Bow History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The illustrious surname Bow is classified as a habitation surname, which was originally derived from a place-name, and is one form of surname belonging to a broader group called hereditary surnames. Habitation names were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Topographic names, form the other broad category of surnames that was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree.

Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties. As a general rule, the greater the distance between an individual and their homeland, the larger the territory they were named after. For example, a person who only moved to another parish would be known by the name of their original village, while people who migrated to a different country were often known by the name of a region or country from which they came. Bow is a place-name from in the village of Bowes in Durham. The place and the surname both are derived from the Old English word bogas, which meant "bend in the river" The village was renamed Bogas in 1148.

Another source claims " about the time of the Conqueror, there was a town (on the site of the Castle of Bowes), which the tradition of the family states, was burned. It then belonged to the Earls of Brittany and Richmond. The castle was built, as Mr. Horseley thinks, out of the ruins of the Roman Fortress, by Alan Niger, the second earl of that title, who, it is said, placed therein William, his relation, with five hundred archers to defend it against some insurgents in Cambridge and Westmorland confederated with the Scots, giving him for the device of his standard the arms of Brittany, with three bows and a bundle of arrows, whence both the castle and the commander derived their names; the former being called Bowes Castle, and the latter, William de Arcubus, or William Bowes." [1]

Early Origins of the Bow family

The surname Bow was first found in Durham where they held a family seat as the Lords of Streatham Castle. "The family of Bowes held some lands [in Ingleton] under the Nevills, who possessed the greater part of the township as a member of Raby." [2]

They were related to Alan Niger who was Duke of Brittany. His descendant Sir William Bowes was Captain of 500 archers and Governor of Bowes Castle, which was responsible for the defense of the Kingdom against the Scots. He was great, great grandfather of Sir Adam Bowes, Steward of Richmondshire, living in 1345.

Early History of the Bow family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bow research. Another 134 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1424, 1749, 1800, 1389, 1465, 1466, 1657, 1707, 1679, 1685, 1695, 1698, 1702, 1707, 1517, 1556, 1585, 1527, 1580, 1502, 1568, 1510, 1521, 1616, 1691, 1767, 1718 and 1725 are included under the topic Early Bow History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bow Spelling Variations

Since the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules, Breton surnames have many spelling variations. Latin and French, which were the official court languages, were also influential on the spelling of surnames. The spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules. Therefore, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England after the Norman Conquest, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. The name has been spelled Bows, Bow, Bowes, Bowe, Bough, Boughs and others.

Early Notables of the Bow family (pre 1700)

Notable of this family during the Middle Ages was Sir William Bowes (1389-1465); and his son, Sir William Bowes (died 1466), Sheriff of Northumberland; and Sir William Bowes (1657-1707), an English landowner and politician, Member of Parliament for County Durham (1679-1685), (1695-1698) and (1702-1707.) Sir George Bowes (1517-1556), was Commander in Border warfare and was a posthumous son of Sir Ralph Bowes of Dalden, Streatlam, and South Cowton. Marmaduke Bowes (d. 1585), was a Catholic martyr, described as a substantial Yorkshire yeoman, of Angram Grange, near Appleton, in Cleveland. [3] Sir George Bowes (1527-1580), was a military commander, the son of Richard Bowes and...
Another 205 words (15 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bow Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bow Ranking

In the United States, the name Bow is the 9,466th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Bow family to Ireland

Some of the Bow family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 72 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Bow migration to the United States +

Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Bow, or a variant listed above:

Bow Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • William Bow, who arrived in Virginia in 1634 [5]
  • Edward Bow, who landed in Maryland in 1668 [5]
  • Simon Bow, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1682-1683 [5]
Bow Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Anne Bow, who arrived in Virginia in 1703 [5]
  • James Bow, who arrived in Maryland in 1716 [5]
  • James Bow, who settled in Virginia in 1716
  • Mich Bow, who landed in Virginia in 1718 [5]
  • John Bow, who settled in Maryland in 1727
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Bow Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Jonas Bow, aged 25, who arrived in New York, NY in 1869 [5]

Canada Bow migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Bow Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Michael Bow, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1823
  • John Bow, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1833

New Zealand Bow migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Bow Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Bow, British settler travelling from London via Plymouth aboard the ship "Tasmania" arriving in Otago, South Island, New Zealand on to Lyttelton on 26th February 1853 [6]
  • Mr. John Bow, British settler travelling from London via Plymouth aboard the ship "Tasmania" arriving in Otago, South Island, New Zealand on to Lyttelton on 26th February 1853 [6]
  • Miss Marion Bow, (b. 1835), aged 27, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1862 [7]
  • Mr. James Bow, (b. 1840), aged 34, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Peter Denny" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 26th July 1874 [6]
  • S. W. Bow, aged 33, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alumbagh" in 1875 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Bow (post 1700) +

  • Mike Bow, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Texas, 2012 [8]
  • Frank Townsend Bow (1901-1972), American Republican politician, Member of Ohio Republican State Central Committee, 1945-46; U.S. Representative from Ohio 16th District, 1951-72 [8]
  • Dennis Bow (1829-1900), American Democratic Party politician, Supervisor of Bridgeport Township, Michigan, 1868-69, 1870-72 [8]
  • Malcolm Norman Bow, Canadian Ambassador to Czechlovakia (1964-1968), and to Cuba

The Bow Motto +

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: Quaerere verum
Motto Translation: To seek the truth.

  1. ^ Arthur, William , An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. London: 1857. Print
  2. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  4. ^
  5. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 29) . Retrieved from on Facebook
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