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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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 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 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 United States in the 20th Century

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

Downey Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Judith Downey, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1820
  • Sarah Downey settled in Quebec in 1824
  • Calvin C Downey, who arrived in Canada in 1828
  • William Downey, aged 30, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Edward Reid" in 1833
  • John Downey, aged 30, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "Lord Goderich" from London

Downey Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Thomas Downey, a carpenter, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Dennis Downey, English convict from Suffolk, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
  • Mary Downey, aged 17, arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Elgin" in 1849
  • Jane Downey arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Ramillies" in 1849

Downey Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Edward Downey landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • John Downey landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • John Downey, aged 23, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • Mary Downey, aged 23, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • James Downey arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Joseph Fletcher" in 1855


  • 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 (1994–2003)
  • 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



  • 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. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. The Charters of David I The Written Acts of David I King of Scots, 1124-53 and of His Son Henry, Earl of Northumerland, 1139-52. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999. 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. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  5. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  6. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  7. Leeson, Francis L. Dictionary of British Peerages. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1121-5).
  8. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  9. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  10. Bain, Robert. The Clans and Tartans of Scotland. Glasgow & London: Collins, 1968. Print. (ISBN 000411117-6).
  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 6 February 2015 at 22:54.

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