Bruce Johnson's Family History Website



The Conkeys
I first began to research my family tree when I was about sixteen years old.  My grandmother was by then housebound and when I called in to visit we would talk over a cup of tea.  She told me that her grandfather's name was Conkey.  This was a name which no one in the family had ever heard of and some people even assumed he must have been Jewish becasue the name suggested a big nose !

I decided to look for a "proper" explanation.  My first "breakthrough" in those days was to look the name up and find out that in was a well known  Irish surname.  The book of surnames which I found it in suggested that Conkey (or Conchie)   was derived from Connochie, O'Connochie and McConnochie.  

Finally I discovered that the MacConnochies of Scotland were a branch of the Clan Campbell, who betrayed  the McGregors at the massacre of Glencoe.  This was too much to bear and I put away my family tree for another 35 years.

The real Conkeys !
William John Conkey was born in Ireland 1858 and married  Sarah Jane Stewart (born 1854)  He was a member of the Orange Lodge, which may narrow down the field of parish records to be searched.  It would certainly have pleased my father if he had known.  Like many others of their generation William and Sarah sought to escape poverty and starvation in Ireland by leaving home.  They went first to Scotland where their first child was born and then moved on to Houghton Le Spring in  County Durham in England.

William worked at a coke works, hard work in hot dusty conditions.

William and Sarah had eight children:
Margaret Conkey: born  Scotland or Ireland  1878
Robert John Conkey   born Houghton 1880
Jane Isobella Conkey born 1882   
Sarah Jane Conkey 1884
Ethel Conkey born 1885  died 1913
Sarah Anne Conkey – born Houghton 1887   died 1906
John Conkey 1889
Mary Conkey born 1892 

Margaret Conkey  married George Turner in 1897  (I have her wedding certificate)
Ethel Conkey 1886-1913  married Joseph Alderson  in Houghton 1910
Jane Isobella Conkey married Arthur Rayner  in  Sunderland on November 4th 1906 10a 988 .  Their children were
Jenny 1908
Margaret 1909
Arthur 1910
John  1912
The family moved to Leeds in 1909/1910 where Arthur Rayner  ran a stall in the market selling bottled sweets - possibly from the Wheatleys factory. 




Jane Isobella Conkey, my Great Grandmother and the little Rayners Margaret, Arthur, John and Jenny - around 1914

Jenny, on the right was my Grandmother,  John, the baby here, was our "Little Uncle John"




Arthur Rayner died in1918 and Jane moved back to Seaham where she brought up the children alone.  It seems that the Wheatley side of the family offered to set her up with a sweet shop,  but she was too proud to accept. When I look at her delicate features it's sad to think of her struggling to bring up her children,   widowed and ill



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