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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


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.

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The surname Cowan was first found in Ayrshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir ir), 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.

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.


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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.

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

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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.

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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 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 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 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


Cowan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Isabella Cowan, aged 20, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • Owen Cowan, aged 25, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • Kitty Cowan, aged 19, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • Mary Cowan, aged 22, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • Nancy Cowan, aged 2, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834


Cowan Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century


  • Walter Cowan, who landed in St John, New Brunswick in 1907

Cowan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • David Cowan arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lady Lilford" in 1839
  • Elizabeth Cowan arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lady Lilford" in 1839
  • Samuel Cowan arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1849
  • R. Cowan arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Senator" in 1849
  • David Cowan arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Condor" in 1851


Cowan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John Cowan, aged 28, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bombay" in 1865
  • Catherine Cowan, aged 23, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bombay" in 1865
  • John Cowan arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bombay" in 1865
  • John Cowan arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ernestina" in 1865
  • John Cowan arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bulwark" in 1872


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  • Richard Cowan (1957-2015), American operatic bass-baritone
  • Mary Louise Cowan (1916-2015), ne Shillingburg, American teacher and wife of the physicist, teacher, and university president Donald Cowan
  • Johnnie Cowan (1913-1993), American Negro league baseball infielder who played from 1934 and 1948, Negro League World Series Champion (1945)
  • Patrick Edmund Cowan (b. 1986), Canadian-born, free agent American football quarterback
  • Richard Olsen Cowan (b. 1934), American historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Denys B. Cowan (b. 1960), American Eisner Award nominated comic book artist and television producer
  • William Maurice "Mo" Cowan (b. 1969), American politician and lawyer, United States Senator from Massachusetts in 2013
  • John Cowan (b. 1952), American soul and progressive bluegrass vocalist and bass guitar player, lead vocalist and bass player for the New Grass Revival
  • 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)
  • Nelson Cowan (b. 1951), American Curators' Professor of Psychology at the University of Missouri

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  • Cowan/Lenox, and Next of Kin by Mildred C. Siever.
  • The Cowans from County Down by John Kerr Fleming.
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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. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  3. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  4. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  5. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  6. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  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 24 March 2016 at 22:59.

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