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Map of distribution of Cannon surname in Ireland




The surname Cannon has separate origins in at least two countries - Britain and Ireland (and possibly also France). This page is concerned with the Irish origins of the surname Cannon.

The Griffith Valuation was a survey done in the years from 1848-1864 of everyone who owned and/or rented land in Ireland. Since no census records of Ireland exist for this time period, the Griffith Valuation is of great value in Irish genealogy in that it is the only way of learning who lived where in Ireland at that time.

The map above shows the distribution of the surname Cannon in Ireland in the mid-1800s as listed in the Griffith Valuation of Ireland. The color of a county indicates the how many Cannons were listed as residing there in the mid-1800s. Bright green indicates the counties that had the largest number of Cannons. Lighter shades of green indicate counties containing fewer Cannons, while dark gray and light gray indicate counties with even fewer Cannons. Counties that contained less than 10 Cannons are not colored - so the map only shows where 90% of the Cannons were living.

According to the historical account the surname Cannon has it origins in two distinct original Irish septs - one in County Donegal, and the other in southern County Galway. The distribution shown in the map matches up well with this description.

Family Crest of County Donegal Cannons

O'Canain Family Crest

There were 686 people listed in the Valuation with the surname of Cannon - and about a third of these of these were in County Donegal. Large groups of Cannons also lived in southern County Leitrim and southern County Galway. The County Donegal Cannons are the descendants of the O'Canannain branch of the Cannons. This sept had their stronghold near Letterkenny in County Donegal. They were dispossessed by the O'Donnells in the mid-1200's. The map of Cannons in County Donegal shows that by the mid-1800's most of the Cannons were living along the coastal areas of Donegal.

The Irish were among the first people in the world to use surnames - and the O'Canannain surname is one of the oldest in Irish history (dating back to the 900's). Thomas O'Canann has published an in depth article on the history of the O'Canannain name that can be obtained at your local library through interlibrary loan for a small fee.


The Cannons in Counties Galway and Mayo are likely the descendants of the O'Canain branch of the Cannons. This branch is described in the historical account as being from "southern County Galway". While the account is vague as to the exact location of their original territory, the map of Cannons in County Galway seems to indicate they they may have been from the area around the town of Woodford.

The origin of the large group of Cannons in southern County Leitrim is unknown. However the large number and high concentration of Cannons in southern County Leitrim probably indicates that these Cannons are the descendants of a third Irish sept that is not identified in the historical account. There was a sept of the name O'Chanan that had its territory in this area (known then as the kingdom of Breifne) that may have been the forebearers of these southern County Leitrim Cannons.

These three groups of Irish Cannons probably had no relation with each other beyond the coincidence of having Irish names that sounded somewhat similar. It may therefore be possible to use the information written into the DNA of Cannon men to identify whether their line of Cannons originated in County Donegal, County Leitrim, or southern County Galway. (Additional lines may also be identified to pinpoint Cannons with British or French origins). Gary Blakely has begun a Cannon surname DNA project. Information about the project status and how to join can be found here.

The separate group of Cannons in County Wexford may be the descendants of the French Hugenot refugee Cannons mentioned in the historical account.


The surname Canning is said to be a variant Anglicization of the Irish name O'Canannain. This is bourne out by the distribution shown in the map of Cannings in Ireland.
Other webpages concerning the Irish origins of the surname Cannon are the Cannon Family History Society Web Site and Carol Queen's Cannon/Canning Family Website.

The maps below show the distribution of Cannons in various counties down to the civil parish level:

Donegal Galway
Leitrim Mayo

Post a message regarding your interest in Cannon genealogy.


Click here to see examples of distribution mappings of other Irish surnames in my lineage.


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