Downey History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Gaelic, otherwise known as Early Modern Irish, was used in Ireland from around the year 1200 until the 18th century. It is from this language that we found the first references to the name Downey as O Dúnadhaigh. The name is essentially derived from the word dún which means fort.

Early Origins of the Downey family

The surname Downey was first found in the twelfth century.

Early History of the Downey family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Downey research. Another 189 words (14 lines of text) covering the year 1420 is included under the topic Early Downey History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Downey Spelling Variations

The Middle Ages saw a great number of spelling variations for surnames common to the Irish landscape. One reason for these variations is the fact that surnames were not rigidly fixed by this period. The following variations for the name Downey were encountered in the archives: O'Downey, Dawney, MacDowney, MacEldowney, Muldowney and many more.

Early Notables of the Downey family (pre 1700)

Notable among the family name at this time was the O'Dunadhaigh sept found in Luchair, the old name of a region that lay on the borders of...
Another 26 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Downey Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Downey World Ranking

In the United States, the name Downey is the 1,235th most popular surname with an estimated 24,870 people with that name. [1] However, in Canada, the name Downey is ranked the 950th most popular surname with an estimated 5,686 people with that name. [2] And in Newfoundland, Canada, the name Downey is the 201st popular surname with an estimated 208 people with that name. [3]


United States Downey migration to the United States +

In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Downey family came to North America quite early:

Downey Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • James Downey who went to Pennsylvania in 1711
  • Darby Downey, who sailed to America in 1738
  • Elizabeth Downey went to Philadelphia in 1745
  • Elizabeth Downey, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745 [4]
  • Daniel Downey, who settled in New England in 1748
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Downey Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Downey, who arrived in Maryland in 1812 [4]
  • Charles Downey, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1838 [4]
  • Peter Downey, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1844 [4]
  • Dennis Downey, aged 44, who landed in Missouri in 1847 [4]
  • Patrick Downey went to Boston in 1849 when he was 26
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Downey Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • C. R. Downey went to Oregon in the year 1900

Canada Downey migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Downey Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Judith Downey, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1820
  • Sarah Downey, who settled in Quebec in 1824
  • Calvin C Downey, who arrived in Canada in 1828
  • John Downey, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the ship "Lord Goderich" from London, England
  • Anne Downey, aged 28, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the ship "Lord Goderich" from London, England
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Downey migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Downey Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Michael Downey, (b. 1788), aged 32, Irish labourer who was convicted in Galway, Ireland for 7 years for sedition, transported aboard the "Dorothy" on 5th May 1820, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • Mr. Daniel Downey, Welsh convict who was convicted in Cardigan, Ceredigion, Wales for 7 years, transported aboard the "Claudine" on 20th May 1821, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [6]
  • Patrick Downey, a carpenter, who arrived in New South Wales, Australia sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Thomas Downey, a carpenter, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Mr. Timothy Downey, (b. 1812), aged 26, Irish butcher who was convicted in Cork, Ireland for 10 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Clyde" on 11th May 1838, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Downey migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Downey Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Edward Downey, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • John Downey, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • John Downey, aged 23, who arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • Mary Downey, aged 23, who arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • Mr. John Downey, (b. 1816), aged 23, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Oriental" arriving in Port Nicholson, Wellington, New Zealand on 31st January 1840 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Downey (post 1700) +

  • Robert John Downey Jr. (b. 1965), Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning American actor and musician, from 2013 to 2015, he was listed by Forbes as Hollywood's highest-paid actor
  • Robert John Downey Sr. (1936-2021), American actor, director, producer, writer, cinematographer, and the father of actor Robert Downey Jr
  • Thomas Joseph Downey (b. 1949), American politician Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York (1975-1993)
  • Sean Morton Downey (1932-2001), American singer, songwriter and talk show host, known for his program The Morton Downey, Jr. Show
  • J. Harold Downey, American politician, Member of Illinois State House of Representatives 41st District, 1945-55 [9]
  • Frank X. Downey, American politician, Member of Illinois State House of Representatives, 1957-65, 1965-67 [9]
  • Francis W. Downey, American politician, Delegate to New Hampshire State Constitutional Convention from Manchester 5th Ward, 1956 [9]
  • Ellen Downey, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York, 1920, 1924 [9]
  • Edward L. Downey Jr., American politician, Mayor of Marquette, Michigan, 1965, 1968 [9]
  • Edward Downey, American politician, Representative from North Carolina 3rd District, 1996 [9]
  • ... (Another 33 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Thomas Shaun Downey, British Seaman from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and survived the sinking [10]
HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Francis Downey, British Leading Stoker, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking [11]
RMS Lusitania
SS Newfoundland
  • Mr. Daniel Downey (1892-1914), Newfoundlander from St. John's, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he died during this time


Suggested Readings for the name Downey +

  • A Downey & Crawford Ancestry by Roy H. Downey.
  • The Genealogy of Thomas Downey and Margaret Tracey by Joyce V. Hawley Spires.

  1. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  2. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  3. ^ The order of Common Surnames in 1955 in Newfoundland retrieved on 20th October 2021 (retrieved from Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland by E.R. Seary corrected edition ISBN 0-7735-1782-0)
  4. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 12th July 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/dorothy
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th February 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/claudine
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th February 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/clyde
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  9. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 25) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  10. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/listepsc1.html
  11. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html
  12. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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