This distinguished surname recorded in the spellings of Cunningham and the rare Northern Irish Conningham, is of early medieval Scottish origin, and is a regional name from Cunningham(e), one of the territorial divisions of Ayrshire. First recorded as "Cunegan" in 1153, the spelling represents a British (pre-Roman) name of uncertain origin. The "modern" spelling with "-ham", first appearing in 1180, represents the assimilation of the Olde English pre 7th Century placename element "ham", homestead, settlement.Locational surnames were originally given to the lord of the manor, or as a means of identification to those who left their place of origin to settle elsewhere. A Scots family of this name can trace their ancestry back to one Wernebald, a vassal of the Norman nobleman, Hugh de Morville, who obtained the manor of Cunningham from his feudal superior in the early 12th Century. Alexander de Kuningham, noted in the Charters of North Berwickshire, witnessed the grant of Kirkbride Largs to the nuns of that shire, circa 1190, and in 1403, one William de Cuningham was vicar of Dundonald. Notable bearers of the name were William Cunningham, fourth Earl of Glencairn and lord high treasurer of Scotland, 1526; also Sir Charles Cunningham (1755 - 1834), rear admiral, and first lieutenant of the "Hinchingbroke" with Nelson, 1779. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Cunningham, which was dated 1210, in the "Ancient Records of the Scots Peerage", during the reign of King William of Scotland, known as "The Lion", 1165 - 1214.
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