County Down was the first Ulster county to be colonized by the Normans. The knight John de Courcey took the area around Downpatrick after the Norman invasion. The county was formed about 1300 and leater came into the possession of the DeLacys. Most of this ocunty came to be known as the Earldom of Ulster during this peirod. One of the new Norman families who settled in the county is Savage. The major Gaelic families were O'Neill, McGuinness, McQuillan, McCartan, and Macgilmore.
In 1569, Sir Thomas Smith unsuccessfully attempted to bring English settlers into the Ards Pennisula and County Down. Hugh O'Neill, the major Ulster cheiftain, began a general rebellion in Ulster in 1594. A wel planned plantation of Ulster began in 1609, involving tghe introduction to the rpovince of thousands of settlers. These were brought in by adventurers who, in return for title to the land, brought in a specified number of settlers to their estates.
One Scottish adventurer, James Hamilton, brought over ten thousand Scots to northwest Down, Scottish names such as Boyd, Fraser, Johnston, Lindsay, Morrison, Patterson and Maxwell are consequently common in Down. English adventurers in Down who brought over English families included Annesleu, Hill and Montgomery. These settlers brought the names Wilson, Johnson, Young, Taylor, Walker, Jackson, Watson, Bradshaw, and Bradford to Ulster.
County Down was less badly affected by the Great Famine than many other counties. One of its effects was a large exodus from the rural areas to the city of Belfast, part of which is in County Down. The population of Down in 1841 was 368,000. In 1851 this had been reduced by approximately eleven percent.