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About the McConvilles


McConville History and Demographics
Excerpt from "More Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght
Excerpt from "Supplement to Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght
McConville Placenames: Drumconwell, Rathconvill and Drummuckawall
McConvilles in the 1602 Census of the Fews
McConville Reference in the Communion Roll of 1698
McConville Reference in the 1831 Ordinance Survey Memoirs


McConville History and Demographics

McConville is a well-known Ulster surname. The Gaelic Mac Conmhaoil, son of Conmhaoil, has been rendered also as McConwell, a spelling form now almost obsolete. MacLysaght indicates that the name is mainly found in Counties Armagh, Down and Louth.

Six McConvilles in Co. Down are recorded as having been attainted with loss of their lands after the defeat of King James II in 1690.

The map (see below) shows the distribution of some 423 McConville families with telephones in 1992. Allowing for homes without telephones, there would probably have been about 580 families altogether.

The settlement pattern is distinctive. The McConvilles live in greatest density on the border between Armagh and Down. The main cluster does not extend into Co. Louth. In a similar way to some other names with local concentrations in this area, it ends abruptly along what is now the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Belfast, Antrim and Lisburn area has 11% of the population of Ireland. McConvilles strength in the area is also 11%. This is a low proportion in view of the proximity of the McConvilles heartland to Belfast. It is possibly explained by the Irish Gaelic origin of the families.

Greater Dublin has over a fifth of all Irish families, but only 6% of the McConville families live there. A few families live between Dublin and Northern Ireland border and a few live in Co. Cork. Overall, only 17% live in the Republic.

The name is rare. In part this may be due to its meaning, son of Conmhaoil, or high chief. In part it may be because names of this ancient type in the northern third of the island have given ground over the years to surnames based on the names of saints or on trade names.

Edward Neafcy

Mr. Neafcy provides a service to genealogist and family researchers. He creates a surname distribution map, researchs a surname and writes a short history. The map and the history are printed on a parchment-like paper and is suitable for framing. We have a copy of Mr. Neafcy's McConville Map and History hanging in our front hall.

We receive no compensation relating to any of Mr. Neafcy’s works or to endorse those works. Unsolicited testamonials are alway best.

You can contact Mr. Neafcy at the URL shown below.

Ed Neafcy's Web Site

You can e-mail him at


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Excerpt from "More Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght

MacCONVILLE, Conwell & MacGONIGLE - The principal thing to be noted about the MacGonigles (or Magonagles) is their constant association with Co. Donegal. Apart from the adjacent parts of Co. Derry they were very seldom to be found elsewhere. Some of the sept were counted among the warlike followers of O'Donnell; but they were primarily an erenagh family, their church being at Killaghtee. It is as ecclesiastics they are best known in history. As well as many priests they have given two bishops to the diocese of Raphoe, Patrick and Malachy (Gams has Donat) Magonigail (d. 1589). The name is MacCongail in Irish which is also used in English, so spelt, as a synonym of MacGonigle.

In his history of the diocese of Raphoe Canon Maguire speaks of the Magonagle or Conwell sept. I presume he has some authority for equating these two names, but I think it is indisputable that Conwell is MacConmhaoil in Irish. A more usual anglicization of this is MacConville. In Co.Down the variant MacConwell is found and in the Elizabethan Fiants MacConwall is the spelling. The form MacConwell is now almost obsolete but MacConville is numerous especially in Oriel, its homeland, being found now mainily in counties Armagh, Down and Louth. Six of the name from Co. Down were among the Irish Jacobites attainted after the defeat of James II. In all cases the references relate to Ulster. I have met Conwill and Conwyll in early fourteenth century Munster deeds but I presume these names represent a clerks clumsy attempt to write (O)Connell and have no relation to the Armagh sept. One of the most interesting characters of of the latter was Most Rev. Henry Conwell (1748-1842), who after 40 years ministry as a priest in Ireland (he was Vicar-General of the diocese of Armagh) was in 1820 appointed Bishop of Philadelphia, a choice which caused much friction and difficulty.

"More Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght
1960 O'Gorman, Galway

Note: Only 2500 copies of "More Irish Families" were printed.


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Excerpt from "Supplement to Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght

MacCONVILLE - The alternative form of this name MacConwell, is now almost obsolete, but MacConville is numerous especially in Oriel, its homeland, being found now mainly in Counties Down, Armagh and Louth. Six of the name from Co. Down were among the Irish Jacobites attainted after the defeat of James II. The Gaelic-Irish form of the name is MacConmhaoil.

"Supplement to Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght
1964 Helicon, Dublin


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McConville Placenames: Drumconwell, Rathconvill and Drummuckawall

Recently we were corresponding with Patrick White and Rick McConville about McConville history. Patrick mentioned "fort of the McConvilles" in one of his letters. At that time I was reading about the history of South Armagh and had come across a reference "the MacConwells gave their name to Drum-macwale". I checked the map and found the townland of Drumconwell. It is in the northernmost part of the parish of Lisnadill. It is just a few miles south of Armagh City and Navan Fort.

I have seem "Drum" translated as both "hill" and "fort" so I assumed that this was the place that Patrick was talking about. Especially as our correspondence was related to a McConville association with Navan Fort and this place was very close to Navan Fort. Rick McConville later informed us, that Patrick in a subsequent letter had identified the "fort" as Rathconvill. Rick gave us some rough map co-ordinantes, northwest of Newry and southeast of Poyntzpass and we found the townland of Rathconvill. It is in the north east part of the parish of Loughgilly. It is almost on a direct line east from Drumconwell.

Shortly after this, I mentioned finding out about the placenames to Pauline Loughran. Pauline told us that the quotation refered to the townland of Drummuckawall (alternate spelling Drummuckavall) in Creggan parish, not Drumconwell.


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McConvilles in the 1602 Census of the Fews.

The Census was published in the Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society in 1934. It was included in an article called "The History of the Parish of Creggan in the 17th and 18th Centuries" by Rev. L. P. Murray P.P. At the time of the census ten townlands of the Fews and Creggan Parish were in what is now County Louth.

In the preface to this article Fr. Murray states that the 1602 Census of the Fews had never been published. We believe that it has not been published since it appeared in Fr. Murray's history.

The Fews is a barony in South Armagh. Geographically, it roughly corresponds to Creggan parish. Turlagh MacHenry O'Neill was chief of the Fews at the time of the 1602 Census. Turlagh was half-brother to Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, by his mother. The Pale bordered the Fews to the south in Co. Louth. The English had already encroached on the portion of the Fews that extended into Louth. Hugh O'Neill was to the north and waging war against the English. Turlagh was trying to stay a middle course to keep from being overwhelmed by his stronger neighbors. Turlagh played both sides. He accepted money from the English and fought against them with Hugh. In 1602 Turlagh received an English pardon for his entire clan. This pardon was the reason for the 1602 census of the Fews, to identify the clansmen who were being pardoned. It is the earliest Irish census that is still in existence.

After 4 years of war, by the time of the census the clan is decimated. (Note: Fr. Murray says 4 years but the conflict is generally refered to as the Nine Years War.) Before the troubles started Turlagh MacHenry maintained 50 horsemen and 200 kerns. (Note: A kern is an Irish light infantry soldier.) This is documented by the English who are contributing to the maintenance of this force. When the census is taken the clan has only 20 horsemen and 21 kerns.

The census was compiled by the clan and the families are grouped together. Irish is very much the primary language of the clan. The inconsistent English spelling of family names is not an issue as the people are all primarily known by their Irish names. The census lists all the males of the clan who are capable of bearing arms and any females who were property owners "in their own right".

The occupation is given for all except a group of about 75 names/families. Fr. Murray dismisses this group as peasants or "mere tillers of the soil" and this portion of the list as "unordered". He excludes this group in his compilation of a summary list of families of the Fews.

My feeling is that this portion of the list is just as hierarchical as the rest of the list only a different criteria is being applied to determine the "order". I tend to think that property ownership is the measurement used to group this portion of the list. I think that those at the top are probably "land holders" and that they are followed by "house holders".

The continental fuedal system is never fully imported to Britain and even less so to Ireland. At this time the peasants were all free clansmen and there was peasant proprietorship of land. We know at least some of this group of clansmen were property owners because there are some women listed here.

Tenants in this society were not the "tenants-at-will" of the post-Cromwell Ireland. Some of them had extensive holdings of thousands of acres. Unfortunately the record of this census does not contain any information on property or where in the Fews these families dwelled.

We have posted the complete 1602 Census of the Fews under Genealogy.

These are the McConvilles in the order they are listed in the Census of the Fews 1602.

Name Occupation
Kayle McConwayle Kern
Hugh McConwayle Kern
Redmond McConill Tenant
Alexander McConile Tenant
Gilleseoge McConile Tenant
Brian McConile Tenant
Rorie McCawill (?)
Phelim reagh McConwell
Sowrly McConill
One McCawell (?)


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McConville Reference in the Communion Roll of 1698

"... There is another reference to "McCONWALL" - it reads as follows: "Communion Roll, 1698. Suit between Henry Munro and the Crown about quit rent on Ballylough and Ballybraggett. The Crown case is that they were forfeited in 1641 by Murtagh McConwall. Munro claimed through lease from the heirs of Marmaduke Whitechurch (a substantial landowner of Cromwellian extraction who purchased the Loughbrickland estate from the native McGuinness family."

The above reference was posted on the County Down Mailing List (NIR-DOWN-L) by Linn Morton. Linn gives her source as "History Of Banbridge", no information was given on author or publisher .


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A McConville Reference in the 1831 Ordinance Survey Memoirs

"A very prevalent name in the Parish [of Drumgath], that of the McConvills formerly McConwell. The different branches of them are more generally known through the parish by such distinctive appellations as the following: Jack Caul, Charles's son Jack, the Knocks, the Roashawens, the Warities, the Butts, the Arts, the Bawns, the Stocka's, the Oin Paddoins, the Powricks, the Gonghrees, the Petheronels, the Tonyanthonys and the Nealanthonys"

Special thanks to Pauline Loughran for this reference from the 1831 Ordinance Survey Memoirs for County Down.


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Annals of the Four Masters
Annals of Ulster
Householders Index
McConville Baptisms Creggan Parish
McConville Marriages Creggan Parish
McConville Baptisms Clonallan & Warrenpoint
McConville Marriages Clonallan & Warrenpoint
The Children of James and Jane McConville: A Pioneer Family
The Drumconwell Ogham and its Implications
Letter from the Earl of Moira, Oct. 1796
Edward McConville, an American Hero 1846 - 1899
McConville Index to Griffith's Valuation of Ireland 1848 - 1864