Cowan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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, Dumfriesshire, and other Lowland counties. The name may be from the Scottish word cowan, a dry-stone-diker or more likely a corruption of Colquhoun, the common pronunciation of which is Cohoon. "Mr. Alexander Cowan, father of Sir John Cowan of Beeslack is said to have left on record that many of his grandfather's books bore the name of Colquhoun." [1]

Early Origins of the Cowan family

The surname Cowan was first found in Ayrshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir), formerly a county in the southwestern Strathclyde region of Scotland where a name like Iain MacComhain becomes Iain Comhan in Gaelic while the English equivalent is Cowan. The name of James Cowhen, chaplain in North Berwick, 1560. [1]

Early History of the Cowan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cowan research. Another 105 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1852, 1865, 1868, 1870, 1871, 1872, 1876, 1876 and are included under the topic Early Cowan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cowan Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the Cowan family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family at this time was Frederic Hymen Cowen, born Jan. 29, 1852, at Kingston, Jamaica, exhibited early an extraordinary love of music, was brought to England by his parents when four years old, and placed under the tuition of Sir J. Benedict and Sir J. Goss, whose pupil he remained until the winter of 1865. He then studied at the conservatoires of Leipzig and Berlin, returning to London...
Another 70 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cowan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cowan World Ranking

In the United States, the name Cowan is the 1,008th most popular surname with an estimated 29,844 people with that name. [2] However, in Canada, the name Cowan is ranked the 624th most popular surname with an estimated 8,269 people with that name. [3] And in Australia, the name Cowan is the 621st popular surname with an estimated 6,268 people with that name. [4] New Zealand ranks Cowan as 421st with 1,578 people. [5] The United Kingdom ranks Cowan as 560th with 11,571 people. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Cowan family to Ireland

Some of the Cowan family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 75 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 Cowan migration to the United States +

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 [7]
  • Marjorie Cowan, who arrived in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1685 [7]
  • Marjory Cowan, who landed in New Jersey in 1685 [7]
Cowan Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Ephraim Cowan, who arrived in New England in 1738 [7]
  • Andrew Cowan, who settled in South Carolina in 1772
  • Alexander Cowan, who settled in New York City in 1774
  • Alexander Cowan, aged 20, who arrived in New York in 1774 [7]
  • Andrew Cowan, who landed in New York in 1798 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Cowan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William Cowan, who arrived in America in 1804 [7]
  • James Cowan, who arrived in America in 1811 [7]
  • Christopher Cowan, who landed in America in 1812 [7]
  • Edward Cowan, who arrived in America in 1812 [7]
  • George Cowan, aged 30, who arrived in Connecticut in 1812 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Cowan migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cowan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Isabella Cowan, aged 20, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • Owen Cowan, aged 25, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • Kitty Cowan, aged 19, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • Mary Cowan, aged 22, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • Nancy Cowan, aged 2, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Cowan Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Walter Cowan, who landed in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1907

Australia Cowan migration to Australia +

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

Cowan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Cowan, British Convict who was convicted in Devon, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Cornwallis" in August 1800, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • David Cowan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lady Lilford" in 1839 [9]
  • Elizabeth Cowan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lady Lilford" in 1839 [9]
  • Mr. Edward Cowan, English convict who was convicted in Newington, London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Grey" on 4th October 1842, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [10]
  • Samuel Cowan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1849 [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Cowan 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:

Cowan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Timothy Cowan, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston aboard the ship "Spray" arriving in New Zealand in 1851 [12]
  • Mr. Timothy Cowan, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston aboard the ship "Spray" arriving in New Zealand in 1851 [12]
  • Mr. Hugh Kennedy Cowan, (b. 1825), aged 34, British farm labourer travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Regina" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 4th December 1859 [12]
  • Mrs. Georgina Cowan, (b. 1834), aged 25, British settler travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Regina" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 4th December 1859 [12]
  • Mr. John Cowan, (b. 1852), aged 7, British settler travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Regina" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 4th December 1859 [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Cowan (post 1700) +

  • Richard Cowan (1957-2015), American operatic bass-baritone
  • Mary Louise Cowan (1916-2015), née 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
  • ... (Another 34 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Charles Cowan, British Leading Stoker, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [13]
  • Mr. David Cowan, British Able Bodied Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [13]
RMS Lusitania
USS Arizona
  • Mr. William Cowan, American Coxswain from Missouri, USA working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he died in the sinking [15]


The Cowan 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: Sic itur in altum
Motto Translation: This is the way to heaven.


Suggested Readings for the name Cowan +

  • Cowan/Lenox, and Next of Kin by Mildred C. Siever.
  • The Cowans from County Down by John Kerr Fleming.

  1. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  2. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  3. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  4. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  5. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  6. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  7. ^ 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)
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 13th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-cornwallis
  9. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) LADY LILFORD 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839LadyLilford.htm
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-gray
  11. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The BOLTON 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Bolton.htm
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  13. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  14. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/
  15. ^ Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from http://pearl-harbor.com/arizona/casualtylist.html


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