KING Family History
Mac Conraoi, Mac Conriain, Ó Cingeadh, Ó Cionga, have all been anglicised as King, the first two erroneously, according to the two standard authorities, P. Woulfe and E. MacLysaght, the mistake being the identification of the word 'ri' ('king') as the root. The last two, Ó Ciongeadh and variant Ó Cionga, have simply been rendered phonetically as King. Apparently for these reasons King is a widespread and fairly numerous Irish surname. Of course, King is also an English (and Scottish) name, and some Irish bearers, although not the majority, would have this origin. The Anglo-Irish Kings of Boyle Abbey, Roscommon and later Mitchelstown Castle, Cork are of this stock (v. biographies below), and doubtless other officials mentioned in 17th century records.
Mac Conraoi- anglicised as Conry, Conroy and widely as King. Woulfe gives two alternative roots: (son of) hound of the plain, or (son of) hound of battle ('Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall', 1923). Their ancient territory lay between Loch Corrib and Galway Bay, in the Barony of Moycullen. This surname is found also in Co Limerick and Co Kerry. In all areas the name has been anglicised as King, (cf MacLysaght, 'Irish Families' series, 1982, 1985). Woulfe says this is the result of a mistaken Irish form viz. Mac an Riogh, 'son of the king'.
Mac Conriain- anglicised as Cunreen and King. The root is possibly (son of) Cú Riain or 'Ryan's hound'. Woulfe writes that this surname is rare, however.
Ó Ciongeadh and Ó Cionga (variant)- anglicised as O King and King, earlier O Kinga. Woulfe gives the root as 'Cingeadh' or 'valiant', but this is conjectural. In the Middle Ages this family inhabited the island of InisMor on Lough Ree, and remained influential in Co Westmeath, until the 16th century. The name has also been associated with counties Galway, Offaly and Clare.
Sir William Petty's 1659 survey of Ireland, known as the 1659 'Census', lists no King or Conroy as a 'Principal Irish Name' (P.I.N.) in counties Limerick and Kerry (Co Galway is missing from the 'Census').
In Co Offaly, Colishtowne (Coolestown) Barony, 9 families of Kyne are listed as a P.I.N. This might easily be King, bearing in mind 17th century orthographical variance. No King or like is listed for Co Clare.
In Co Antrim, Carrickfergus Barony, 5 families of Kune are listed.
In Co Roscommon, Boyle Barony, Sir John King, Knight, is listed as a 'titulado' or property owner of Boyle Town. This is the Anglo-Irish family.
The mid 19th century Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' presents a rather fuller picture, with King households appearing over all Ireland, the topmost counties being Galway 303 (this county is missing from the 1659 'Census'), Down 117 (perhaps some Scottish planters), Mayo 108 (also missing from the 1659 'Census'), Cavan 102 (missing from 1659 'Census'), Louth 84 and Meath 83.
It is a pity the missing 1659 returns are for counties which bear so much on the King surname; however, the last two in the 19th century list, Louth and Meath, produced no result from a search for King or like name.
By the time of Matheson's 'Special Report on Surnames...' (1894, 1909), based on 1890 birth registrations in Ireland, most Kings were found in counties Galway, Dublin, Antrim, Mayo and Limerick. (The latter county returned no result in the 1659 'Census').
Two 'famous' members of the Anglo-Irish King family:
Robert Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton (1773-1854). His mother, Caroline FitzGerald, heiress of a great fortune, made the King family the richest in Ireland, it was said. He became enmeshed in scandal when he was tried in 1848 at the Cork Assizes for the murder of his 'illegitimate' half cousin or half uncle, depending on which source is believed, Colonel Henry Gerald FitzGerald. Henry had seduced King's sister. The Viscount was acquitted, as no witnesses would come forward!
Robert Henry King, 4th Earl of Kingston (1796-1867) was an Irish Whig politician for Co Cork. He also served as an officer in the British Army. In 1848 in London he was the subject of some controversy, being, it seems, a victim of the prejudice of the time.