This surname of GANNON originally derived from the Gaelic Mag Fhionnain, a name meaning 'one of fair hair and complexion'. The name was borne by several early Irish Saints. They were an old Erris family, where the name was spelt as Mag Canann. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames; they came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependants was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names. A notable member of the name was Father Michael GANNON who took part in the 1798 insurrection against the English. He played a prominent part on the side of the aristocracy in the period of the French Revolution. The name was taken early to the United States of America, and in a 1969 census there were approximately 14,461 persons of this surname residing in America. The lion is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour. Many Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries, and were granted the lands of the native Catholic Irish. People heard of the attractions of the New World, and many left Ireland to seek a better life sailing aboard the fleet of ships known as the 'White Sails', but much illness took its toll with the overcrowding of the ships which were pestilence ridden. From the port of entry many settlers made their way west, joining the wagons to the prairies, and many loyalists went to Canada about the year 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
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