Irish or Irish American

By David Langton

25 April 2011

The Langtons in Ireland are in three or four distinct groups. The Primary Valuations of Property 1847-1864 record various numbers of Langton families in distinct areas across Ireland. Firstly in Connaught in County Sligo on the West Coast there are 17 Langton families seemingly as far away from England as you can possibly get. Meanwhile in Ulster in County Down on the East Coast opposite England there were 6 families. It is unclear if these families were catholic protestant or mixed. The biggest group of Langtons occurs inland from Dublin particularly centred on Kilkenny with 24 families and Laois with 20 families. When surrounding counties such as Tipperary, Offaly, Kildare, Carlow and Dublin are factored in the combined total reaches 57 families. Finally in Munster in the south west in Kerry and Cork there were 2 families.

Whilst there may be two dozen Langton villages in England and perhaps a dozen different sources of the Langton surname the story in Ireland seems much simpler. The usual version of the story is that all Irish Langtons are related and all descend from the Langtons of Lancashire via Kilkenny. These Langtons have a silver shield with three red chevrons and this design is offered on heraldry sites as the Irish Langton shield. Nicholas Langton put the shield on his great stone house in Kilkenny and thereafter it was used by the Kilkenny Langtons. So, no doubt about Langton origin in Ireland, it's Lancashire and absolutely no need to get a DNA test because you already know its Lancashire and thenceforth back to the Leicestershire Langton villages. This certainty rests on an oft repeated story that a certain John Langton of Lowe in Lancashire a junior member of the junior Langtons of Lowe came to Kilkenny in 1486 as a political fugitive from the punishment likely to be inflicted by the crown on those who supported the pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck to the throne of England against Henry VII Tudor. The story's not true of course, and I feel a bit bad pointing out why this is so.

Firstly it's difficult to see how anyone can be avoiding punishment for supporting Simnel and Warbeck in 1486 when Simnel didn't suface in Dublin until 1487 and Warbeck didn't surface in Cork until 1491 and Waterford in 1497. Secondly a Langton of Lowe was hardly likely to be a fleeing Yorkist because the Langtons were very ardent Lancastrians. There were probably over a hundred Langton retainers in Lord Stanley's army which made the fateful attack which slew the last yorkist king Richard III. The Langtons were on the winning side, they were celebrating not fleeing. From 1485 after the battle of Bosworth they were mockingly displaying the captured banner of the defeated Yorkist King Richard III in Wigan church. The Langtons were thrice related to the Stanleys who were governors of Ireland and Stanley was step-father to Henry VII. A Lancastrian Langton might reasonably expect to be given the lands of defeated Yorkists in Ireland by Governor Stanley.

So was the mysterious John Langton of 1486 a Lancastrian or a Yorkist and is there any truth at all in the story? In the civil war supporters of the two sides York and Lancaster tended to use royal names which illustrated their allegiances. The Lancastrians used Henry, John and Thomas and the Yorkists used the names of the three Yorkist sons of Richard Duke of York, Edward who became Edward IV, George who died from too much drink (held upside down in a barrel of wine) and Richard who became Richard III. The supposed John Langton who came to Kilkenny in 1486 had sons Richard, Edward and George, now there's a coincidence. These sons are clearly Yorkists and this suggests that the Langtons in Kilkenny were indeed Yorkists and may well have taken part in supporting Simnel and Warbeck. The trouble was they lost and were probably faced with reprisals. The difficulty facing the authorities was identifying the Yorkist rebels and distinguishing them from pro Tudor Lancastrian loyalists. It looks like the Kilkenny Langtons came up with a brilliant scheme claiming to be ardent Lancastrians. John of 1486 was said to be the son of Richard son of John of Lowe. This claim simply doesn't fit into the known family tree of Langton of Lowe a family of Roberts, Johns and Gilberts but never Richard, Edward or George. The Kilkenny Langtons did not then arrive as Yorkist refugees in 1486, they were Yorkists but they were not newly arrived English they had been Irish for generations and had been in Kilkenny for years. This being the case it means that whilst they adopted the 3 red chevrons they may in fact have had absolutely no connection with the Lancashire Langtons at all. Suddenly, my cousins in Ireland and you of Irish descent in USA you may need to read the DNA project article to find out who you are. A further consideration is that the famous Kilkenny Langton name is Nicholas which never occurs in the Lancashire Langtons but does occur in the mayor Nicholas Langtons of York.

So if you ever wondered if you were connected with Archbishop Stephen of Magna Carta fame who hailed from Lincolnshire and Yorkshire perhaps you are. It is time to investigate. In the ruins of St John's Abbey in Kilkenny are inscriptions belonging to the Langton family. The earliest is for someone who is never called Langton but on the stonework is engraved as John De Covintre burgess of Kilkenny. From records we know that he was a trader and a moneylender who appears in records in 1309 and 1351. Given the wide gap between these dates it is possible that we are talking in the records of a father and son. Coventry is a place in the English Midlands close to several groups of Langtons from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. The memorials here contain no coats of arms so we do not know which group of Langtons (if indeed he was a Langton) that John came from. John or Johannes as the inscription says was married to Isabella. Other dates are 16th century. Johes Langton Burgess wife Beleni Archer 1571. Ricardes Langton filius Johanes Burgess wife Anastasie Phelan 15-8. Edwardis filius Johis.

An official position in Kilkenny was that of Sovereign, roughly equivalent of Mayor. John was Sovereign in 1549 and First Magistrate in 1557, whilst Edward was sovereign in 1598. This seems to be an entirely different line of Langtons from the supposed descendants of Langton of Lowe which runs Richard, Nicolas (built house 1609), Michael, Nicholas (bond 1673). Whilst these two families in Kilkenny may be anciently linked they might just as easily be two different groups of Langtons ultimately from distant parts of England. The first Nicolas Langton went to London in 1609 and negotiated a treaty whereby Kilkenny became a city. Nicholas was Sovereign 1606, Mayor 1613 and MP 1613. He built a great stone house in the city known as the Butterslip and died in 1632. He was married twice and had numerous children. He left his country house at Nore Grennern near Durrow in County Laois to his eldest son James by his first marriage. James was Sheriff in 1612 and Coroner in 1616. The great stone house Nicholas left to Michael eldest son of his second marriage.

There are however, Langtons in Ireland in still earlier dates. In 1309 John De Langton was summoned to parliament in Kilkenny which met in 1310. He may be the constable of Limerick appointed in 1313 and referred to as Civic Limericiensis. James Langton of Bruree was High Sheriff of Limerick in 1786. In 1449 the Liber Primus Kilkenniae says Richard Langton/Langtown is on the town's rent roll occupying Ketley's or Kytelers Hall. In 1460 Rev Thomas Langton was a member of the vicars choral for the Cathedral of St Canice. In 1598 Rev James Langton is a member of the vicars choral at Candice and vicar of M'Coylie or Muckaleein the diocese of Ossary. In 1507 Thomas Langton is one of the portreves of Kilkenny and Sovereign in 1511. In 1535 James is elected Portreve. In the eighteenth century the Langton family are recorded in Charleville Cork. Michael Langton was the last of the Kilkenny Langton gentry but it was said that there were a few farmers and several labouring Langtons particularly in the barony of Gowran.

In the Cork area in the 16th century at Bandon Mary Langton daughter of Ansolme Langton of Bristol lived. Her brother John was also said to be resident somewhere in Ireland. In 1309 Thomas Langeton was priest at Haythanton. Other early Langtons in Ireland are marked on the Lost Langtons map of Ireland. James Langton was a cavalryman in Ireland in 1699. The picture that emerges then is not one of a single migration from Lancashire to Kilkenny. The Kilkenny Langtons might spring from somewhere else other than Lancashire they just borrowed the three red chevrons for a while in an act of self preservation. So come on Kilkenny, and you that slumber in Laois, one of you get your Y-DNA tested.

In Sligo there are lots of you Langtons there forming a distinct group. You look like an ancient population of which little is known, although we know some went from here to the USA. Do you know where you came from ? Let's find out. Then there are people who are real outlyers in Kerry, Cork, Carlow and Dublin. Who are you guys? Come on Ireland forget the politicians and bankers do something to make you feel good about your identity.

Finally, you Irish Americans, which one of you is going to be the first to jump that big pond that separates us and trace your roots? I have to say that Danny the Canadian has beaten you to it. You are playing catch up. Let's see some American might. Perhaps you only thought you could trace back to someone getting off a boat. Perhaps you thought linking up with an Irish tree you'd made it. No, due to modern technology (largely American) jump back to your very own Langton village and find out who awaits you there-Archbishop Stephen with the Magna Carta and the Bible in chapters? Bishop Walter 65th richest man ever in Britain? Sir Philip who had the idea of paper money or Nicholas Mayor of York or one of the several Langton bishops deposed by various Popes? We do seem to have the habit of upsetting popes and kings. Do look at the Lost Langtons DNA project.