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

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

The surname McCain originally appeared in Gaelic as "O Cathain" or "Mac Cathain."


Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations of the surname McCain are preserved in these old documents. The various spellings of the name that were found include Keane, Kane, Kayne, Keaney, Keny, Keyne, O'Kane, O'Keane, O'Cahan, Cahan, Kean, O'Cain, McCloskey, McCluskey, McClaskey and many more.

First found in County Londonderry (Irish: Doire), a Northern Irish county also known as Derry, in the province of Ulster. At one time, the areas was named O'Cahan Country.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McCain research. Another 259 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1196, 1617, 1641, 1644 and 1819 are included under the topic Early McCain History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 267 words(19 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McCain Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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 do 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 Sates and Canada were to a larger degree built by the Irish. Archival documents indicate that members of the McCain family relocated to North American shores quite early:

McCain Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • John McCain, aged 18, landed in New York in 1812
  • James McCain, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1828
  • Robert McCain, aged 27, arrived in Alabama in 1858

McCain Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Thomas McCain, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1839


  • John Sidney McCain III (b. 1936), United States Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, and U.S. Senator, Republican Party 2008 presidential candidate
  • Frances Lee McCain (b. 1944), American actress
  • Admiral John S. McCain Sr. (1884-1945), American Navy officer who in 1942 commanded all land-based air operations in support of the Guadalcanal campaign
  • Brigadier-General William Alexander McCain (1878-1960), American Commanding Officer Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, Pennsylvania (1934-1942)
  • Scott McCain (b. 1958), American former professional tennis player
  • Edwin McCain (b. 1970), American singer-songwriter and musician
  • Meghan Marguerite McCain (b. 1984), American columnist and author, daughter of U.S. Senator John McCain
  • Jerry "Boogie" McCain (1930-2012), American electric blues harmonica player
  • Harrison McCain (1927-2004), Canadian co-founder of McCain Foods in New Brunswick, Canada
  • Fred Alward McCain (1917-1997), Canadian politician



  • McKean/McCain by Elaine Richardson.

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: Felis demulcta mitis
Motto Translation: A stroked cat is gentle.


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  1. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  2. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  3. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  4. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  5. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  6. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  7. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  8. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  9. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  10. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  11. ...

The McCain Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McCain 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 4 June 2015 at 06:36.

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