Conway Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
There are four origin theories or meanings of this last name. First, it is a locational/habitational surname meaning “of Conway”, denoting a person who lived in or came from a town so named, of which there were several in Wales (ex. the Welsh city of Conwy or Conway, a fortified city of in the northern part of the country named after the river that it was built on). One source asserts the river was named Cam yea, meaning crooked river, and the name is also English as well as Welsh. The book, An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, states the following in regard to this river: “which issues from a lake in Merionethshire, and flows through a fertile vale of the same name, and enters the Irish Sea, at Aberconway”. Second, it is an Anglicized form of several Gaelic/Irish/Celtic surnames such as O’Connmhaigh, MacConmidhe, McNamee, or MacConnmaigh, meaning “the son of Connmhach”, a personal name derives from the word connmach, meaning head smashing. The book, Surnames of the United Kingdom, states the following: “Celtic, the Irish name Conway is a genitive form (Con + mhaighe) from the nom. Cú-mhaighe = Hound of the Plain [cú, genit. con, a hound] Cú-mhaighe was a common Irish personal name. Anglicized Cooey and absurdly Quintin”. Third, it may be an Anglicized spelling of the Gaelic Conno and O’Conbhuide, meaning “descendant of Cu Bhuidhe”, a personal name consisting of the words cu (hound) and buidhe (yellow), with yellow hound perhaps being a nickname that referred to the physical appearance or character traits of the bearer. Fourth, it may be a Scottish locational name denoting a person from Conway or Coneway or Convathe, a parish in Beauly, Scotland recorded as early as 1215 AD, which may derive from the Gaelic word coinmheadh, meaning “billet” or “free quarters”, being so named as the district in which the local feudal lord’s troops were billeted (living or sleeping quarters, similar to barracks or garrisons) during medieval times of the Middle Ages. The book Patronymica Britannica states the genealogy or ancestry or lineage of the Conway family can be traced back to the reign of King Richard II who reigned from 1377-1399. One source this last name was first found in Donegal, Ireland in the province of Ulster.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Conaway, Conwy, Conoway, Convey, Connway, Coneway, Coniway, and several others.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Conway ranks 719th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Delaware. The surname Conway frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (398th), Scotland (473rd), Wales (419th), Ireland (101st) and Northern Ireland (173rd). In England, it ranks highest in counties Dorset and Northumberland. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Renfrewshire and Clackmannanshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in Flintshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in counties Mayo and Sligo. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Tyrone. The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,041st), New Zealand (1,006th), Australia (602nd), and South Africa (2,253rd).
Early Bearers of the Surname
One of the earliest documented instances of this name is John de Conweye, who was listed in the Chartulary of Glastonbury in 1268 AD in Somerset, England (modern day United Kingdom or previously Great Britain). Two early baptisms involving this last name was John, son of Rowland Connyway, at St. James Clerkenwell, London in 1561 and Elizabeth, daughter of John Conoway at St. Michael, Cornhill. Three early marriages involving this surname include John Conaway to Catherine Bramgan in 1584, a Thomas Conway to Barbara Burt in 1612, and John Connaway to Grace Temperance in 1625, all St. James Clerkenwell.
Conway Family Tree & Conway Genealogy
Conwy of Bodrhyddan
The lineage of ancestry of this family traces back to a family that was long seated (held land and titles/positions) at Prestatyn and Bodrhyddan in Wales in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century. Jonathan Ship, Bishop of St. Asaph married Penolpe Yorcin and had a son with her named William. This son, Very Reverend William Davies Shipley, was the Dean of Asaph. He had five sons and three daughters: William Shipley (Lieutenant Colonel of the army, Member of Parlialemnt for Flint Boroughs, married Charlotte Williams-Wynn, had a son named William and a daughter named Charlotte who married the Honorable Richard Rowley), Mordaunt Shipley, Robert John Shipley, Conway Shipley (Captain of the Royal Navy who was killed in 1808), Reverend Charles Shipley (of Twyford House, Hants, Rector of Mapowder in Dorset, England, married Charlotte Sloper of Woodhay), Penelope (married Pelham Warren), Anna Maria (married Colonel Charles Armand Dashwood), and Emily (married Reginald Heber, the Bishop of Calcutta). He died in 1826 and was succeeded by his grandson, William Shipley, who assumed the name Conway. He was born in 1807 and became a High Sheriff of Flintshire, Wales (in present day United Kingdom) in 1840. He died in 1869 and was succeeded by his nephew Conwy. This nephew, Conwy Grenville Hercules Rowley-Conwy was an Esquire of Bodrhyddan, county Flint, Wales, a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and Captain of the 2nd Life Guards who was born in 1841. He assumed the additional surname of Conwy is 1869. In 1869, he married Marion, daughter of Frederick Harford, and was the father of four children: Maurice William Glynn (1874), Rafe Grenvile (1875), Geoffrey Seymour (1877), and Gwladys Freda (1873). The Conwy Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Conwy Family Crest by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned as follows: Quarterly: 1st and 4th, sable, on bend cottised argent, rose between two annulets gules, for Conwy; 2nd and 3rd, argent, on bend cotised gules three mullets or, for Rowley. Crest: A Moor’s head in profile couped proper, wreathed about the temples argent and azure. Motto: Fide et amore. This family was seated at Bodrhyddan, near Rhyl, Wales.
Other Conway Pedigree & Family Trees
Hugh Conway (or Conwy) was born in Wales around 1290. He married Avicia Butler and had a son with her named Hugh. This Hugh Conway or Conwy was born in Wales in around 1320 AD. He married Elizabeth Pitchard and had a son with her named Henry. This son Henry was born in Wales in 1349. He married Ellen Crevequer and had a son with her named Richard. This Richard Conway was born in Wales or England in 1395. He married Agnes Ratcliffe and had a son with her named John. This John was born in Bodrhyddan, Rhuddlan, Flint, Wales (in modern day United Kingdom). He married Ellen Torbois, and had a son with her named Jenkin. This Jenkin Conway was born in Bodrhyddan, Rhuddlan, Frlint, Wales in 1440. He married Marsli Verch Maredudd and had a son with her named John. This John was born in Ragley, Warwickshire, England in 1460. He married Janet Stanley and had two sons with her as follows: Edward and Edward Vincent. His son Edward Conway was born in Ragley, Warwickshire, England in 1485 AD. He married Anne Burdett and had a son with her named Sir John Conway who was born in Arrow, England in 1519. Sir John married Catherine Lady Verney and had a son with her named John. This son, Sir John Conwa of Ragley, was born in Ragley, Warwickshire, England in 1535 and he married Helen Eleanor Grevill(e). He was the father or three children: Edward, Fulke, and Mary. His son Sir Edward Conway was born n 1564 in Arrow or Ragley, England. He became the 1st Viscount Conway and a Member of Parliament. He married Dorothy Tracy and had issue with her as follows: Ms. Betteswoeth, Edward, Brilliana (Harley), Thomas, and Ralph. His son Edward Conway, the 2nd Viscount Conway, and also a Member of Parliament, was born n 1594. He married Frances Popham and had one daughter and one son with her as follows: Dorothy (Rawdon) and Edward. His son Edward “1st Earl of Conway” was born in 1732. He married three times (Anne Finch, Elizabeth Booth, and Ursula Stawell) but died in 1683 without any children causing his titles to become extinct. Wikipedia.org states the following: “He appointed by his will as heir to his estates, including Ragley Hall, his eight-year old first cousin once removed Popham Seymour (1675–1699), eldest son of Laetitia Popham (a daughter of his uncle Alexander Popham (1605–1669), MP, of Littlecote) by her husband (to whom she was his second wife) Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Baronet (died 1708) of Berry Pomeroy in Devon. His bequest stipulated that Popham Seymour should adopt the arms and additional surname of Conway, and thus he became known as Popham Seymour-Conway. The latter's nephew and eventual heir was Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford, (1718–1794), whose seat became Ragley Hall, where his descendant the 9th Marquess is still seated in 2015.”
Gregory Conway was born in Ballinascree, County Derry, Northern Ireland, was born in Ballinascreen, County Derry, Northern Ireland around 1771 and he married Margaret Bradley, have three sons with her as follows: Andrew, John William, and Gregory A.. His son John William Conway was born in the same town in Northern Ireland in 1818 and he was to Ontatrio, Canada. He married Mary McCormick, Mary McCafferty, and Isabella Kearns and they had three issue together: Gregory, Patrick J., and Thomas William. The son Patrick J was born in Chute-a-Blondeau, Ontario, Canada in 1853. He married Mary Ellen Roach in Sweetwater, Mineral, Nevana and had the following issue with her: Elsie Lorence, Maude E., William J., Geneviere Cecilia Indart, Murial Bernice Atkins, and Doris Mae Weaden.
Thomas Conway was born in Lisburn, Antrim, Ireland in 1612 AD. He married Mary Tanney and had three issue with her: Mary, Patrick, and Thomas. His son Thomas was born in Lisburn, Antrim, Ireland in 1654 and he married Mary Hollingsworth Malin in Belleniskcrannell in Ireland in 1682. He went to colonial America and prior to his 1689 death in Neward, New Castle, Delaware, he had fathered the following four children: Julianna, Sarah (Yearsley), Elizabeth Babb), and Ann (Taylor).
Early American and New World Settlers
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions one bearer of this last name: Edwin, of Worcestershire, England, who married Martha, daughter of William Eltonhead, of Eltonhead, England, having a son named Edwin of Virginia who was born in 1694. Aron Conway was recorded as living in Virginia in February of 1623. Margaret Conway, age 20, came to the Barbados aboard the Alexander in May of 1635. Other early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Edwin Conway (Virginia 1640), James Conway (Maryland 1667), Mary Conway (Virginia 1713), and Charles Conway (Alabama 1787).
In Canada, one of the earliest bearers of this last name was John Conway of Nova Scotia who came in 1750. In Australia, one of the first settlers with this surname was Thomas Conway, a convict from Kent, England, who came aboard the Agamemnon in 1820, living in New South Wales (then a penal colony). In New Zealand, a one Robert Conway, a farmer aged 20, came to Port Nicholson in the year 1841 aboard the Gertrude.
Early Americans Bearing the Conway Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains one entry for this surname:
1) Sable on a bend argent cotised ermine, a rose gules between two annulets of the last Crest: a moor's head side faced proper, banded round the temples argent and azure. Several deeds at Lancaster Court House, Va., made by Edwin Conway, who d. 1763. Bookplate Moncure Daniel Conway, writer, with motto: Fide et amore. Crozier Va. Heral., pp. 68 and 69.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) contains one entry for this name:
1) Edwin Conway of Northampton County, Virginia, 1642, from Worcester, England. Arms: Sable, on a bend argent cotised ermine, a rose gules, between two annulets of the last. Crest: A Moor’s head side-faced proper banded round the temples argent and azure. Motto: Fide et amore.
Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) does not contain an entry for this name.
The Conway family motto is Fide et amore, which is Latin meaning “By fidelity and love”.
We have 12 coats of arms for the Conway surname depicted here. These 12 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Conway surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Albert Conway (1889-1969) was a lawyer and politician born in Brooklyn, New York who was the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals in the 1950s, 2) Anne Conway (1631-1679), also known as Viscountess Conway or Anne Finch, was an English philosopher from London who was in the tradition of the Cambridge Platonists and influenced Gottfried Leibniz, a French mathematician and philosopher, 3) Curtis Lamont Conway (1971) who is a retired NFL wide receiver born in Los Angeles, California who played for four different teams (including the Chicago Bears) from 1993-2004, 4) Elias Nelson Conway (1812-1892) who was the 5th Governor of Arkansas from 1852-1860, who was born in Greeneville, Tennessee, 5) John William “Jack” Conway (1969) who was an American politician and Democrat who served as the 49th Attorney General of Kentucky from 2008-2016, born in Louisville, 6) James F. Conway (1932) who was a 41st mayor of St. Louis from 1977-1981, 7) Kellyanne Elizabeth Conway (1967) who was a pollster and pundit who was born in Camden, New Jersey and became the counselor to President Donald Trump, 8) Martin Franklin Conway (1827-1882) who was a US congressman that served in the US House of Representatives from 1861-1863 for Kansas, a consul to France, and an abolitionist who was born in Harford County, Maryland, 9) Martin Conway (1974) who became an Irish Fine Gaelic Senator in 2001, born in Ennistymon, Clare, Ireland, 10) William Martin Conway (1856-1937), 1st Baron Conway of Allington, was an art critic, politician, and mountainerr who was born in Rochester, England, the son of Reverend William Conway, 11) Vice Admiral Robert Thomas Conway, Jr. who is a retired US Navy officer who served from 1972-2009, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and 12) Peter J. Conway (1886-1903) who was a pitcher in the MLB who played for five years from 1885-1889 for four different teams, including the Detroit Wolverines and Pittsburg Alleghenys.