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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Where did the Scottish Cowan family come from? What is the Scottish Cowan family crest and coat of arms? When did the Cowan family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Cowan family history?

The ancient Scottish name Cowan was first used by the Strathclyde-Briton people of the Scottish/English Borderlands. The original bearer of the name lived in the Scottish-English border region. The Cowan family lived in Ayrshire.


Spelling and translation were hardly exact sciences in Medieval Scotland. Sound, rather than any set of rules, was the basis for spellings, so one name was often spelled different ways even within a single document. Spelling variations are thus an extremely common occurrence in Medieval Scottish names. Cowan has been spelled Cowan, Cowans, Cowen, Cowens, MacCowan, MacCowden and many more.

First found in Ayrshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir), formerly a county in the southwestern Strathclyde region of Scotland, that today makes up the Council Areas of South, East, and North Ayrshire, where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cowan research. Another 185 words(13 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cowan History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Cowan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Cowan family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 265 words(19 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Such hard times forced many to leave their homeland in search of opportunity across the Atlantic. Many of these families settled along the east coast of North America in communities that would become the backbones of the young nations of the United States and Canada. The ancestors of many of these families have rediscovered their roots in the 20th century through the establishment of Clan societies and other patriotic Scottish organizations. Among them:

Cowan Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Barbara Cowan who settled in New Jersey in 1685
  • Barbara Cowan, who landed in New Jersey in 1685
  • Marjorie Cowan, who arrived in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1685
  • Marjory Cowan, who landed in New Jersey in 1685

Cowan Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Ephraim Cowan, who arrived in New England in 1738
  • Andrew Cowan settled in South Carolina in 1772
  • Alexander Cowan settled in New York City in 1774
  • Alexander Cowan, aged 20, arrived in New York in 1774
  • Andrew Cowan, who landed in New York in 1798

Cowan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • William Cowan, who arrived in America in 1804
  • James Cowan, who arrived in America in 1811
  • Christopher Cowan, who landed in America in 1812
  • Edward Cowan, who arrived in America in 1812
  • George Cowan, aged 30, arrived in Connecticut in 1812


  • Clyde Lorrain Cowan Jr. (1919-1974), American co-discoverer of the neutrino and shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995
  • Private First Class Richard Eller Cowan (1922-1944), American soldier awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944 for his actions in the Battle of the Bulge
  • Richard Sumner Cowan (1921-1997), American botanist, associate curator for the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution in 1957, New York Botanical Garden Distinguished Service Award in 1968
  • Andrew Cowan (1841-1919), Scottish-born, American Union artillerist in the American Civil War
  • Nelson Cowan (b. 1951), American Curators' Professor of Psychology at the University of Missouri
  • Jerome Palmer Cowan (1897-1972), American stage, film, and television actor who appeared in 219 features, best known for his role as the prosecuting district attorney in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • John Cowan (b. 1952), American soul and progressive bluegrass vocalist and bass guitar player, lead vocalist and bass player for the New Grass Revival
  • William Maurice "Mo" Cowan (b. 1969), American politician and lawyer, United States Senator from Massachusetts in 2013
  • Denys B. Cowan (b. 1960), American Eisner Award nominated comic book artist and television producer
  • Richard Olsen Cowan (b. 1934), American historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints



  • Cowan/Lenox, and Next of Kin by Mildred C. Siever.
  • The Cowans from County Down by John Kerr Fleming.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Sic itur in altum
Motto Translation: This is the way to heaven.


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  1. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  2. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  3. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  4. Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3).
  5. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  6. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry Including American Families with British Ancestry 2 Volumes. London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  8. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  9. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Fulton, Alexander. Scotland and Her Tartans: The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families. Godalming: Bramley, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-86283-880-0).
  11. ...

The Cowan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Cowan Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 15 September 2014 at 14:49.

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