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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

Where did the Scottish Downey family come from? What is the Scottish Downey family crest and coat of arms? When did the Downey family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Downey family history?

Downey is a Dalriadan-Scottish name, no doubt originally for a person who lived in the old barony of Duny or Downy, which was also called Douney in 1331, in the parish of Monikie, Angus. The surname is still commonplace in the district and Downie is one of the oldest names in the parish of Kemnay.

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Spelling variations were extremely common in medieval names, since scribes from that era recorded names according to sound rather than a standard set of rules. Downey has appeared in various documents spelled Downey, Downie, Downy, MacIldowney, MacIldownie, MacDowney, MacDownie, O'Downey and many more.

First found in the parish of Monikie in Angus (Gaelic: Aonghas), part of the Tayside region of northeastern Scotland, and present day Council Area of Angus, formerly known as Forfar or Forfarshire. One of the first records of the name was Duncan de Dunny who witnessed a discussion of boundaries of Tulloes (Tulloch) and Conon in 1254.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Downey research. Another 255 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1330, 1402, and 1550 are included under the topic Early Downey History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Downey Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Downey family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 194 words(14 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Many who arrived from Scotland settled along the east coast of North America in communities that would go on to become the backbones of the young nations of the United States and Canada. In the American War of Independence, many settlers who remained loyal to England went north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Their descendants later began to recover the lost Scottish heritage through events such as the highland games that dot North America in the summer months. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the Downey family emigrate to North America:

Downey Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • James Downey who went to Pennsylvania in 1711
  • Darby Downey sailed to America in 1738
  • Elizabeth Downey went to Philadelphia in 1745
  • Elizabeth Downey, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745
  • Daniel Downey settled in New England in 1748


Downey Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • James Downey, who arrived in Maryland in 1812
  • Charles Downey, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1838
  • Peter Downey, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1844
  • Dennis Downey, aged 44, landed in Missouri in 1847
  • Patrick Downey went to Boston in 1849 when he was 26


Downey Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century


  • C. R. Downey went to Oregon in the year 1900

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  • Robert John Downey Jr. (b. 1965), Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning American actor and musician
  • Sean Morton Downey (1932-2001), American singer, songwriter and talk show host, known for his program The Morton Downey, Jr. Show
  • Thomas Joseph Downey (b. 1949), American politician Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York (1975-1993)
  • Rev. Richard Downey (1881-1953), English clergyman, Archbishop of Liverpool
  • Richard Keith Downey (b. 1927), Canadian agricultural scientist, best known as the "Father of Canola"
  • John Gately Downey (1827-1894), American politician, 7th Governor of California (1860-1862)
  • Roma Downey (b. 1960), Emmy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-nominated actress and producer, best known as main character of the TV series Touched by an Angel (19942003)
  • William Edward Downey (1829-1915), Queen's Photographer, co-founder of W & D. Downey
  • Marg Downey (b. 1961), Australian comedian
  • Brian Michael Downey (b. 1951), Irish drummer and a founding member of the rock band Thin Lizzy

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  • A Downey & Crawford Ancestry by Roy H. Downey.
  • The Genealogy of Thomas Downey and Margaret Tracey by Joyce V. Hawley Spires.
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  1. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  2. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  3. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  4. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  5. Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances. London: Secker & Warburg, 1963. Print.
  6. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  7. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  8. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  9. Scots Kith and Kin And Illustrated Map Revised 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Clan House/Albyn. Print.
  10. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  11. ...

The Downey Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Downey Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 3 March 2014 at 10:13.

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