Show ContentsBowe History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The illustrious surname Bowe 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. Bowe 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 Bowe family

The surname Bowe 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 Bowe family

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

Bowe 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 Bowe family

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 C...
  • 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 Elizabeth Aske. [3]
  • Elizabeth Bowes (1502?-1568), was a disciple of John Knox, and the daughter of Roger Aske, of Aske, Yorkshire. Her father died when she was a child, and she and her sister Anne were coheiresses of the...
  • Sir Jerome Bowes (d. 1616), was an English ambassador, "of a Durham family, 'sprung from John Bowes, who married Anne, daughter of Gunville of Gorleston in Suffolk, who bore the same arms as those of...

Bowe Ranking

In the United States, the name Bowe is the 5,511st most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Bowe family to Ireland

Some of the Bowe 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 Bowe migration to the United States +

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

Bowe Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • James Bowe, who landed in Maryland in 1716 [5]
  • Sarah Bowe, who settled in Maryland in 1719
Bowe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • C. Bowe, who settled in Texas in 1848
  • Jacob Bowe, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850 [5]
  • J Bowe, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1856 [5]
  • Edward Bowe, who settled in Philadelphia in 1868

Canada Bowe migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Bowe Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Miss. Margaret Bowe, aged 8 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "Jessie" departing 18th April 1847 from Limerick, Ireland; the ship arrived on 26th June 1847 but she died on board [6]

Australia Bowe migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Bowe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Edward Bowe, British Convict who was convicted in Northampton, Northamptonshire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Dudbrook" on 17th November 1852, arriving in Western Australia [7]
  • Thomas Bowe, aged 24, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Nugget" [8]
  • Margaret Bowe, aged 20, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Nugget" [8]
  • Mary Bowe, aged 28, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Nugget" [8]

New Zealand Bowe 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:

Bowe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • T. Bowe, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Buttermere" in 1886

Contemporary Notables of the name Bowe (post 1700) +

  • Riddick Lamont Bowe (b. 1967), American boxer, two-time World Heavyweight Champion
  • Dwayne Lorenzo Bowe (b. 1984), American NFL football wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs
  • Rosemarie Bowe (b. 1932), American film and television actress, wife of Robert Stack
  • Frank G. Bowe (1947-2007), American disability rights activist, author, and teacher
  • David Bowe (b. 1964), American character actor
  • Joseph L. Bowe, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New Jersey, 1964 [9]
  • John E. Bowe, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to New York State Constitutional Convention 24th District, 1938 [9]
  • John Bowe, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Minnesota at-large, 1932 [9]
  • John Bowe, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Albany County 1st District, 1886 [9]
  • James Edgar Bowe (1828-1890), American politician, Member of California State Assembly 18th District, 1856-57 [9]
  • ... (Another 11 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Bowe 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. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  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. Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 65)
  7. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 23rd July 2021). Retrieved from
  8. South Australian Register. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Nugget 1858. Retrieved
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 29) . Retrieved from on Facebook