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I've been researching the Ponsonbys of Donegal, specifically from the Stranorlar area, also Donaghmore, for close to 30 years now, well before there was access to the internet!!

My 3x great-grandfather was John Ponsonby, he was born abt. 1784, don't know if he was born in Donegal, but he was there at least by the Griffiths Valuation when there were only the two Ponsonbys in Donegal, John at Cavan Lower, Donaghmore who was incorrectly listed as John Punch; and Thomas his brother at nearby Teevickmoy, Stranorlar, incorrectly listed as Thomas Punch.  There were no Punches in the north of Ireland, this would have been a recording error.

My 2x great-grandfather was John "Jr" Ponsonby born "1817" in Donegal (I would think), he and his ½-brother James Ponsonby went to Scotland together sometime after the 1841 census, and before 1846 when John married Helen/Ellen Doherty in Port Glasgow.  It's because they went to Scotland that I was able to find their parents names from their death records, and I've chronicled as much as possible on the descendants of both John Ponsonby who died at Cavan in Stranorlar 12 Sep 1864, age 80 years, and of Thomas Ponsonby who died in the Stranorlar Workhouse on 10 May 1866, age 74 years, name recorded as Thomas "Punch".   

I can NOT get back in time, however, in this family.  I don't know where they originated, there are the family legends, two strikingly similar, one handed down over the generations to me, and one to a Ponsonby in Glasgow.  Some say that they probably were native Irish and took their names from Planation owners.  However I find nothing on Ponsonbys owning plantantion in Donegal.   

John (Sr.) Ponsonby was married first ot Margaret Toner or Tonner, my 3x great-grandmother and the mother of John (Jr) Ponsonby, and she must have died shortly after John's birth.  His ½-brother James Ponsonby was the son of John but his mother was Mary Paton or Patton, and he was born abt. 1820.  He was the male witness at John's marriage in 1846 to Helen Doherty.   Thomas (Sr.) Ponsonby was married to Margaret Monteith, which information again comes from the children who died in Scotland.

If anybody can help with this family, and is able to locate any information on why they were there, with a name like Ponsonby, and where they came from, I'd be most grateful.  I've managed in most lines of my ancestry to get back further than this, but this is one "brick wall" that I can't seem to break through!!

Thank you, and would love to hear from anyone else interested,

Jane Liebzeit

Winnipeg, Canada (great-granddaughter of Jane Ponsonby b. 1848 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, to Irish immigrants)



Jane from Canada

Saturday 17th June 2017, 12:08AM

Message Board Replies

  • Dear Jane from Canada:


    Many thanks for your very comprehensive post about the Ponsonby family! 

    If you would consider creating a few profiles on the ancestors that you posted about, that would really assist with your research.  You will note that there is a tab at the top of the website page called "XO Chronicles" which allows any member to create an ancestor profile, a building or a timeline event for their ancestral parish.  Many of our members read these Chronicles which are updated weekly, and you will find that once a profile has been posted, there may be several others who are also researching the same family and you will be able to collaborate with them.

    The link for the Profile is below:


    If you have any difficulties creating a profile or any questions, please let me know at:


    Kind regards,



    Jane Halloran Ryan

    Friday 28th July 2017, 01:24PM
  • Hello Jane! 

    We also have a Tonar in our tree... She is my 2nd great grandmother.  She left Donegal Ireland for Greenock Scotland also.  She married a James Redden in Scotland but he also was from Donegal Ireland.   We have yet to find exactly where they came from.  We think her mother was also a Susan and her father a Daniel.. but we don't know much more than that.  James family we belive is Charles and Elizabeth Delaney.  Of course we don't have confirmation for either sets of parents, which is what we are searching for.  My Cousin Michelle just recently visited Ireland as she still lives in Greenock, and she found there were many Tonar's in Convoy, Donegal but was not able to do any research.  I will follow this post in case you ever find anything more on your Margaret Tonar/Toner/Tonner, or if we do the same, just in case we all get lucky!! 


    Karen Melen, Vermont USA


    Friday 11th May 2018, 01:48PM
  • Hi Jane

    There is a family tree on Ancestry which contains some of the Ponsonbys you mention.,

    The owner is ponsonby_john. Perhaps you are aware of it.

    All the best

    James McKelvie


    Thursday 2nd August 2018, 02:52PM
  • Hi James,

    Thanks for this information, but yes, I've been in touch with John Ponsonby; he's not from the "Irish family", but English, though there could be a connection way, way back.   I've been putting my information onto my nephew's tree, at Ancestry, his name is Preston Lord, and his tree is the Lord Family Tree.   

    I've had my DNA done, and they have me as 49% Irish & Scottish, 45% England & Wales.   I believe the Irish, and Scots, but have no knowledge of English or Welsh.  Anyways, that's another story.

    They have my ethnicity specifically tied to Ulster East, which is interesting, as that's the part of the puzzle that I can't seem to solve, at all.

    I know that John Ponsonby Jr. b. "1817" in Donegal, married Helen Doherty in Scotland, they were my 2x great-grandparents.  Helen or Ellen Doherty was from County Derry, and the rest of her family, and I have her parents & grandparents, but no idea at all where in County Derry they came from ...  Only on one of the censuses did they say County Derry, Ireland.

    I can't even search in County Derry, however, as I have no idea what parish, or town, or anything else.

    As to the Ponsonbys, well I know that John Sr. was born "abt. 1784"; and Thomas Sr. was born "abt. 1791", and have traced many, many of their descendants, to America, Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand.   But I have no idea who their parents were.

    Probably never will.

    Anyways, the only way that I can see to find more information is from DNA matches in the north of Ireland, and if I can break through in either the Ponsonby line, or the Doherty line (which includes Diamond (or Dimond), and McConnachie), that will be a major breakthough!!

    Thanks for your message, however.  Good to know that somebody is "keeping an eye" on some of my ancestors...!!

    Best regards,



    Jane from Canada

    Saturday 4th August 2018, 02:57AM