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Origin of the cavin
What is the origin of our familly? This is a question difficult to answer.
I made some research and found several website with very interesting content. Please find at the bottom the references. The history is incomplete, so if you have any information, don't hesitate to contact me!

I took as starting point the countries where many Cavin are living nowadays - my search cannot be complete, so I may have missed a key country, of course. I found the highest number of Cavin in the USA - a phone book enquiry returned hundreds of records. Some references mention (without year) about 1600 households. The second highest number is in Switzerland, with a phonebook enquiry returning 604 records, while other sources mention 560 households. Third comes France with 184 hits on the phonebooks, then the UK with 149 hits found in the electoral roll 2008-2009. With 24 hits comes the phonebook enquiry in Canada.
Spain (7), Autralia (6), Germany (3), Italy (2 + one pizzeria Al Cavin in Mirano on Cavin's Street!), or Belgium (1) are less promising. Other countries like Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Iceland show even zero hits.

I chose to ignore USA and Canada as obviously the Cavin there were immigrants and concentrate on the most promising countries: Switzerland, France, UK.

The earliest traces of Cavin are found on parchments conserved in the archives of the canton of Vaud. The oldest is a presonal record:
CAVEN, Vulliernus, fils de feu Johonnodus Cavin, de Mézières.1385, mars 22
which first shows that the name Cavin was already in use before 1385 in this canton, and furthermore that the orthography was not very consistent in the middle age. Many records have thus alternate forms for Cavin, including Cawin, Cawein, Caven or Cavins.

The almost-continuous records of the Cavin familly in the canton of Vaud, in the village of Vulliens in particular (village cited as Willens as early as 1142) date as far as I know from 1536 - the church acts, with sacrements (baptism, weddings, burials). In Vucherens, neighboring village, the familly Cavin can be traced to an order of the Bailli of Berne of 1540 with Lois Cavin, "mestral de Vucherens". In the village of Ecublens (in the canton of Fribourg, but very close to both Vulliens and Vucherens), a young Claude Cavin was elected soldier in 1580. Then the name comes repetitively in different archives.

The famillies from those villages have different coats of arms (created probably in the romantic XVIIIe century as the Cavin familly is not of the nobility). The one from Vucherens has four parts, with top-left and bottom-right containing a white tower on azure background, the two other quarts containing a grape of gold on gueule background; a gold cross separates the quarts.
The one from Vulliens is much more uncommon - it displays a silver rat on sable background standing on top of gold stairs in which a door of sable is decouped. Rats are very rare in coats of arms, so our familly can be proud of that!

Images from Cercle-Cavin, used for now without permission, contact pending.

In summary, the presence of the familly Cavin is very well documented since late medieval times (or at least Renaissance) in the region of Vulliens VD-Vucherens VD-Ecublens FR. This origin of the familly cannot be disputed.

The Cavin, with 190 famillies, are also quite numerous in France. According to Le Cercle Généalogique Suisse-France-USA, the origin of most french Cavin famillies can be traced back to swiss immigrants. Indeed during or after the 30-year war (ca 1660), many protestant swiss emigrated to France. On the army rolls of the Bailli of Berne (region Vulliens/Vucherens/Ecublens), one can see in the years 1600 that some Cavin have emigrated to France, specifically in the then allied teritory of Burgundy; in the archives of St Jean d'Adam (Doubs) traces of several Cavin "from the diocese of Lausanne near Gruyère" can be found. This confirms that some Cavin did the trip from Switzerland to France.

Apparently a second wave of immigration happened when the Franche Conté was integrated to France after 1793, as manpower was necessary for the industrialization. Remember that in most of its history, Switzerland was a poor country, and hence it was common to have Swiss people emigrating to find jobs.

Many of the Cavin in France have been active in the forge profession. Numerous Cavin can be found when looking at the history of foundries.

United Kindom
About 150 adult Cavin have been found in the United Kingdom; this makes probably ca. 100 households. This is also a high number, and in this case there is no documented immigration from Switzerland.

The ealiest trace of Cavin I could find is a record from 1600 for the christening of Thomas Cavin in Saint Kew (Cornwall, England). Another record from 1611 (birth of Catherine Cavins) in Clackmannan (Scotland). Checking the census of 1841 shows that many Cavin live in the south of Scotland or the north of england.

As the name Cavin may come from the Gaelic ("handsome") or from a place in the southwest of Scotland near Galloway (as opposed to the french "Cellar", "Wine" which is most probably the french origin of the name), it is well possible that the Cavin have here another root unrelated to the one in Switzerland, and that both name derived to Cavin independantly.

It is, however, thinkable that the two lines originates from a single source, as the following scenarios (only scenarios, no proofs) illustrate:
  • The Count of Savoy (master of the region where the swiss roots of the familly are) had frequent contact with england, including a member of his familly being Archbishop of Canterbury in 1241-1270. The Amédée of Savoy participated in a war in Wales and several small Nobility of the canton of Vaud went with him to fight - some of them settling in England and obtaining exhalted positions by the english kings. It is well possible that those nobles brought soldiers or servent with them from the local Cavin familly, and that some of those remained since this XIIIe century in England - why they would have moved to the North and to Scotland is unexplained.
  • Alternatively, about 300 Scotsmen went to France in 1221 as the result of an aliance between kings against England. Some settled in France. Some Cavin may belong to them. However, the link from France to Switzerland is missing, the more so because at that time, Vaud was still within the Germanic Roman Empire while France was not.
Whether there are one or two sources to the familly is therefore still open to question! Anyway, that there have been Cavin for a long time in the UK is a certainty.

US Census data show 43 Cavin famillies in 1840 in the US, multiplying to over 850 in 1880. This tend to show that the highest immigration was in the middle of the XIXe century.
US imigration data show that on 84 immigrants between 1851 and 1890, 40 of them were Irish and 35 from the UK. So the major sources of emigration seems to come from the enlish side of the Cavin familly. This is confirmed by the point of departure of those emigrants: most come from England, Scotland and Ireland.

This poses a challenge: the majority of US immigrants are Irish, and nowadays we have no single cavin in the phone-book of Ireland. Regretfully, it is very hard to find past data as Ireland has a civil register only since 1864. Parish baptismal records may be available earlier but are no readily available. 18 Cavin have been found in the available records from 1760-1876 (different sources) so some Cavin effectively used to live in Ireland at that period. But still, few people.

The fact that an Irish county is named Cavan also increases the drive to think that the Cavin are coming from there. But the lack of Cavin nowadays, the few ones found in history and the fact that Cavan is not an orthography found in all the variants of Cavin seems to indicate that Ireland was but one step in the long trip of the Cavin; perhaps the great famine of 1845-1849 chased them all away from their new homeland?

A theory is therefore that the Cavin went from Scotland to USA via Ireland, as stated in the "History of the Cavins Family, as written by Elijah Cavins, Bloomfield, Indiana - compiled between 1876 and 1904": "Thee Cavins family originated in Scotland, and emigrated from there to Ireland, and settled in that part of Ireland afterwards known as Cavan County [...] About the year 1745 three brothers emigrated from Ireland to the U. S. and settled in New Jersey. The name at that time was Cavin."



1. Kaetelyn Cavin, 20.03.2011, 08:01   [reply]
In reading your article on your theory of the migration of the Cavin name; I find your thoughts on the Swiss origin to be quite plausible. I have been researching my family over the past 15 years and found proof to the old family stories that have been handed down. Even the one about the 3 brothers who started the American line of Cavin. My link is with John Cavin who emigrated from the town of Innis Courthay Ireland. Looking at old maps this is not located in Cavan County at all. It is in the southern end of Ireland near Wexford. You can almost draw a line from Switzerland through France to southern Ireland. They may have had the misfortune to have arrived in Ireland just as the famine struck and had no other choice but to move on to America.
Thank you for sharing your very interesting history. And that coat of arms has been on a plaque in my family for more than 40 years. We all thought it came from Ireland, not Switzerland. Amazing!

2. Laurent, 01.06.2011, 23:06   [reply]
Thanks for sharing your story - I am amazed to hear you have coats of arms from Switzerland while having proven ancestry from Ireland. That may indeed indicate that both origins may be less separated than may be thought.

3. Rosie Cavin, 23.01.2012, 04:40   [reply]
We have been in contact with Cavins in Switzerland and there are records of Cavins going back to before 1500. Our side of the Cavins in recent history comes from Louisiana, Cajun/French.

4. Laurent, 22.02.2012, 16:52   [reply]
Hi Rosie,
Thanks for your comment. I did not find references before 1500, but several in the sixteenth century. I would be interested if you have more info.
The history is always complex, and they are certainly parallel immigration ways. Louisiana - french speaking long ago - is certainly a place where a french speaking swiss may wish to emigrate to if given the choice. Do you happen to know where your ancestors were coming from?

5. Kaetelyn Cavin, 08.06.2012, 18:53   [reply]
The Swiss connection might also explain where my blue eyes and blonde hair came from. It is not exactly a strong Irish trait.
Rosie, my family also come through the southern states and the vast majority settled in Texas in the 1800s. We have strong ties at that time to the Texas Republic President, LaMarr which is a strong French name.
Viva la Cavin!

6. michael cavin, 21.06.2012, 17:13   [reply]
is there any important stuff that was in our family history like a great battle we leaded or big act we did just anything big that happend? i still want to know

7. michael cavin, 21.06.2012, 17:14   [reply]
Type your comhow many cavins are alive now?

8. michael cavin, 21.06.2012, 17:15   [reply]
hi im a cavin too do you know of anything realy great that happend in our past?

9. michael cavin, 21.06.2012, 17:18   [reply]
im a kid who in the short past was rich

10. Doug Cavin, 15.07.2012, 21:53   [reply]
The Cavins are included in some history of the settlement of the Appalachians around Kingsport Tennessee. Also Cavin in middle Tennessee. Some Cavins in Civil War register,mostly served for the Confederacy. Book: The Scots-Irish in the Hills of Tennessee by Billy Kennedy.

11. Jim Cavin, 08.08.2013, 18:59   [reply]
Cavin is also a recognized sept of Clan Douglas. They were in the border area with England. I also have some Murray, which is another clan in the region.

12. Laurent, 20.08.2013, 23:42   [reply]
Jim, this is very interesting. For those who want more information, check:
This speaks loudly for a scottish origin (as it goes up to the XVth century) parallel to the Swiss one...

13. Gerald, 22.03.2014, 06:57   [reply]
My Grandfather was a Cavin. I was always told we were part of the "Black" Irish that immigrated from Scotland. Somehow my Grandfather came from Indiana so I guess that coincides with what you were saying. Thanks

14. Brad Cavin, 16.11.2014, 19:49   [reply]
Cavin is a variant word for the irish and galiec word "cavan" which means the "handsome one". Which could explain our population all over the world. But last names work as such, example the name john smith, the last name smith is derived from black smith. Because they were always plenty of black smiths in olden days. So our ancestors must have been gorgeous for that to have become our sir name. Also everyone in my family has silver blue eyes. Any other cavins have those eyes?? Even our red headed children such as my niece has piercing blue eyes.

15. Laurent, 23.03.2015, 16:04   [reply]
Thanks for the comments. Brad: my family also has clear eyes, even if it is not "clear blue sky" but sometimes more like "dirty water blue greenish" :-).

16. Peggy Wolfe, 16.04.2016, 05:31   [reply]
Remember that the patronymic naming system was in use generally until about 1600s.

17. Ruth, 12.10.2016, 18:05   [reply]
All of the information in the article and comments is very enlightening. I, too, come from a Cavin family. My great-grandfather Cavin lived in East Texas in the laate 1800s coming from Missouri and had seven girls. Thus the Cavin surname was lost. We have a large family descending from the seven girls and have been having "Cavin" reunions for 71 years.

18. Laurent, 22.07.2017, 22:54   [reply]
Interesting. Peggy: you mean that the Cavin may not be an interrupted family line, but simply named like this as their father had a first name "Cavin" by the time where the family names stabilised? (Note that Cavin cannot be used as a first name in french, so would not be an explanation for the Swiss branch, but could explain the large diversity in the US).

19. Cavin Ashman, 14.11.2017, 23:04   [reply]
My first name is Cvain do you have any idea where that originated from?

20. Cavin Ashman, 14.11.2017, 23:08   [reply]
My first name is Cvain do you have any idea where that originated from?

21. Laurent, 20.01.2018, 23:19   [reply]
Hi Cavin Ashman,
I guess the first name comes from "Beautiful at birth" from the gaelic countries, as explained above (handsome). It is probable that in the english/scottish roots, it was used as a first name and as a surname in the sense of "son of cavin", as Peggy mentioned.
Cavin cannot be used as first name in french.

22. John Cavin, 02.08.2018, 23:44   [reply]
I am named after my grandfather John Cavin who had immigrated to America from switzerland, though I do not know the date that happened. My father was Charles who was born in 1929. I would love to know anything about the family past possible.

23. Wayne McDonald, 16.05.2019, 05:13   [reply]
Wow. this is great information. my sister and I have been working on all 4 of our grandparents' family trees. we had dna done and they found a healthy percentage of Switzerland to n our ancestry. we have all 4 branches into late 1600's all over Britain. now we have a legit source that gets us to Switzerland. my grandmother was a Cavin from southwest Mississippi. our parents settled in Louisiana. I love the family crest. is there a written explanation on its meaning.

24. Laurent, 29.04.2020, 18:27   [reply]
Hi Wayne,
Thanks for the info - it is interesting to see a connection both in Britain and in Switzerland.
For the family crest: the Cavin are not nobles, and not even important land owners in the medieval times. So they had no crest. The crest have probably be done in the 18th century when it was trendy and created from scratch - the rat and the cave entrance obviiusly as reference to Cavin = cave.
The other crest with the towers may be from another allied family. The wine perhaps from the second part of the name: caVIN = wine. Just wild guesses, though.

25. CAVIN Stéphane, 10.03.2021, 16:47   [reply]

I am searching for a branch of the Cavin around 1660 coming from Lutzelstein (literally little stone) in what is nowadays French Alsace. Tiis origin is mentioned in at least 3 official documents/certificates. Would you have some information on this origin. I knew Cavin from French Alsace in the late XVIIIth but not that far in time and quite up-north compared to most of the branches of the family in the East of France.
Thanks in advance for your answer and for your great work.
Warm regards,

26. simon, 12.03.2023, 16:02   [reply]
My mother is a cavin(paternal side) from Scotland. My mum said they used to call them'krauts' which could explain part of the Swiss origin history of our family name and possibly germanic/frankish roots



27. Laurent Cavin, 21.08.2023, 17:44   [reply]
Re: 25
This would fit with the economic emigration to France (Franche-Compté is close to Alsace) of "poor" Cavin our of Switzerland, I guess. I myself did not search any older documents that list or shows more details in France.

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