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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Where did the Irish Kirwan family come from? What is the Irish Kirwan family crest and coat of arms? When did the Kirwan family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Kirwan family history?

Many variations of the name Kirwan have evolved since the time of its initial creation. In Gaelic it appeared as O Ciardhubhain, which is derived from the words "ciar" and "dubh," both of which mean "black."


Those scribes in Ireland during the Middle Ages recorded names as they sounded. Consequently, in this era many people were recorded under different spellings each time their name was written down. Research on the Kirwan family name revealed numerous spelling variations, including Kirwan, O'Kirwan, Kerovan, Kyrvan, O'Quirivan, Kirwin, Kerwin, Kerwan and many more.

First found in County Galway (Irish: Gaillimh) part of the province of Connacht, located on the west coast of the Island, where they held a family seat from ancient times.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kirwan research. Another 185 words(13 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1530, 1531, 1534, 1535, 1550, 1551, 1589, 1661, 1642, 1653, 1642, 1650, 1721, 1686 and 1688 are included under the topic Early Kirwan History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 155 words(11 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kirwan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


During the 19th century thousands of impoverished Irish families made the long journey to British North America and the United States. These people were leaving a land that had become beset with poverty, lack of opportunity, and hunger. In North America, they hoped to find land, work, and political and religious freedoms. Although the majority of the immigrants that survived the long sea passage did make these discoveries, it was not without much perseverance and hard work: by the mid-19th century land suitable for agriculture was short supply, especially in British North America, in the east; the work available was generally low paying and physically taxing construction or factory work; and the English stereotypes concerning the Irish, although less frequent and vehement, were, nevertheless, present in the land of freedom, liberty, and equality for all men. The largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. Research into passenger and immigration lists has brought forth evidence of the early members of the Kirwan family in North America:

Kirwan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • William Denbow Kirwan, who arrived in New York in 1812
  • Elizabeth, Maria, Michael, and Thomas Kirwan, all arrived in Philadelphia between 1820 and 1844
  • Mary Kirwan, aged 50, arrived in New York in 1849
  • Michael Kirwan, who landed in Mobile, Ala in 1855
  • David Kirwan, aged 29, arrived in Mobile, Ala in 1872

Kirwan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Joanna Hemming Kirwan, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1833
  • Margaret Kirwan, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1838
  • Bridget Kirwan, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1841

Kirwan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Bridget Kirwan, aged 20, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Sea Park"
  • Johanna Kirwan, aged 23, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Sea Park"
  • Catherine Kirwan, aged 18, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Lismoyne"

Kirwan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • John S. Kirwan arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Harkaway" in 1858
  • Ann Kirwan, aged 24, a servant, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Forfarshire" in 1873
  • Mary Kirwan, aged 22, a servant, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Forfarshire" in 1873


  • Michael Joseph Kirwan (1886-1970), American politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio (1937-1970)
  • William English "Brit" Kirwan (b. 1938), American academic, the 3rd Chancellor of the University System of Maryland
  • Richard Kirwan FRS MRIA (1733-1812), Irish scientist, one of the last supporters of the theory of phlogiston
  • Dervla Kirwan (b. 1971), Irish actress, known for her roles in Ballykissangel and Goodnight Sweetheart
  • Sir John James Kirwan KNZM MBE (b. 1964), New Zealand rugby player and coach
  • Sir Archibald Kirwan (1907-1999), British Archaeologist and geographer
  • Sir John Waters Kirwan KCMG (1869-1949), Australian politician, President of the Western Australian Legislative Council
  • Frances Clare Kirwan FRS (b. 1959), British mathematician, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford
  • Eugene Kirwan (b. 1993), Antiguan international footballer
  • Patrick Kirwan (1899-1984), British screenwriter


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: Mon Dieu, mon Roi, et ma patrie
Motto Translation: Mon Dieu, mon Roi, et ma patrie.


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  1. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  2. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  6. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  7. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  8. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  9. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  10. Harris, Ruth-Ann and B. Emer O'Keefe. The Search for Missing Friends Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot Volume II 1851-1853. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1991. Print.
  11. ...

The Kirwan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kirwan 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 13 February 2015 at 17:46.

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