McAn History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the McAn family

The surname McAn 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 McAn family

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

McAn Spelling Variations

Irish names were rarely spelled consistently in the Middle Ages. Spelling variations of the name McAn dating from that time include MacCann, MacCanna, MacCan, MacAnn, MacAn and others.

Early Notables of the McAn family (pre 1700)

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

Migration of the McAn family

The 19th century saw a great wave of Irish families leaving Ireland for the distant shores of North America and Australia. These families often left their homeland hungry, penniless, and destitute due to the policies of England. Those Irish immigrants that survived the long sea passage initially settled on the eastern seaboard of the continent. Some, however, moved north to a then infant Canada as United Empire Loyalists after ironically serving with the English in the American War of Independence. Others that remained in America later joined the westward migration in search of land. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, though, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America, and those who arrived were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. In fact, the foundations of today's powerful nations of the United States and Canada were to a larger degree built by the Irish. Archival documents indicate that members of the McAn family relocated to North American shores quite early: Arthur, Bernard, Charles, Edward, Francis, Henry, Hugh, James, John, Mary, Michael, Owen, Patrick, Peter, Roger, Thomas and William MacCann, who all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860.



The McAn 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)


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