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

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

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

The McDowell family name comes from the personal name Dougal. The Gaelic form of the name is Mac Dhughaill and literally means "son of Dougal." The personal name Dougal, meaning "dark stranger."


The translation of Gaelic names in the Middle Ages was not a task undertaken with great care. Records from that era show an enormous number of spelling variations, even in names referring to the same person. Over the years McDowell has appeared as MacDowall, MacDowell, MacDugald, MacDill, Dowall, Dowler and many more.

First found in Galloway (Gaelic: Gall-ghaidhealaibh), an area of southwestern Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Dumfries and Galloway, that formerly consisted of the counties of Wigtown (West Galloway) and Kirkcudbright (East Galloway), where they held a family seat from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McDowell research. Another 386 words(28 lines of text) covering the years 1268, 1310, 1359, and 1363 are included under the topic Early McDowell History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 80 words(6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McDowell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the McDowell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 106 words(8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Many of the ancestors of Dalriadan families who arrived in North America still live in communities along the east coast of Canada and the United States. In the American War of Independence many of the original settlers traveled north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the ancestors of many Scots began recovering their collective national heritage through Clan societies, highland games, and other patriotic events. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name McDowell or a variant listed above:

McDowell Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Ephraim McDowell, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1729-1735
  • Ephrahim McDowell, who landed in Virginia in 1739
  • Jane McDowell, who landed in Virginia in 1739
  • Margaret McDowell, who landed in Virginia in 1739
  • Martha McDowell, who arrived in Virginia in 1739

McDowell Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Hugh McDowell, aged 50, landed in Louisiana in 1812
  • Thos McDowell, aged 40, arrived in South Carolina in 1812
  • Andrew McDowell, who landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1813
  • Joseph McDowell, who arrived in New York in 1819
  • Samuel Douglas McDowell, who arrived in South Carolina in 1824


  • Charles T. McDowell (1921-2007), American academic and military officer
  • Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830), American physician
  • Johnny McDowell (1915-1952), American Indy 500 racecar driver
  • Paul L. McDowell (1905-1962), American Olympic bronze medalist rower at the 1928 Summer Olympics
  • Brigadier-General Rex McKinley McDowell (1893-1984), American Assistant Director Office of the Surgeon General US Army (1939-1945)
  • Irvin McDowell (1818-1885), American Major General, best known for his defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run
  • Michael McEachern McDowell (1950-1999), American two-time Hugo Award nominated novelist and screenwriter
  • Charles S. McDowell Jr. (1871-1943), Lieutenant Governor of Alabama from 1923-1927
  • Graeme McDowell (b. 1979), Irish professional PGA golfer, winner of the Masters Tournament (2012), the U.S. Open (2010), The Open Championship (2012) PGA Championship (2009) and many more
  • Malcolm McDowell (b. 1943), British two-time Golden Globe nominated actor



  • Historic Families of Kentucky by Thomas Marshall Green.
  • McDowells in American by Dorothy Kelly MacDowell.

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: Vincere vel mori
Motto Translation: Victory


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  1. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
  2. 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).
  3. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  4. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  5. Urquhart, Blair Edition. Tartans The New Compact Study Guide and Identifier. Secauccus, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0-7858-0050-6).
  6. Skene, William Forbes Edition. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1867. Print.
  7. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  8. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  9. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  10. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  11. ...

The McDowell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McDowell 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 30 October 2014 at 16:11.

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