This is a famous Scottish and sometimes Irish, clan surname. Recorded in a large number of spellings including Cunningham, Cuninghame, Cunninghame, Coningham (Scottish), and Conningham, Conaghan, Cunihan, and Kinahan (Irish), it is of medieval origin, with a possible dash of French. It is locational from Cunninghame, a manor near the town of Kilmarnock, and also a former territorial division of the county of Ayrshire. The place name is first recorded as Cunegan in the year 1153, the spelling being British (pre-Roman) of uncertain origin. The main branch of the family trace their ancestry back to a knight called Wernebald. He was in the service of Hugh de Morville, a Norman French settler, and from him Wenebald obtained the lease of the manor of Cunningham in the 12th century. Early recordings from this time include Alexander de Kuningham, in the charters of North Berwickshire, in 1190, and William de Cuningham, the vicar of Dundonald in 1403. Notable bearers of the name were William Cunningham, earl of Glencairn and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, in 1526; and Sir Charles Cunningham (1755 - 1834). He was the first lieutenant of HMS Hinchingbroke, and served with Horatio Nelson in 1779. George Henry Kinahan (1820 - 1909) was a famous geologist, whilst Admiral Lord Cunningham was the commander of the British naval forces in the Mediterannean in the Second World War (1939 - 1945). The coat of arms borne by the earls of Glencairn has the blazon of a silver shield charged with a black shakefork, the crest being a silver unicorn's head couped, the motto "Over fork over". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Cunningham. This 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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