The name Fannin, in a historical context is, like most Irish surnames, quite unstable. The first of this race would appear to have come to Ireland as part of the Norman invasion. The earliest reference appears to be to a Richard Fanyn, who is named as a witness to Geoffrey FitzRobert’s charter to Duiske in 1204. He also witnessed the charter of William Marshall to Kilkenny, but here referred to as Richard Fannynge. In 1317 we have mention of the knight Thomas de Fannyn. In 1305, W illiam ffanyng was granted a castle and lands on an annual rent of ‘fifty marks of silver’. In a claim of legitimacy of a son before a notary in 1489, a Thomas Fannyng, lord of Mohobbir was plaintiff. And in 1565 Oliver Faning and James Faning of Co.Tipperary made a grant of a castle to Sir Thomas Butler. The names Edmund Fanning appear in 1592 in a petition of noblemen in Co.Tipperary.
(Reference Calendar of Ormond Deeds, vol.1-6, Edmund Curtis, 1932-43).
D.A. Levistone Cooney published a paper on the Fannins of Grafton St.,Dublin, of pharmacy and musical fame in 1995.This Fannin family originated in Waterford and finally settled in Dublin. In personal correspondence on the theme of the various spellings of the Fannin name, he proposes that in the eighteenth century, people changed their surname spelling on conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism (Penal Law pressure to conform), or to indicate an improved social status and thus differentiate themselves from the peasants, or simply that there were so many of the same name in a local vicinity, and an altered spelling indicated a particular line. And the other obvious reason was that poor people, without property and thus family papers were largely illiterate, and a surname had less importance.
The Gaelic form of the name is O’Fionnäin. In the Cromwellian war in Ireland, The mayor of Limerick, Dominick Fanning was hanged by Cromwell’s commander Ireton following a six month siege of the city. Near Limerick is Fanningstown castle, the abode of Edmund Fanning and still well preserved. (It is available as a very expensive and luxurious holiday home). In the army of King James II three Fannings appear as officers.
Captain Cook’s master on his second voyage was Peter Fannin, who is noted for producing the first modern and accurate map of the Isle of Man in 1789, which lies between Ireland and England.
Principal distribution by county of Fannin/Fanning variants in Ireland taken from the Primary Valuation property survey of 1848 - 1864
Cavan 23 Louth 15
Dublin 22 Tipperary 65
Dublin city 10 Wexford 20
Kilkenny 30 Cork city 10
Monaghan 13 Dublin 10
Roscommon 12 Kilkenny 31
Tipperary 27 Leitrim 13
Wexford 13 Roscommon18
Other variants found in Ireland include:-
Fanen, Fannan, Fannen, Fannon, Fainin.
The original Norman invaders had both the FAN-name ending in --‘in’ and ‘yng’.
This early material might suggest a common ancestor.
Printed with permission of Samuel Fannin, Murcia, Spain