Ponsonby History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Ponsonby is a name that was brought to England by the ancestors of the Ponsonby family when they migrated to the region after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Ponsonby family lived in Cumberland, at Ponsonby, from whence the family derived their name.

Early Origins of the Ponsonby family

The surname Ponsonby was first found in Cumberland at Ponsonby, a parish, in the union of Whitehaven, Allerdale ward above Derwent. [1] "Before the adoption of the surname, they are said to have been of Hale, in the same county. Still earlier, according to a family tradition, they were of the noble rank in Picardy, the founder of the house in England having come over with the Conqueror, who appointed him his Barber! The three combs in the arms of Ponsonby are alleged in support of this story, and if further evidence can possibly be desired, the chevron that separates them may adumbrate the open razor, wherewithal the dread face of the mighty Conqueror was denuded of its manly appendage!" [2]

Early History of the Ponsonby family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Ponsonby research. Another 62 words (4 lines of text) covering the years 1340, 1546, 1604, 1679, 1758, 1739, 1713, 1789 and 1660 are included under the topic Early Ponsonby History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ponsonby Spelling Variations

Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence in the eras before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate regularly changed the spellings of their names as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Ponsonby have been found, including Ponsonby, Pounceby, Pownceby and others.

Early Notables of the Ponsonby family (pre 1700)

Another 41 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Ponsonby Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Ponsonby family to Ireland

Some of the Ponsonby family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 59 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Ponsonby migration to the United States +

For many English families, the social climate in England was oppressive and lacked opportunity for change. For such families, the shores of Ireland, Australia, and the New World beckoned. They left their homeland at great expense in ships that were overcrowded and full of disease. Many arrived after the long voyage sick, starving, and without a penny. But even those were greeted with greater opportunity than they could have experienced back home. Numerous English settlers who arrived in the United States and Canada at this time went on to make important contributions to the developing cultures of those countries. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Ponsonby were among those contributors:

Ponsonby Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Ponsonby, who arrived in Virginia in 1772 [3]
Ponsonby Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Ponsonby, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1850

Australia Ponsonby migration to Australia +

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

Ponsonby Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Peter Ponsonby, English convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for life, transported aboard the "Eliza" on 22nd September 1819, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [4]

New Zealand Ponsonby 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:

Ponsonby Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • James Ponsonby, aged 28, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Shamrock" in 1855
  • Dorah Ponsonby, aged 29, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Shamrock" in 1855
  • Pat Ponsonby, aged 5, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Shamrock" in 1855
  • Ellen Ponsonby, aged under 1, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Shamrock" in 1855

Contemporary Notables of the name Ponsonby (post 1700) +

  • Henry Ponsonby (d. 1745), English peer from Ashgrove, second son of Sir William Ponsonby, Captain of foot on 2 Aug. 1705
  • Frederick George Barabazon Ponsonby (1815-1895), 6th Earl of Bessborough, second son of John William Ponsonby, English peer
  • Lady Emily Charlotte Mary Ponsonby (1817-1877), third daughter of John William Ponsonby, fourth earl of Bessborough, an English author of a number of novels
  • Cecil Brabazon Ponsonby (1889-1945), English cricketer
  • Sir Henry Frederick Ponsonby (1825-1895), English Army officer, Private Secretary to Queen Victoria
  • Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby (1783-1837), English Army Major General, Governor of Malta (1827-1836)
  • Air Vice Marshal John Maurice Maynard Ponsonby OBE (1955-2022), British businessman and a senior officer of the Royal Air Force son of Myles Ponsonby (1924–1999)
  • William Ponsonby (1704-1793), 2nd Earl of Bessborough, eldest son of Brabazon, 1st Earl of Bessborough
  • John William Ponsonby (1781-1847), 4th Earl of Bessborough, Irish peer
  • John Ponsonby (1713-1789), Irish Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, from co. Down, Member of Parliament for the borough of Newtown, co. Down in 1739
  • ... (Another 4 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Ponsonby Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Pro rege, lege grege
Motto Translation: For the King, law and people.


  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 10th February 2022). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/eliza


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