Conyngham family genealogy

Of the County Donegal

Crest: A dexter arm in armour vambraced, brandishing a sword ppr.

Alexander Conyngham (or Cunningham), a scion of the House of Glencairn, Scotland, settled in Ireland, circa A.D. 1600. Possessing a love of wild and romantic scenery, the lake, the mountain, and the ocean, he resided in Rossgul, in the co. Donegal. Here, with a people, whose language was Gaelic, he determined to pass the residue of his life; and here in a castle once dwelt MacSweeney, the Milesian chief of that district, but who was then the tenant of a neighbouring cabin, whilst the solitary Castle reminded him of the former wealth and power of his ancestors. The chief was beloved by the people: they saw in him the representative of an illustrious family, and paid him respect and reverence accordingly. Alexander Conyngham married his daughter. Sometimes ascending, with his son-in-law, the summit of lofty Mackish, the Chief would point out the immense territory of which he had been deprived by the “Plantation of Ulster,” observing: “That Castle now deserted and covered with ivy will endure for ages, and oft recall the days of other years, while I, the last of its Chiefs, shall sleep in the tomb of my fathers.”

1. Alexander Conyngham had seven sons: I. Adam, who m. and left Adam, who mar. and left Rev. King Conyngham,[1] Church of England, who held a living, of which the Earl of Westmeath was patron. II. David (of whom presently, who m. and had one son Redmond, and three daughters—1. Mary, m. Rev. Thomas Plunkett, her cousin, and a descendant of Sir Patrick Plankett, who, temp. King Henry VIII., m. a grand-daughter of Sir William Welles, Lord Chancellor of Ireland; 2. (—) who m. Rev. Mr. Little, Church of England; 3. (—) who m. David Stewart. III. Gustavus, who mar. dau. of his cousin Gobnil [Gabriel] Conyngham, and had one son and two daughters. The son was Gustavus (who, in 1763, commanded a merchant ship under his cousin Redmond Conyngham, of the firm of John Nesbitt & Co., of Philadelphia; who, in 1776, was commissioned Captain, United States Navy, who commanded the “Surprise,” and on May 2, 1777, in the English Channel, captured the Harwic packet boat “Prince of Orange;” and who, in turn, was captured and put in irons, escaped, and commanded the “Revenge,” U. S. Navy until 1784); and the two daughters were—1. (—) m. Francis M‘ Clure, 2. (—) mar. Alexander MacKay. IV. William, and V. Alexander: both clergymen of the Church of England. VI. John. VII. (—).

2. David: second son of Alexander, as above mentioned; mar. Katherine, dau. of the renowned Irish chieftain, Redmond O’Hanlon.

3. Redmond:[2] son of David; then of Letterkenny, co. Donegal. Migrated to Pennsylvania about 1756; was a prominent man in Philadelphia; m. there Martha, dau. of Robert Ellis, Esq.; and, becoming dissatisfied, returned to Ireland in 1767, and had one son David (of whom presently), and two daus.: the daughters were—1. (—) mar. Rev. Mr. M‘ Causland, Church of England; 2. (—) m. Col. David Ross.

4. David Hayfield Conyngham: son of Redmond. Was b. in Letterkenny 1750; remained in Philadelphia when his father returned to Ireland, and became very prominent on the American side against England, during the Revolution; succeeded his father in the House of Nesbitt and Conyngham, and mar. Mary, dau. of William West, Philadelphia, and died at Wilkes Barré, Pennsylvania, U. S., America, in 1835, aged 85 years.

5. John Nesbitt Conyngham, LL.D.: son of David; b. in Philadelphia, Dec., 1798; Lawyer at Wilkes Barré; mar. Mary, dau. of General Lord Butler, of that place. Was thirty years President Judge of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; called the “upright judge,” because of his strict integrity as a man, a Christian, and a jurist. Killed by a railroad accident on 20th Feb. 1871. One of the most distinguished men of his day in America. He had three sons and two daughters: the sons were—1. Wm. Lord Conyngham, of whom presently; 2. Charles, who m. Miss Turner, of Hartford, Connecticut; 3. Thomas, mar. Miss Michler. The daughters were—1. Mary, who m. Charles Parrish, Esq., of Wilkes Barré, Pa.; and 2. Anna, who married Right Rev. William Bacon Stevens, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Pennsylvania.

6. William Lord Conyngham: son of John; mar. Miss Hillard, of Wilkes Barré, Pennsylvania; living in 1881.


[1] Conyngham: Descendants of this Rev. King Conyngham were living in 1885, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

[2] Redmond: This Redmond Conyngham was named “Redmond,” after his maternal grandfather, Redmond O’Hanlon, who was the celebrated Rapparee of that unhappy time in Ireland, and who was outlawed by the English. In the Conyngham House at Letterkenny was (and likely still is) preserved on the mantelpiece a stone on which it is recorded that during the troublous times in Ireland which drove the dispossessed Irish Proprietors (see “The Cromwellian Devastation of Ireland,” p. 799, Vol. I.) to become “Tories” or “Rapparees,” Redmond O’Hanlon once became separated from his followers, and, being weary, he lay down to sleep. He was awakened two or three times by a Lizard running over his face, and at first was merely irritated; but, as he became more aroused, he recollected the Lizard’s action to be accounted for as a warning. He therefore arose, looked around, and saw a wild boar ready to attack him. His encounter with the boar drew him into a wood, and in a direction contrary to that he was about to take. He was thus saved from a party of his enemies, who were lying in wait for him.