Show ContentsMcGavin History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The McGavin surname derives from the Irish Gaelic name Mac an Ghabhain, which means "son of the blacksmith." As such, the name was probably originally occupational. It has often appeared in its Anglicized form Smith.

Early Origins of the McGavin family

The surname McGavin was first found in County Cavan, where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity. The Irish name MacGowan (not to be confused with the Scottish, which roots from MacGoun) is most often hidden under the ubiquitous name Smith. In Irish, the name is Mac an Ghabhain, which means 'son of the blacksmith'; thus its translation to Smith. In England, Horsington Manor in Somerset was owned by the Gowens family from sometime in the 1500s through 1653 when it was sold.

Early History of the McGavin family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McGavin research. Another 85 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 165 and 1659 are included under the topic Early McGavin History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McGavin Spelling Variations

Spelling variations of this family name include: Smith, MacGowan, McGowan, MacGowin, McGowin, MacGowen, McGowen, Gow, Gowan, Gowen, Gowin, MacGavin and many more.

Early Notables of the McGavin family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early McGavin Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Canada McGavin migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

McGavin Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Miss. Bridget McGavin, aged 6 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "Sisters" departing 22nd April 1847 from Liverpool, England; the ship arrived on 20th June 1847 but she died on board [1]

Australia McGavin migration to Australia +

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

McGavin Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James McGavin, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Alice Brooks" in 1839 [2]
  • Miss Catherine McGavin, Scottish convict who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Elizabeth and Henry" on 14th September 1846, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [3]

New Zealand McGavin 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:

McGavin Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Agnes McGavin, (b. 1858), aged 19, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Marlborough" arriving in Bluff, South Island, New Zealand on 4th November 1877 [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name McGavin (post 1700) +

  • Darren McGavin (1922-2006), American Emmy Award winning actor
  • Charles McGavin (1874-1940), American Republican politician, U.S. Representative from Illinois 8th District, 1905-09; Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Illinois, 1920 [5]
  • Dr. Hugh James McGavin (1874-1958), Canadian politician in Manitoba, Canada
  • Janis McGavin, Australian actress and comedy performer
  • George C. McGavin FLS FRGS, Scottish entomologist, author, academic, television presenter and explorer
  • Major General Sir Donald Johnstone McGavin (1876-1960), English-born, New Zealand surgeon, army health administrator and medical administrator
  • Steven James "Steve" McGavin (b. 1969), English former professional footballer
  • Wilford McGavin McKendrick (1870-1936), American principal of Weber Stake Academy

The McGavin 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: Tenebras expellit et hostes
Motto Translation: He drives forth the darkness and the foe.

  1. Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 87)
  2. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ALICE BROOKS 1839. Retrieved from
  3. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 13th March 2022). Retrieved from
  4. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 21) . Retrieved from on Facebook