About The Cunninghams of Southwest Nova Scotia

The Cunninghams of Southwest Nova Scotia can be traced through
various lines to England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Germany, France,
the United States, and many other countries. It is generally recognized
that although many branches of the family can be traced back several
hundred years, the oldest documented Cunningham in the direct line
of ancestry was John Cunningham, of Ayrshire, Scotland.

The family motto, Over Fork Over, is the legend of Malcolm Canmore.
Malcolm is said to have been eluding his father's assassins in a field
in Ayrshire, Scotland, and seeing a farmer forking  the hay into a rick,
he threw himself into the rick the man was making and gasped,
"Over! Fork over!" The farmer did not skip a beat, and covered the
young man. When the pursuers inquired whether or not the farmer
had seen Malcolm, he allowed them to believe him stupid, and they
left. He hid Malcolm until evening, and on leaving, Malcolm told the
farmer he would not forget his deed, explaining that the pursuer had
been Macbeth, who had slain Malcolm's father Duncan and seized
the throne. Malcolm fled to England and grew to manhood in the court
of Edward the Confessor. When at last Macbeth was defeated and
Prince Malcolm of Scotland returned to his home, he located the
farmer, creating him Thane of Cunninghame. From this man a
powerful house descended, known far and wide over Cunninghame
and Kyle.

Many years later, my grandfather (one of the descendants of that clan,
though the connections remain illusive), Almond Dexter Cunningham,
was born and raised on The Hawk, Cape Sable Island, Shelburne
Co, NS. Like most everyone on the island even today, he was a direct
descendant of Archelaus Smith, an early settler in the area. He
married and raised a family in Pubnico, Yarmouth Co, NS.

Two of his sons, Roger Almond Cunningham and Ward Wendell
Cunningham, have spent many long hours tracing their roots through
Nova Scotia and beyond, and it is my hope to continue their work. In
so doing, the strong connections between Cunningham, Nickerson,
Smith, Crowell, Atkinson, and many other names familiar throughout
Nova Scotia and New England will hopefully be clearly outlined for
generations to come.
About Us

William Anderson, in "The Scottish Nation" (Vol 1), describes various theories regarding the origin of the Cunningham name. Some of these theories follow

"Cunningham, a surname derived from the [?] district of Ayrshire, anciently written K[?] [?] - [? ? ?], or the king's house or [?]. The name, although a
common one in Scotland, is not so prevalent in the district whence it originally sprung, [? ? ?]. Indeed, the case pretty generally [?] many of the names of
the more ancient families of local origin, there having been in 1652, in the whole forty-six parishes of the county of Ayr, only forty-two persons bearing this
surname, as [?] from the Ayrshire Directory of that year.

The first of the name in Scotland was one Wernebald, who came from the north of England in the beginning of the twelfth century, and settled in the district
as a vassal under Hugh de Morville, lord high constable of Scotland: from whom he obtained the manor of Cunningham, which comprehended the church
and most of hte parish of Kilmaurs, and in consequence assumed the name. The statement of Van Bassen, a Norwegian genealogist, that one Malcolm, the
son of Friskin, obtained the thanedom of Cunningham for assisting Malcolm Canmore when prince of Scotland, in escaping Macbeth, by forking hay over
him in a barn in which he had taken shelter, and that his posterity, from that circumstance, adopted Cunningham as a surname and a shakefork for their
arms, with the motto "over fork over", is one of those traditionary figments with which the origin of the surnames of most of our ancient families have been
invested, by writers anxious to give to them a greater antiquity, or to ascribe to them some distinguished feat of loyalty or enterprize in the service of our
earlier kings. Sir George Mackenzie, in his "Science of Heraldry", says that this family being by office masters of the king's stables, took for their armorial
figure, the instrument whereby hay is thrown up to horses, which in blazon is called a shakefork. Sir James Dalrymple absurdly conjectures that the first of the
Cunninghams in Scotland was one of the four knights who murdered Thomas a Becket, and who fled from England, and assumed the pairie in their arms,
being after the same form as the shakefork, and is taken by some for an episcopal pall, as that carried in the arms of the see of Canterbury. In on old
genealocial memori of the Cummings in manuscript quoted in "Hamilton's Description of the Shires of Lanark and Renfrew" (p. 21, note), the origin of the
Cuninghames is thus ingeniously traced to that clan; "And moveover, I am able to prove at this present tyme, 1622, there is not so maneynoble men as yet
of one surname in all Europe as professeth the name of Cuming, sus that they wer all with ther lands and livings in one realme; and to qualifie and make
my alleadgeance good, I have insert heir, as efter followeth, tha names of their houss, stylls and surnames quho confesseth themselves to be laufullie
descended of the said surname of Cumings. Quhilk certainlie I have in pairt be some of ther oune confessiones; for being at super in the E. of Glenkairnes
hous, in Kilmarnoch, quhair my lord wes present, with his sone, the master, as also the old laird of Wtterstoun, Cunnynghame to his surname, and my lord
goodschiris (goodfather's) brothers, quho did all thrie confes and confer that Cuming was ther right surname, quhilk wes to be seen in my lord's ancient
evidents, as my old lord did confess at this tyme, in prsence of the wholl companie, quhair ther were divers noble men. And as for the surname of
Cunnynghame, they took it of that province quhilk was called of auld Cunnynghame, as Comirnauld (Cumbernauld) was called Cuming's hald. Farder. I
have omitted to sett doiune heirfor, the cause whey the earle of Glencairn and surname of Cunnynghames confessseth that thair ryte surname should be
Cuming, and wearrs not the Cuming's armes, the thrie Shawes. The reason whey, as I understand: Quhen as the principall mobelement of Cumings was
banished, as said is, tho' he that remained within the realme of Scotland was not suffered to bruik that surname of Cumings, nor wear their armes;
nevertheles, for the love and favour that the Cunynghames had naturallie to ther oune surname of Cumings, they, of ther humilitie, took the schaich (shake
fork) for the tothe arms, quhilk is and signifies as servand to the scheawes. This I dyte not to be my invntione, but be more ancient and learned men, whose
more curious to know the doubts of their genologie."