Conway Family History & Genealogy

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Conway Last Name History & Origin


Name Origin

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Most Common First Names

  • John 6.4%
  • James 4.4%
  • Mary 4.0%
  • William 3.1%
  • Thomas 2.5%
  • Michael 1.9%
  • Patrick 1.7%
  • Margaret 1.7%
  • Joseph 1.6%
  • Edward 1.6%
  • Robert 1.4%
  • Charles 1.3%
  • George 1.1%
  • Catherine 1.0%
  • Francis 1.0%
  • Conway 1.0%
  • Elizabeth 0.9%
  • Richard 0.8%
  • Helen 0.8%
  • Frank 0.7%

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Lucy Russell Family stories have been passed along about Elizabeth Conway, (@1797-1868) who was probably the daughter of John Conway (1755-1833) and his wife Unity (@1760-@1842). The families of both the Conways and of Charles Doherty, (@1790-@1820) Elizabeth's first husband, were possibly part of the community of Irish immigrants which had been recruited to work in the cotton mills in Wilmington, Delaware. Records show the arrival of the Conway family in America in 1793.

Elizabeth was born in Wilmington and she was probably married to Charles Doherty @1812--church records show the baptism of a daughter, Susan Doherty, in 1813. It has been difficult to confirm much information about these ancestors, since many records, both church and civil, from that period in Delaware have been lost.

Records do show that Anna Doherty, daughter of Elizabeth Conway and Charles Doherty, was baptized in St. Peter's Catholic church Wilmington, on October 1, 1815. The family lived in Brandywine Hundred, probably on the same farm as Elizabeth's parents and siblings, the Conways.
Records show that by 1812, John Conway and his wife Unity had nine children.*

Both John Conway and Charles Doherty became naturalized American citizens in 1813. John and Unity Conway probably traveled to Westmoreland County Pa. along with their daughter Elizabeth Conway Doherty and her family @ 1819. (See "Widowed on the Trail" which follows) Westmoreland County property records show that John Conway purchased 99 acres for $1,500 in Derry Township in April 1819. He was unable to read and write, and he signed the deed with an "x".

The Conways were among the founding members (1822) of Mt. Carmel Catholic church in Derry Township, Westmoreland County, PA. It is near the present town of Blairsville. They may be buried in the Mt. Carmel graveyard which is near Keystone State Park. Some family histories say that John and Unity were buried in Blairsville in the Sts. Simon and Jude cemetery.

* Historical note: John and Unity Conway's son, (Elizabeth's brother) was William B. Conway. He was a lawyer and a newspaper editor who worked in Westmoreland County and Pittsburgh, where he was also known for political involvement with the Jacksonian Democrats. In 1838 he received an appointment from President Martin Van Buren to be Secretary of the Territory of the newly opened Iowa Territory. He moved there and served as acting governor of the Territory for awhile, engaging in an unsuccessful power struggle with the governor and legislature of the state. He was characterized by his contemporaries as "brilliant and eccentric....with excessive personal ambition together with a certain bitter intensity of spirit". His untimely death (he was 41) in Burlington, Iowa in November 1839 was the cause of public mourning in Davenport, Iowa. There was a large funeral held at St. Anthony's Catholic church and members of the territory council passed an official resolution to wear mourning for 30 days in his memory. He left behind a wife, Charity Ann Conway, at least one child, an extensive law library and a lot of bad debts.

The story of Elizabeth Conway Doherty O'Brien Kelley

Elizabeth Conway married Charles Doherty in Wilmington, Delaware @1812. Their second child, daughter Anna "Nancy" Doherty, was born September 5, 1815 and baptized at St. Peter's Catholic church in Wilmington on October 1, 1815. Around 1819, Elizabeth and Charles and three of their children set out by conestoga wagon over the Allegheny Mountains on their way to Western Pa. Her parents, John and Unity Conway, may have traveled with them. They probably traveled the Pittsburgh Pike, which followed the route of old Indian trails along the ridges and valleys of Pennsylvania. Today, much of that trail is US route 30. A conestoga wagon trip from eastern Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh over this trail in the early 1800s usually took about a month.

The trail was broad and flat in the lowlands, steep and narrow in the hills. Sometimes the slope was strewn with the wreckage of wagons and the bodies of oxen and horses. Contemporaneous accounts of travel on this road in the era when the Dohertys and Conways made the trip described it as a parade of many kinds of people. Some poor families traveled barefoot and carried their belongings on their backs, and others pushed handcarts and begged along the way. There were wealthy travelers riding in fancy carriages, and frontier traders of questionable character who sold liquor and guns to the Indians. Some people sang hymns or political campaign songs as they walked along.

Our family legend says that during the trip, which took place during extremely hot weather, Charles Doherty stopped by a spring for a drink of water and became very ill and died. He was buried by the mountain roadside. After her arrival in western Pennsylvania, Elizabeth and her children probably lived with her parents in Derry Township, Westmoreland county. On February 12, 1822 she married Thomas O'Brien in the log cabin Catholic Church, known as "Sportsman's Hall" in Latrobe Pa. She had two sons and a daughter in this marriage.**

She eventually moved to Lawrence County, Pa. Widowed again, Elizabeth married Charles Kelly @1830 by whom she had three more children. They lived near the city of New Castle, and she died there in 1868. She is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Union Township, Lawrence County.

** Historical note: The sons from this marriage, Edward and Thomas O'Brien, both served in Company D of the 134th Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War. Edward was a colonel and survived the conflict, but Thomas, a private, was killed at Fredericksburg in 1862. Family legend has it that Edward had seen military service prior to the Civil War as a member of the Pittsburgh Greens, an all-Irish unit that served in the Mexican War of 1848.
Jun 18, 2007 · Reply