Cain family crestCain is the maiden name of one of our maternal great-grandmothers, Alice Cain (1888-1962) who married Edward Charles Rogers in 1908. The sequence of surnames in the three generations between us goes Cain-Rogers-Dwyer-Dwyer.

The surname Cain is an anglicised version of a surname deriving from the Ó Catháin sept.1 This sept, part of Clan Connor, was important in Ulster from around the 12th century up to the Ulster Plantation in the early 17th century.

By the beginning of the 12th century the Ó Catháin sept dominated what is now the baronies of Tirkeeran, Keenaght and Coleraine (then known as Firnacreeve or Creeve) in northern County Derry. The Ó Catháins were mentioned a number of times in the Irish Annals in the 12th century, an indicator of their importance at that time:

The seat of the Ó Catháins was at Dungiven. There in 1100 they founded an abbey for Augustinian canons which was destroyed soon after and lay in ruins until it was later restored by the Bishop of Armagh.3

The Ó Catháins experienced a bloody feud within the sept in the early 16th century with two claimants to leadership of the sept. Late in that century the Ó Catháins participated in the rebellion led by Hugh O’Neill. After Hugh’s defeat at Kinsale in 1601 the English continuously attacked Ó Catháin lands, destroying their major strongholds and causing famine by destroying their crops and  stealing their cattle. The Ó Catháins were eventually dispossessed of their lands by the Ulster Plantation in the first half of the 17th century. In the rebellion of 1641, again led by the O’Neills in Ulster, the Ó Catháins fought a last battle with an English settler force between  Dungiven and Limavady but were defeated and scattered.
Our first known Cain ancestors were not born until the end of the 18th century, and were living in County Monaghan.



1 Variants of the surname include O’Cahan, Caine, Kane, Keane, Kayne and O’Kane

2 O’Donovan, John, trans. (1856), Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, Vol.II, pp. 1059, 1119-20, 1127, 1165 and1183.



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