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In spite of its very Irish appearance (gan is one of the most common terminations of Irish surnames) Fagan must be regarded (subject to a reservation to be mentioned later) as a family name of Norman origin. At the same time it must be pointed out that it is not an English name. It is derived from the Latin word paganus. For many centuries it has been associated with Counties Dublin and Meath. As early as the year 1200 one William Fagan was the owner of extensive house property in the city of Dublin and fifty years later we find the family firmly established in the neighbouring counties with a seat, acquired a little later, at Feltrim, Co. Dublin. A branch of this family was also found in Kerry and another in Cork city where Christopher Fagan took refuge in 1497 - he had been a supporter of Perkin Warbeck's claim to the throne and Cork was solidly behind that pretender. From the Kerry branch were descended the Fagans who distinguished themselves in the service of France int he eighteenth century and were ennobled in that country. The name is not really numerous in Ireland - it is estimated that about two thousand of the population are so called : almost all these are natives of Leinster, fifty per cent of whom are Dubliners. There is also, it is true, a Gaelic Irish family of O Faodhagain, anglicized Fagan, which belongs to Co. Louth: it may be a corrupt form of the well known name O'Hagan but Fr. John Ryan thinks not. One of these, Edmund O'Fagan, was an officer int he Ultonia regiment of the Spanish army in 1778.
While the fact that Fagan is in most cases of Norman origin is accepted. Fr. John Ryan disagrees with the statement, made by Fr. Woulfe and here that O Faoghagain is a variant of O hAodhagan (O'Hagan) and other scholars concur. They say it is a distinct sept of eastern Airghialla (Oriel). There Fagan, Fegan, Feighan and Feehan are numerous and much confused; probably these all derive from O'Faodhagain.
The tow best known Fagans in the past were Robert Fagan (1745-1816), born in Cork, who was a diplomat and portrait painter; and James Fleming Fagan (1828-1893), American planter, soldier and public official of Irish descent.