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The Conn Family Origins

Researched and Contributed by David Conn

Further information is available from David Conn  Email him


The most complete account of the origins of the Conn family has been given by Alec Conn in "The History of the Conn Family". He believes that the family can be traced back to the early High Kings of Ireland, although much of what he says is taken from traditional accounts (see the latest book by Marshall called 'Somerled'). The continuance of the blood line from 'Conn of a Hundred Battles' in AD 128 to Somerled in AD 1164 is generally accepted, but his assertion that the appearance of the Conn name in Scotland at about this time is evidence of consanguinity is open to question. That the name is associated with the Norse invasions of North East Scotland in the 11th century is probably true. He shows that many of the Scottish, Irish and North English families can be traced back to these origins.

Whilst accepting that this is the most likely source of the families that he was dealing with, an alternative route, principally for the early Yorkshire families, might have been via the Norse and Danish invasions of York. The Norwegians sailed around the north of Scotland and entered the Irish sea in the 9th century setting up Norse colonies at Wexford, Cork and principally Dublin. From these bases they landed in the North West of England, in Lancashire, in 915. They rapidly expanded across the north west and eventually spread eastwards across the Pennines into Yorkshire, capturing York itself in 919. It is possible that the Conn name appeared in Yorkshire by this route.

The Danish invasions of England, which occurred at about the same time as the Norwegian settlements, were initially landings in East Anglia in 864, when a large host of Norsemen captured what is now Norfolk and Suffolk. They split into two armies, one going south and coming in contact with the Wessex kingdom of Alfred, whilst the other moved north eventually capturing York. This northen army broke down into separate bands and the Anglo Saxons (English) were able to take control again. In 919 the Norwegians, coming in from the west, overran York again, and once more it became a Viking city.

The earliest recorded Conn (Conne) families date from about 1300 in the Cleveland area of North Yorkshire (Upleatham), about 1590 in the Tees valley (Coniscliffe), and about 1300 in the Pickering area. All of these are centres of Danish occupation in the 10th and 11th century, and a more likely scenario is that the name was imported at that time. The meaning of the name, whether it be from the Norwegan in the north of Scotland or the Danish in Yorkshire, is probably the same, ie noble, lord or king. The association of the village of Coniscliffe, a Norse settlement, with a family called Conn is interesting.






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