomas M. Kavanagh (1909-1975), American jurist from Michigan; justice of the Michigan Supreme Court 1958–75
  • Marty Kavanagh (1891-1960), American professional baseball player
  • Leo Kavanagh (1894-1950), American professional baseball player
  • Herminie Templeton Kavanagh (1861-1933), Irish-American short-story writer
  • Giles Kavanagh, American politician, U.S. Collector of Internal Revenue for Michigan, 1941-51 [7]
  • Francis B. Kavanagh, American politician, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, 1941-42 [7]
  • Edward A. Kavanagh, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Michigan State Senate 16th District, 1966 [7]
  • Edward Kavanagh (1795-1844), American Democrat politician, Member of Maine State House of Representatives, 1826-28; Member of Maine State Senate, 1842; Governor of Maine, 1843-44 [7]
  • Dudley J. Kavanagh (b. 1879), American Democrat politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Michigan, 1932; probate judge in Michigan, 1933-36 [7]
  • ... (Another 30 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/atlas
  3. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 5th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bencoolen
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th September 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/barossa
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) TRAFALGAR 1847. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1847Trafalgar.htm
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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