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