McCanna History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the McCanna family

The surname McCanna 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 McCanna family

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

McCanna Spelling Variations

Just like the English language, the Gaelic language of Ireland was not standardized in the Middle Ages. Therefore, one's name was often recorded under several different spellings during the life of its bearer. Spelling variations revealed in the search for the origins of the McCanna family name include MacCann, MacCanna, MacCan, MacAnn, MacAn and others.

Early Notables of the McCanna family (pre 1700)

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


United States McCanna migration to the United States +

Ireland became inhospitable for many native Irish families in the 19th centuries. Poverty, lack of opportunities, high rents, and discrimination forced thousands to leave the island for North America. The largest exodus of Irish settlers occurred with the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. For these immigrants the journey to British North America and the United States was long and dangerous and many did not live to see the shores of those new lands. Those who did make it were essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest and most powerful nations of the world. These Irish immigrants were not only important for peopling the new settlements and cities, they also provided the manpower needed for the many industrial and agricultural projects so essential to these growing nations. Immigration and passenger lists have documented the arrival of various people bearing the name McCanna to North America:

McCanna Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Anne McCanna, who arrived in New York, NY in 1817 [2]
  • Ellen McCanna, who arrived in New York, NY in 1817 [2]
  • Patrick McCanna, who arrived in New York, NY in 1817 [2]
  • Peter McCanna, who landed in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1852 [2]
  • Matthew McCanna, who landed in Indiana in 1854 [2]

New Zealand McCanna 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:

McCanna Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mary McCanna, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bombay" in 1863 [3]
  • Michael McCanna, aged 30, a tailor, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Celestial Queen" in 1872
  • Francis McCanna, aged 32, a tailor, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Celestial Queen" in 1872


The McCanna 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. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 7th November 2010). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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