McCan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the McCan family

The surname McCan 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 McCan family

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

McCan Spelling Variations

Names from the Middle Ages demonstrate many spelling variations. This is because the recording scribe or church official often decided as to how a person's name was spelt and in what language. Research into the name McCan revealed many variations, including MacCann, MacCanna, MacCan, MacAnn, MacAn and others.

Early Notables of the McCan family (pre 1700)

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


United States McCan migration to the United States +

To escape the religious and political discrimination they experienced primarily at the hands of the English, thousands of Irish left their homeland in the 19th century. These migrants typically settled in communities throughout the East Coast of North America, but also joined the wagon trains moving out to the Midwest. Ironically, when the American War of Independence began, many Irish settlers took the side of England, and at the war's conclusion moved north to Canada. These United Empire Loyalists, were granted land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula. Other Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, however, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America and Australia. Many of those numbers, however, did not live through the long sea passage. These Irish settlers to North America were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. Irish settlers made an inestimable contribution to the building of the New World. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the Irish name McCan or a variant listed above, including:

McCan Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John McCan, who landed in Virginia in 1735 [2]
McCan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Judith McCan, aged 60, who landed in New York, NY in 1805 [2]
  • Mary McCan, who arrived in America in 1805 [2]
  • Peter McCan, who landed in Matagorda, Tex in 1829 [2]

Canada McCan migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

McCan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Charles McCan, aged 40, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Protector" in 1834

Australia McCan migration to Australia +

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

McCan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Hugh Mccan, (Mccann), (b. 1790), aged 30, Irish shepherd who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for life for theft, transported aboard the "Dorothy" on 5th May 1820, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [3]
  • Mr. Michael McCan, British Convict who was convicted in Stafford, England for life, transported aboard the "Asia" on 5th November 1835, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land)1836 [4]

New Zealand McCan 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:

McCan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Ellen Mccan, (b. 1845), aged 22, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd January 1868 [5]


The McCan 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)
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 12th July 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/dorothy
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 28th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1835
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


Houseofnames.com on Facebook