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

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.


The surname Bow was first found in Durham where they held a family seat as the Lords of Streatham Castle. 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.

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.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bow research. Another 269 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1424, 1749, 1800, 1389, 1465, 1466, 1657, 1707, 1679, 1685, 1695, 1698, 1702, 1707, 1691 and 1767 are included under the topic Early Bow History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 211 words (15 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bow Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Bow family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 101 words (7 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


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

  • Wm Bow, who arrived in Virginia in 1634
  • Edward Bow, who landed in Maryland in 1668
  • Simon Bow, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1682-1683

Bow Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Anne Bow, who arrived in Virginia in 1703
  • James Bow, who arrived in Maryland in 1716
  • James Bow settled in Virginia in 1716
  • Mich Bow, who landed in Virginia in 1718
  • John Bow settled in Maryland in 1727

Bow Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Jonas Bow, aged 25, arrived in New York, NY in 1869

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

Bow Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • S. W. Bow, aged 33, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alumbagh" in 1875
  • Emily Bow, aged 36, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alumbagh" in 1875
  • Fred Bow, aged 10, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alumbagh" in 1875
  • Walter Bow, aged 9, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alumbagh" in 1875
  • Ernest Bow, aged 6, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alumbagh" in 1875


  • Mike Bow, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Texas, 2012
  • 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
  • Dennis Bow (1829-1900), American Democrat politician, Supervisor of Bridgeport Township, Michigan, 1868-69, 1870-72
  • Malcolm Norman Bow, Canadian Ambassador to Czechlovakia (1964-1968, and to Cuba


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.


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  1. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  2. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  3. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  4. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  5. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  6. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  7. 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.
  8. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  9. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds. Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  10. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  11. ...

The Bow Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Bow 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 22 February 2016 at 16:07.

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