Show ContentsMacMahon History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

In its ancient Gaelic form, the Irish name MacMahon was written Mac Mathghamhna, which later became Mac Mathuna. Both names are derived from the word "mathghamhan," which means "bear."

Early Origins of the MacMahon family

The surname MacMahon was first found in County Clare (Irish: An Clár) located on the west coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where the MacMahons were lords of Corca Baisgin; and possessed the greater part of the baronies of Moyarta and Clonderlaw. [1]

"The Munster MacMahons formerly possessed the greater part of the Baronies of Moyarta and Clonderalaw, in the County Clare, in which county the predominant name now is McMahon." [2]

Early History of the MacMahon family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our MacMahon research. Another 110 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1119, 1715, 1780, 1519, 1606, 1644, 1600, 1650, 1643, 1650, 1660, 1737, 1707, 1715, 1715, 1737, 1680, 1747, 1727, 1737, 1737 and 1747 are included under the topic Early MacMahon History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

MacMahon Spelling Variations

The scribes who created documents long before either the Gaelic or English language resembled their standardized versions of today recorded words as they sounded. Consequently, in the Middle Ages the names of many people were recorded under different spellings each time they were written down. Research on the MacMahon family name revealed numerous spelling variations, including MacMahon, MacMann, MacMahan, MacMohan and others.

Early Notables of the MacMahon family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Séamus mac Pilib Mac Mathghamhna (died 1519), was Bishop of Derry. Hugh Oge MacMahon (1606-1644), was an Irish conspirator, was probably of Sir Brian MacHugh Oge MacMahon, Lord of the Dartree in the county of Monaghan. Herber MacMahon (1600-1650), Bishop of Clogher in 1643, a Catholic leader, commanded the Ulster...
Another 59 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early MacMahon Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States MacMahon migration to the United States +

Under the rule of England, land ownership in Ireland changed dramatically, and many native Irish families found themselves renting out land to farm from absentee owners. This was one of the prime reasons that immigration to North America began in the late 18th century: Irish farmers dreamed of owning their own parcel of land to work for themselves. At this point, the immigrants were at least of modest means for the passage across the Atlantic was often quite dear. In the 1840s the Great Potato Famine created an exodus of people of quite different means. These people were most often destitute: they either sold anything they had to gain a passage or they were sponsored by philanthropic societies. Many of these immigrants were sick from disease and starvation: as a result many did not survive the long transatlantic journey. Although those settlers that did survive were often despised and discriminated against by people already established in these nations, they were critical to rapid development of the powerful industrial nations of the United States and the country that would later become known as Canada. An examination of immigration and passenger lists shows many persons bearing the name of MacMahon or one of its variants:

MacMahon Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Henry MacMahon, who landed in New York, NY in 1811 [3]
  • Bridget MacMahon, who landed in New York, NY in 1815 [3]

Canada MacMahon migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

MacMahon Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Thomas MacMahon, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1831

Australia MacMahon migration to Australia +

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

MacMahon Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James MacMahon, English convict who was convicted in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Elphinstone" on 20th January 1836, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [4]
  • Mr. Edward Macmahon, (b. 1798), aged 42, British Convict who was convicted in Lancaster, England for 15 years for coining, transported aboard the "Asia" on 25th April 1840, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land), he died in 1851 [5]

New Zealand MacMahon 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:

MacMahon Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Ellen MacMahon, aged 23, a dairymaid, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Salisbury" in 1874
  • Margaret MacMahon, aged 20, a dairymaid, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Salisbury" in 1874

Contemporary Notables of the name MacMahon (post 1700) +

  • Bernard MacMahon, British film director and writer, best known as the director, creator and writer of American Epic
  • Aline Laveen MacMahon (1899-1991), American Academy Award nominated actress, best known for her performance in Dragon Seed (1944)
  • Brian MacMahon (1923-2007), British-born, American epidemiologist who chaired the Department of Epidemiology of the Harvard School of Public Health from 1958 until 1988
  • Lloyd Francis MacMahon (1912-1989), American lawyer and U.S. federal judge
  • Tony MacMahon (1939-2021), Irish button accordion player and radio and television broadcaster
  • Sir William MacMahon (1776-1837), 1st Baronet, an Irish jurist, Master of the Rolls in Ireland
  • Thomas O'Brien MacMahon (b. 1777), Irish writer, known for his book 'An Essay on the Depravity and Corruption of Human Nature' (1774)
  • General Sir Thomas Thomas MacMahon (1779-1800), 2nd Baronet, Irish general, Commander-in-Chief at Bombay
  • Sir Thomas Westropp MacMahon (1813-1892), 3rd Baronet, Irish Major-General, eldest son of General Sir Thomas MacMahon
  • Sir Charles MacMahon (1824-1891), Irish soldier and immigrant to Australia where he retired and became Member of the Legislative Assembly West Bourne, son of Sir William MacMahon
  • ... (Another 7 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The MacMahon 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: Sic nos sic sacra tuemur
Motto Translation: Thus we guard our sacred rights.

  1. MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. Matheson, Robert E., Special Report on Surnames in Ireland with Notes as to Numeric Strength, Derivation, Ethnology, and Distribution. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co., 1894. Print
  3. 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)
  4. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th March 2022). Retrieved from
  5. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th January 2020). Retrieved from on Facebook