This surname CONEN was of Irish and Scottish origin, and derived from the Gaelic O'Cuirnin. They were a family of Ollavs to the O'Rourkes of Breffny and the name of Breton chiefs, kings and of a saint; one of the Breton names introduced at the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 and common among tenants of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. The tradition of surnames in Ireland developed spontaneously, as the population increased and the former practice, first of single names and then of ephemeral patronymics or agnomina of the nickname type proved insufficiently definitive. At first the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O 'to that of a grandfather or earlier ancestor. The name is also spelt CONANT and CONAN. CONANUS dux Britanniae et comes Richemundie was recorded in London, England in the year 1155, and appears to be the first of the name on record. Henricus filius CONANI, appears in 1196 in Northumberland, and CONIAN Gossipe, was recorded in 1479 in Yorkshire. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and many were formed before the year 1000. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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