The Conn Family Origins

The most complete account of the origins of the Conn family has been given by Alec Conn in "The History of the Conn Family" (see He believes that the family can be traced back to the early High Kings of Ireland, although much of what he says is taken from traditional accounts (see the latest book by John Marsden called 'Somerled and the emergence of Gaelic Scotland', pub. Tuckwell Press). The continuance of the blood line from 'Conn of a Hundred Battles' in AD 128 to Somerled in AD 1164 is generally accepted, but his assertion that the appearance of the Conn name in Scotland at about this time is evidence of consanguinity is open to question. That the name is associated with the Norse invasions of North East Scotland in the 11th century is probably true. He believes that many of the Scottish, Irish and North English families can be traced back to these origins.

Whilst accepting that this is the most likely source for the Scottish and Irish families that he was dealing with, an alternative route for the early Yorkshire families, might have been via the Norwegian and Danish invasions of York. The Norwegians sailed around the north of Scotland and entered the Irish sea in the 9th century setting up Norse colonies at Wexford, Cork and principally Dublin. They were driven from Dublin in 904, and moved across the Irish Sea, landing in the north west of England, in Lancashire, in 914. The Wirral has over 1000 Norwegian place-names, and about 50% of the men in Liverpool have Norwegian DNA. They rapidly expanded across the north west and eventually spread eastwards across the Pennines into Yorkshire, settling in York itself in 919. It is possible that the Conn name appeared in Yorkshire by this route.

The Danish invasions of England, which occurred at about the same time as the Norwegian settlements, were initially landings in East Anglia in 864, when a large host of Norsemen captured what is now Norfolk and Suffolk. The "Great Heathen Army" marched northwards through Lincolnshire into Yorkshire, and eventually captured York in November of 1866. The Army moved north and spent the winter at the River Tyne, and the next year had to recapture York in 867. A puppet king called Egbert was put in place to oversee York allowing the Anglo Saxons (English) to take control again.The Great Army marched south coming in contact with the Kingdom of Mercia, but in 876 Halfdan and his army returned to York and made himself King. In 919 the Norwegian-Irish vikings, coming in from the west, overran York making it subject to the Viking settlement of Dublin. Agreements were reached between the Danes and the English that the area of Brtain north of a line from the River Mersey to the River Thames came under Scandinavian control (the Danelaw), whilst the area to the south remained under English control. Fresh invasions by the Danes in 991 eventually saw the accession of Cnut to the crown of England in 1012.

The earliest recorded Conn (Conne) families date from about 1300 in the Cleveland area of North Yorkshire (Upleatham), and about 1300 in the Pickering area. These were centres of Danish occupation in the 10th and 11th century, and it seems more likely that the name was imported at that time. The meaning of the name, whether it be from the Norwegian in the north of Scotland or the Danish in Yorkshire, is probably the same, ie noble, lord or king. The association of the village of Coniscliffe in the Tees valley, thought to be a Norwegian settlement, with a family called Conn is interesting.

There are other old Conn families in England: in Lincoln - an old Danish settlement - there are records of Conn's in the 1550s. In the East Anglian counties of Norfolk and Suffolk there are Conn families dating back to the late 1500s-early 1600s. These, again, are areas of Danish invasion, although none of them have been investigated. Three other areas with large Conn populations are Worcestershire, Essex and Devon, although they do not appear to exist before 1700. Their origins are unknown, although the Devon family is thought to be from Ireland. It is possible that the Worcester family came from Ireland via Liverpool, whilst the Essex family are more probably from the north east of England or from north eastern Scotland. There are a large number of Conn records from the London area, but these are probably migrants from other parts of the country, including Scotland and Ireland .Whether any DNA analysis has been done on any of these families is unknown.

There are large numbers of Conn migrants from England settling in USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but very few of them can be traced back to their origins.