Coward History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The vast movement of people that followed the Norman Conquest of England of 1066 brought the Coward family name to the British Isles. Coward is a name for a tender of cattle. The name is an adaptation of the Old English word cuhyrde, of the same meaning. It derives from the roots, cu, meaning cow, and hierde, meaning herdsman. [1]

"Although the popular derivation of this opprobrious word from 'cow-herd' (whose occupation would be regarded with some disdain by the chivalrous in the Middle Ages) is untenable, I think it quite probable that the surname may be from that source, like Shepherd, Hayward, and other similar names." [2]

With due regard to the these sources, we must revisit the Norman origin for a moment. In this case, the name was "from La Couarde, near Rochelle. Radulphus de Coarda occurs in Normandy 1198. " [3]

Early Origins of the Coward family

The surname Coward was first found in Lancashire "in the Furness district." [4] Now part of Cumbria in northwestern England, this peninsula also known as Low Furness, an area of villages, agricultural land and low-lying moorland.

Searching through early rolls, we found Thomas le Cuherde was listed in Essex in 1255 and a few years later the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 listed William le Kukerde, Cambridgeshire; and John Kuhirde, Huntingdonshire. Over in Cumberland, the Placita de Quo Warranto, temp. Edward I-III listed John le Kuhyrde, 20 Edward I and Richard le Kuhyrde (both in the twentieth year of King Edward I's reign.)

The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 had two listings for the family: Cecilia Cowehird, laborer; and Robertus Cowehyrde. [4]

The famed English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Noel Coward (1899-1973) hailed from Teddington, Middlesex, a south-western suburb of London.

Early History of the Coward family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Coward research. Another 123 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1622, 1637, 1663, 1657, 1725, 1656, 1657, 1674, 1675, 1677, 1679, 1680, 1738 and 1735 are included under the topic Early Coward History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Coward Spelling Variations

Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Coward, Cowerd and others.

Early Notables of the Coward family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was William Coward (1657?-1725), English physician, born at Winchester in 1656 or 1657. "His mother was sister of Dr. John Lamphire, principal of Hart Hall, Oxford, and Camden professor of history, whose property he apparently inherited (Hearne, Collections, i. 248). In May 1674 Coward was admitted as a commoner of Hart Hall; and in 1675 a scholar of Wadham College. He proceeded B.A. in 1677, and in January 1679-1680 was elected fellow of Merton. " [5] Another William Coward (d. 1738), was "a London merchant, famous for his liberality to dissent, possessed large property, including...
Another 157 words (11 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Coward Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Coward migration to the United States +

Many English families emigrated to North American colonies in order to escape the political chaos in Britain at this time. Unfortunately, many English families made the trip to the New World under extremely harsh conditions. Overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the stormy Atlantic. Despite these hardships, many of the families prospered and went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Coward or a variant listed above:

Coward Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Margarett Coward, who arrived in Virginia in 1650 [6]
  • John and Joanne Coward who settled in Virginia in 1654
  • Nicholas Coward, who landed in Virginia in 1664 [6]
  • Ann Coward, who landed in Maryland in 1677 [6]
  • William Coward, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1691 [6]
Coward Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Humph Coward, who arrived in Virginia in 1713 [6]
  • James Coward, who settled in Maryland in 1774
Coward Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George Coward, aged 36, who arrived in New York in 1812 [6]
  • Thomas Coward, who settled in Baltimore Maryland in 1823
  • Michael Coward, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1847 [6]
  • H Coward, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850 [6]
  • Mathew Coward, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1850 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Coward migration to Australia +

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

Coward Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Coward, British convict who was convicted in London, England for life, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, the settlement was listed as abandoned and most of the convicts transported to Tasmania on the "Queen" in 1804 [7]
  • Mr. William Coward, (b. 1781), aged 46, English miller who was convicted in Cumberland, England for life, transported aboard the "Champion" on 24th May 1827, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1832 [8]
  • Mr. Thomas Coward, British convict who was convicted in Coventry, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Bussorah Merchant" on 1st October 1829, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • John Coward, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Fairlee" in 1840 [10]
  • Sarah Coward, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Fairlee" in 1840 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Coward 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:

Coward Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Henry James Coward, aged 23, a butcher, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Assaye" in 1874
  • Mr. Henry James Coward, British settler travelling from London, UK with 1 child aboard the ship "Assaye" arriving in Auckland, North Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1874 [11]

Contemporary Notables of the name Coward (post 1700) +

  • William Clyde Coward, American Democratic Party politician, Postmaster at Cheraw, South Carolina, 1934-40 [12]
  • Orville D. Coward, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from North Carolina, 1956, 1972 [12]
  • N. E. Coward, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Texas, 1956 [12]
  • Joseph B. Coward, American politician, Member of New Jersey State House of Assembly from Union County, 1878 [12]
  • John H. Coward, American politician, Member of North Carolina State Senate 15th District, 1865-67 [12]
  • Thomas Alfred Coward FZS, FRES, MBOU (1867-1933), English ornithologist
  • John Coward (1907-1989), English ice hockey player, member of the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Charles Joseph Coward (1905-1976), English soldier, known as the "Count of Auschwitz" captured during World War II who rescued many Jews from Auschwitz
  • Sir Noël Pierce Coward (1899-1973), English actor, playwright and composer
  • Vice Admiral Sir John Francis Coward KCB, DSO (1937-2020), British Royal Navy officer who served as Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies from 1992 to 1994
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  4. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/calcutta
  8. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retreived 18th January 2021, retreived from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/champion)
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 10th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bussorah-merchant
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) FAIRLIE/FAIRLEE 1840. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1840Fairlie.htm
  11. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  12. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 13) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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