The Clan/Sept History
Irish surnames have had their original forms altered in many ways. Before being
translated into English, O Galvin appeared as O Gealbhain, derived from the
words "geal," which means "bright," and "ban," which means "white."
Names written in official documents were generally spelt as they sounded,
leading to the problem of one name being recorded under several different
variations, creating the illusion in records of more than one person. Among the
many spelling variations of the surname O Galvin that are preserved in documents
of the family history are Galvin, Gallivan, O'Galvin and others.
First found in county Clare, where they held a family seat from ancient times.
The English-ruled Ireland of the late 18th and 19th centuries featured a rapidly
increasing population and an agricultural-based economy. This combination proved
to be disastrous in the 1840s after a couple of failed potato harvests.
Thousands died of disease and starvation, and thousands more left the country,
often bound for North America. Those that survived the journey to North America
were put to work building the bridges, canals, roadways, and railways needed for
the development of an industrial society. Those Irish, although often despised
by those already established in North American cities and towns, played an
instrumental role in making Canada and the United States the powerful and
wealthy nations that they are today. An examination of early immigration and
passenger lists has shown many immigrants bearing the name O Galvin: James,
Joseph, Patrick, Simon, Thomas Galvin who arrived in Philadelphia between 1840
and 1860; David Galvin settled in Maryland in 1776; J. Galvin settled in
Baltimore Maryland in 1822.
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