This interesting surname has at least four possible different ational origins, and is almost certainly, for most nameholders, not what its seems. That it is often locational is unarguable, but it is not usually, as is generally believed from the town of Conwy on the north coast of Wales. The first recording from that source is in 1406, one hundred and fifty years after the first 'English' recording, see below. However in a sense the nameholders of English and Welsh origins do have a shared ancestry in that they both derive from the Olde English pre 7th century 'Cam yea' meaning crooked river, various streams being so named in the English West Country in medieval times.The Scottish name holders probably derive from the hamlet of Conway in the parish of Beautly. This place was recorded as "Coneway" in the 1215 rolls. In this case the name is a claimed anglicisation of the Gaelic "Coinmheadh" which translates as "free quarter", implying a district in which troops were billeted on the local inhabitants. This is an interesting observation, although its accuracy must be open to doubt. It was the normal practise to billet troops by 'free quarter' at anytime. In Ireland "Conway" is often an anglicized form of several Irish names, such as Mac Connmhaigh, a byname meaning "Head Smasher"(!) or Mac Connbhuidhe, - the "Yellow Hound", another interesting nickname. The (Mac) Conway sept belonged to counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary. In 1360, the Annals of the Four Masters record the death of one Gillangnaer O' Connmhaigh. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Conweye. which was dated 1268, in the "Chartulary of Glastonbury", Somerset. during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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