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

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

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

The ancient Scottish name McGowan is carried by the descendents of the Pictish people. It was a name for a metalworker. The Gaelic form of the name is Mac Ghobhainn, which means son of the smith.


When the first dictionaries were invented in the last few hundred years, spelling gradually became standardized. Before that time, scribes spelled according to sound. Names were often recorded under different spelling variations every time they were written. McGowan has been written MacGowan, McGowan, MacGowin, McGowin, MacGowen, McGowen, Gow, Gowan, Gowen, Gowin, MacGavin, McGavin and many more.

First found in Inverness-shire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Nis) divided between the present day Scottish Council Areas of Highland and Western Isles, and consisting of a large northern mainland area and various island areas off the west coast, the shire was anciently both a Pictish and Norwegian stronghold, where the name is from the Gaelic 'Govha' meaning 'a blacksmith' and as such could have been a name that applied to people throughout Scotland. However, as in the case of clans like the Fletchers or Clarks, eventually the name became attributed to a specific area or region. As such, The Clan was also located in Nithsfield in the 12th century, and recorded as a Border Clan. To the west in Elgin and Galloway they were known as the MacGavins.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McGowan research. Another 315 words(22 lines of text) covering the years 1396, 1613, 1698 and 1725 are included under the topic Early McGowan History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 53 words(4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McGowan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the McGowan family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 187 words(13 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


The crossing to North America did not seem so great in comparison with the hardships many Scots endured at home. It was long, expensive, and cramped, but also rewarding. North America offered land and the chance for settlers to prove themselves in a new place. And many did prove themselves as they fought to forge a new nation in the American War of Independence. The ancestors of those Scots can now experience much of their once-lost heritage through the Clan societies and highland games that have sprung up across North America in the last century. A search of immigration and passenger lists revealed many important, early immigrants to North America bearing the name of McGowan:

McGowan Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Archibald McGowan, who arrived with his children Duncan, John and Margaret in New York, NY in 1739
  • Archibald McGowan, who arrived in New York in 1739
  • Patrick McGowan, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1764

McGowan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Philip McGowan, aged 34, arrived in New York, NY in 1803
  • Danl McGowan, who landed in New York, NY in 1803
  • Grace McGowan, aged 27, arrived in New York, NY in 1803
  • Fras McGowan, who landed in New York, NY in 1804
  • Mark McGowan, who arrived in New York, NY in 1804


  • Robert Francis McGowan (1882-1955), American film director and producer
  • Rear Admiral Samuel McGowan (1870-1934), United States Navy officer, eponym of USS McGowan (DD-678)
  • Tom McGowan (b. 1959), American television actor
  • William Aloysius "Bill" McGowan (1896-1954), American baseball umpire
  • Brandon McGowan (b. 1983), American NFL football player
  • Dustin McGowan (b. 1982), American Major League Baseball player
  • Gerald S. McGowan (b. 1946), United States Ambassador to Portugal (1998 to 2001)
  • John Paterson McGowan (1880-1952), Australian-born, American actor, screenwriter, and director, life member of the Screen Directors Guild
  • Kathleen McGowan (b. 1963), American novelist, best known for her novel The Expected One
  • Pat McGowan (b. 1954), American PGA golfer



  • The Ancestry of Thomas W. McGowan by Thomas W. McGowan.

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: Juncta arma decori
Motto Translation: Arms united to merit.


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  1. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  2. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  3. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  4. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  5. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  6. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  7. Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1995. Print.
  8. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  9. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  10. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  11. ...

The McGowan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McGowan 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 18 March 2014 at 11:56.

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