Cannon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cannon Meaning
Cannon surname has Irish, Manx and English

  • the Irish Cannon was an
    anglicized form of the Gaelic O’Canain,
    a personal name derived from cana meaning
    “wolf cub”
  • the Manx (Isle of Man) Cannon
    derived from the Gaelic Mac Canannain,
    son of Canannain, a personal name of
    uncertain origin
  • while the English
    Cannon came from the word canun which
    described someone or was a nickname for someone who worked in a clergy

In none of these cases did the surname have
anything to do with the cannon firearm

Cannon Resources on

Cannon Ancestry

Ireland. Ui Canannain was the ancestral
name of the Cannons and TirConnel – all of Donegal and part of Derry
– which was
known as the “Land of the Cannons.”

Their castle was located at Conlow
on Letterkenny Hill in Donegal. However,
the O’Cannon 350-year dynasty
TirConnel ended around the year 1250, defeated by the O’Donnells, and
their ruling
class more or less died out.

Still, Cannon remained very much a Donegal name. By
the time of Griffith’s
the mid-19th century, the Cannon name had spread to neighboring
counties on the
west coast such as Galway and Mayo.
Canning was the spelling that emerged in the Ulster counties of
and Tyrone.

There was Cannon emigration to America in the 1700’s.
By the early 1800’s there were some 200
families bearing the Cannon name in Donegal.
These were mainly small tenant farmers barely existing on the
potato patches that were allotted to them.
The potato famine brought great misery and more emigration.

Isle of Man. Cannon was first recorded on the Isle of Man as
MacCannon in 1497, but the “Mac” soon disappeared.

John Cannon was born around
the year 1564 in Kirk Michael. His line
extended to Hugh Cannon, a fisherman in Peel who did a little smuggling
on the
side. His son George, born there in
1766, was a slave-trading sea captain operating primarily in the
Caribbean. He was killed in 1811 when
his crew mutinied. George’s son George Cannon caught religion
joined the Mormon church, emigrating to America in 1842.

England. The English
1881 census showed Cannons in the Isle of Man and in Lancashire
(in part the
result of Irish migration). But the
largest concentration of the name had been in and around London.

The spelling
was initially Canon. The name had
appeared at an early time in Hertfordshire, in Clothall where there is
a Cannon
Lane. Cannon’s brewery was started in
Ware in 1622. And there were many
Cannons living in the market town of Hitchin in the 1881 census. Godfrey Cannon, born in Clothall, had moved
there in the late 1740’s and his descendants were still there in the

Robert Cannon, born in London in 1663, became
Dean of Lincoln and is commemorated
Westminster Abbey
. One of his sons
Charles was a clergyman, another son Thomas achieved some notoriety by
producing a pamphlet which may have been the earliest published defense of homosexuality in

Commodus Cannon was a master tallow chandler in London in the early
1800’s. He grew sufficiently wealthy from
his trade that he was able to retire a country gentleman in Muckford,

America. Early Cannons were from

  • one was John
    Cannon, a cooper from London, who came via Barbados to Henrico county,
    sometime in the 1660’s. His descendants
    moved south, first to North Carolina, then to South Carolina, and later
  • another was Thomas Cannon who arrived in Baltimore,
    Maryland also in
    the 1660’s. Later Cannons spread,
    migrating to Mecklenburg county in North Carolina.
    In 1887 his descendant James
    W. Cannon
    founded Cannon Mills which was to become the
    largest towel manufacturer in the world. After
    his death in 1921, his son Charles ran the company
    until the
  • and there was James Cannon, referred to by genealogists
    as Nanticoke
    James, who arrived in Dorchester county, Maryland in 1683.
    This later became Sussex county,
    Delaware. William Cannon, born there in
    1809, was a wealthy merchant who was the Governor of Delaware at the
    time of the
    Civil War. Another line of descent led
    to Newton Cannon, born in North Carolina, who was the Governor of
    in the

Irish arrivals began in the 1700’s. .
Colonel John Canon,
born in 1741, was an early settler of Irish
extraction in the Chartiers Valley area of Virginia. He fought in
the Revolutionary War and was later a miller, judge, and the founder of
three towns, one of which – Cannonsburg in Pennsylvania – bore his

It was said, because of
religious persecution, that three Cannon brothers left Ulster around
the year
1750 for America, two of whom ended up in North Carolina.
William Cannon, born there, moved to Georgia
in 1802. His son Almon was a rugged
frontier farmer who had settled in Tennessee in 1833.

Matthew Cannon came with his family from
Antrim to Delaware in 1753. He was for
ten years a sea captain on the Dolphin
plying from Philadelphia. He later moved
to upstate New York. Meanwhile Thomas C.
Cannon arrived in Virginia from Ireland around 1780 and settled in
county, Kentucky where he died in 1797.

Other Cannons emigrated at the time of the potato famine in Ireland or
after. Dennis Cannon came to New York
from Donegal in 1864, later settling in Ohio; while Patrick Cannon
arrived with
his family three years later and moved to Brooklyn.
Thomas Cannon and his family from Donegal came
in the 1870’s to farm in Greeley county, Nebraska through the
assistance of the
Irish Colonization Association.

Mormon. George Q. Cannon was a
Mormon pioneer who
arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1849. He
became one of their leaders and, with his brothers Angus and David,
began a Cannon family in Utah
which was
influential in the state and beyond over three generations.

Canada. Edward Cannon, a
master mason, had left – according to family tradition – his home in
Wexford for
Newfoundland in 1774. He moved onto
Quebec in 1795. There he began to
undertake large construction projects, assisted by his sons Ambrose,
and John. It was John who carried on the family business after
Edward died in

Subsequently the Cannons
rose to become one of Canada’s most
prominent families.
Lawrence John
Cannon, born in 1852, had a long career as a judge and magistrate. His two sons also distinguished themselves,
serving as Solicitor General for Canada from 1925 to 1930 and Lawrence
appointed to the Canadian Supreme Court in 1930. A
later Lawrence Cannon served in Prime
Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet from 2006 to 2011.


Select Cannon Miscellany

Early O’Cannon History.  Canannain was fifth in descent from Flaithbertach mac Loingsig, high king of Ireland, and descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages
who died in 405 by his son Conall Gulban who gave his name to
TirConaill, the
‘Land of Conall,’ now county Donegal.

The O’Cannons have been described as ‘ancient
Princes of TírConnaill.’  Their territory
would seem to have been Tír Aeda, now the barony of Tirhugh.
However, their
350-year dynasty in TírConnaill ended in 1250.
After the deaths of Ruairí Ó Canannain (Rory O’Cannon) and his
son Niall
Ó Canannain in 1250, the sept declined greatly in power.  The O’Cannonclan remained subservient to the
O’Donnell clan, the kings of TírChonaill, from that time onwards.

Cannons in Griffith’s Valuation in Ireland

County Number Percent
Donegal    320    26
Galway    198    16
Mayo    215    18
Leitrim    130    11
Dublin     94     8
Elsewhere    260    21
Total   1,217   100

Dean Cannon in Westminster Abbey.  There is a memorial tablet to Robert Cannon, Dean of
Lincoln, on the south aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey near his
grave.  It has a black marble frame and
was formerly surmounted by an urn with a cherub and drapery below. The
inscription can be translated as follows:

“Sacred to the memory of Robert
Cannon, S.T.P. Dean of Lincoln and Prebendary of this Church who died
on 28
March 1722, aged 59.”

STP stands for sacred theology professor.  His
gravestone is in the south transept.

George Cannon’s Travels from the Isle of Man to America.  George Cannon, the son of Captain George and Leonora Cannon, was born in Peel
on the Isle of Man in 1794.  He married
Ann Quayle in 1825.  Through the efforts
of George’s sister and his brother-in-law John and Leonara Taylor, the
joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1840.  Two years later they decided to emigrate to

They departed from Liverpool on
the ship Sidney.  Shortly
after they had begun their voyage,
Ann who was pregnant at the time became ill.
She was ill during the entire voyage and died just before the
arrived in New Orleans.  She and her
unborn child were buried at sea.

and his children settled in Nauvoo, Illinois and George married the
widow Mary
White.  However, George soon died from a
heat stroke in 1844.  Mary remarried and
her family, including his son George Quayle Cannon, latter headed west
with the
pioneers and settled in Salt Lake Valley, Utah.

The Cannon Family of Utah

George Cannon (1794-1844) Left the Isle of Man for Nauvoo,
Indiana in 1842.  Died two years later.
Second generation
George Q. Cannon
Came to Utah and was an early
Mormon leader.
Dubbed “the Mormon premier” by
the press.  Father of 32 children.
Angus M. Cannon (1834-1915) Brother of George.
Served in missions to preach the
Mormon faith in eastern states.
Martha H. Cannon (1857-1932) The fourth of Angus’s six wives.
In 1896 she was the first female
to be elected US state Senator.
David H. Cannon (1838-1924) Brother of George.
President of the St. George
temple.  Father of 31 children.
Third generation
John Q. Cannon (1857-1931) Son of George.
Editor of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
Abraham H. Cannon (1859-1896) Son of George.
Editor and publisher of The Contributor.
Frank J. Cannon (1859-1933) Son of George.
Utah’s first Senator, from 1896
to 1899.
George M. Cannon (1861-1937) Son of Angus.
First President of the Utah
State Senate.
James H. Cannon (1890-1950) Son of Angus.  Inventor of
the Cannon plug.
Founder of the Cannon Electric
Co. in Los Angeles.
Fourth generation
John K. Cannon (1892-1955) Son of John M. and grandson of
World War Two Mediterranean
combat commander.
Cavendish Cannon (1895-1962) Son of John Q. and grandson of
Long-term US foreign service
officer and diplomat.
Robert M. Cannon (1901-1976) Son of Lewis M. and grandson of
US army officer who served in
the Pacific during World War Two.
Howard W. Cannon (1912-2002) Son of Walter and grandson of
US Senator for Nevada from 1959
to 1983.

James W. Cannon and Cannon Mills.  Born in Mecklenburg county, North Carolina in 1852,
James W. Cannon revolutionized the cloth industry and towel

In 1887 James had borrowed money from northern banks,
consulted northern industrialists, and started what was to become
Cannon Mills.  His plant started to
manufacture cloth.
Although the plant was small, Cannon’s products were desired.  They created a unique cloth that made
cleaning easier.

During the mid-1890’s, Cannon realized that only
the upper classes purchased towels, for others could not afford
So in 1898 Cannon and his company “produced the first towel finished in
South.”  Within a year the mill was producing around 300,000

The town
of Kannapolis was established in 1906.  This mill town had every
service, including churches, schools, parks, and the largest YMCA in

As a result of Cannon’s good marketing and his preferred
product, Cannon
Mills soon established plants across the Southeast.

The Cannon Family of Quebec.  The extended Cannon family has had strong regional and
national political
influence in Canada for over a century and is considered to be
influential as
one of Canada’s hereditary ruling class families.

Its members have served in
positions as lawyers, judges, Supreme Court judges, senators, ministers
defense, solicitors general, and members of parliament. They have had
influence in the national resource industries, as barons in the
lumber industry particularly, as well as in broadcasting.

The family forebear was Edward Cannon who first
arrived in Canada from Ireland in 1774.



Select Cannon Names

  • Rory O’Cannon was the last O’Cannon
    chieftain who ruled TyrConnel in Donegal.
    He died in 1250. 
  • Edward Cannon
    who left Ireland for Canada in 1774 was the progenitor of
    one of Quebec’s foremost families. 
  • George Q. Cannon was the patriarch of
    the prominent Mormon family of Cannons in Utah.   
  • James W. Cannon founded in 1887 in North Carolina his
    company Cannon Mills, which was soon to become the largest towel manufacturer in the world

Select Cannon Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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