Select Nugent Surname Genealogy

The origin of the Nugent name is a place-name in northern France, Nogent-le-Rotrou, located near Chartres.  The Rotrou family was a powerful one in northern France in the 11th century.  A branch of this family, known as the de Nogents, came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. 

The Anglo-Norman Sir Gilbert de Nogent from this family came to Ireland in 1172.  His descendants were the Nugents in Ireland.

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Select Nugent Ancestry

Ireland. In 1172 Sir Gilbert de Nogent came to Ireland with Sir Hugh de Lacy.  Through a clever marriage to de Lacy's daughter, he was granted the barony of Delvin in Westmeath and he distributed this large tract of land among his brothers.

In 1181 Sir Gilbert began the building of Ballinlough Castle on a hill overlooking two lakes at Clanmellon in Westmeath (a castle, albeit of 17th century construction, still stands at this site).  All the principal branches of the Nugent family, including the main Devlin line, are descended from the marriage of Sir William Nugent and Catherine FitzJohn, recorded variously as being in 1385 or 1407.  Sir William is believed to have been the first to have anglicized his name to Nugent.

Over time the Nugents became more like a Gaelic sept, acting for instance as patrons of the McCoffeys. the bardic clan of Westmeath.  They were and remained Catholic as England was turning Protestant.

In the early 1500's, the Nugents expanded their landholdings northwards into Cavan.  The Black Baron Devlin, the 12th of the line, built Ross Castle and oversaw Fore Abbey.  But here their hold was more fragile.  King Henry VIII dissolved Fore Abbey and Cromwell, a century later, stormed Ross Castle and confiscated Nugent land.   The tipping point for many Catholic Nugents came with the Battle of the Boyne in 1689 when the Jacobites were defeated and many Nugents fled into exile as Wild Geese.  More Nugent land was lost at this time. 

One branch of the family continued to live and own land in Cavan, at Farrenconnell, not far from Ross Castle. Its most famous descendant was Major General Sir Oliver Nugent of World War One fame.  The last Nugent to live at Farrenconnell died in the 1980's.

Meanwhile other Nugents had moved elsewhere.  One branch was to be found at Aghavarten near Carrigaline in county Cork.  Nugents that had been loyal to the English crown were granted lands in Galway which they held until 1912.  Today Nugents are thinly spread over most of Ireland, with the exception of Connacht.

England. One line of Westmeath Nugents established themselves in England.  Robert Nugent based himself in Cornwall where his wife had property and, for political services in England, was made Baron Nugent in 1767. His grandson George distinguished himself in military service and became a Field Marshal in 1846.  The family's military and political connections continued with succeeding generations.

At the other end of the social scale were the Nugent economic migrants in the 19th century, mainly into Lancashire.  Their champion may be considered Father James Nugent, the son of an Irish greengrocer, who was a great social reformer of his time.

America.  The first Nugent in America was undoubtedly Christopher Nugent who was transported to Virginia on the John and Dorothy in 1635.  He later settled in Maryland.  However, he left no male descendants.

Matthew Nugent was born about 1724 in Brunswick, North Carolina and was one of the earliest settlers, around 1780, at Natchez when it was still Spanish territory.   Later he and his family moved to Rapides parish in present-day Louisiana.

Caribbean.  Walter Nugent after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne departed for the Caribbean island of Antigua. arriving there around 1718.  His grandson Oliver built the family home there, Clare Hall, and the Nugents were to remain in Antigua until the mid 20th century.

Canada.  Some early Nugents in Canada had come from America, crossing the border after the Revolutionary War was over.  John and Margaret Nugent arrived from Brooklyn around 1800 and settled in Picton, Ontario. His son Thomas lived in their family farm for thirty five years before purchasing a farm in Belmont and later moving to Ontario, California. 

From Cavan in Ireland to Hope township, Ontario came Francis Nugent and his wife Mary and their family in 1827.  Francis was only to live there eight years.  The local paper reported in 1835:

Francis Nugent of the township of Hope, while assisting at the raising of a barn for John Heaton, was struck in his side by a falling logand died the next morning."

Select Nugent Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Nugent Names

Sir Gilbert de Nogent
came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1172 and was the forebear of the Nugents of Westmeath. 
Laval Nugent is remembered as the soldier who evicted the French out of Croatia in the early 19th century and was the founder of the first Croatian museum.
Father James Nugent, based in Liverpool, was a 19th century social reformer and temperance advocate.

Select Nugents Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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