Gow History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Gow was first used as a surname among the descendants of the ancient Scottish people known as the Picts. It was a name for a metalworker. The Gaelic form of the name is Mac Ghobhainn, which means son of the smith. [1]

Early Origins of the Gow family

The surname Gow was first found in Inverness-shire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Nis) divided between the present day Scottish Council Areas of Highland and Western Isles, and consisting of a large northern mainland area and various island areas off the west coast, the shire was anciently both a Pictish and Norwegian stronghold, where the name is from the Gaelic 'Govha' meaning 'a blacksmith' and as such could have been a name that applied to people throughout Scotland.

However, as in the case of clans like the Fletchers or Clarks, eventually the name became attributed to a specific area or region. As such, The Clan was also located in Nithsfield in the 12th century, and recorded as a Border Clan. To the west in Elgin and Galloway they were known as the MacGavins. Due to the Anglicization of the Gaelic name, spellings were often widely different.

"MacGowan (McGowan) is the name of an old Stirling family. Gilcallum McGoun had a precept of remission for rapine and other crimes on the lands of the abbot of Cupar, 1503 (RSS., I, 953). Gilbert Makgowin, a follower of the earl of Cassilis, was respited for murder in 1526 (ibid., 3386). William McGown in Pitcalny, a follower of Ross of Pitcalny, 1592 (RPC., V, p. 31). Murchie McGowy or Muithie McGowne in Fanmoir, Mull, was put to horn in 1629 (RPC., 2 ser. II, p. 341; III, p. 45). Alister McGhowin, an engager on royalist side, in parish of Urray, 1649 (IDR., p. 368). Alexander M'Gowne was retoured heir in the lands of Langlandes of Lochanes in the territory of Dumfries, 1672." [2]

"In the reign of David II there was a Clan M'Gowan, probably located somewhere on the river Nith, whose chiefship was adjudged to Donald Edzear (RMS., I, App II, 982). This Edzear was a descendant of Dunegal of Stranith (Nithsdale), whose seat was at Morton, Dumfriesshire, about the beginning of the twelfth century. The name here may indicate descent from Owen the Bald (the Eugenius Calvin of Simeon of Durham), king of the Strathclyde Britons, who was killed in 1018." [2]

Early History of the Gow family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gow research. Another 158 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1396, 1613, 1698, 1725, 1631, 1683, 1631, 1658, 1661 and are included under the topic Early Gow History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gow Spelling Variations

Before the first dictionaries appeared in the last few hundred years, scribes spelled according to sound. spelling variations are common among Scottish names. Gow has been spelled MacGowan, McGowan, MacGowin, McGowin, MacGowen, McGowen, Gow, Gowan, Gowen, Gowin, MacGavin, McGavin and many more.

Early Notables of the Gow family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan at this time was John Gow (c. 1698-1725), Scottish notorious pirate probably born in Wick, Caithness whose short career was immortalized by Charles Johnson in "A General History of the Pyrates." Thomas Gowan (1631-1683), was a writer on logic, "born at Caldermuir, Scotland...
Another 46 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gow Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gow Ranking

In the United States, the name Gow is the 13,513rd most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [3]

Ireland Migration of the Gow family to Ireland

Some of the Gow family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 99 words (7 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Gow migration to the United States +

In those unstable times, many had no choice but to leave their beloved homelands. Sickness and poverty hounded travelers to North America, but those who made it were welcomed with land and opportunity. These settlers gave the young nations of Canada and the United States a strong backbone as they stood up for their beliefs as United Empire Loyalists and in the American War of Independence. In this century, the ancestors of these brave Scots have begun to recover their illustrious heritage through Clan societies and other heritage organizations. Early passenger and immigration lists reveal many Scottish settlers bearing the name Gow:

Gow Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Pat Gow, aged 28, who landed in New York in 1812 [4]
  • John and Walter Gow, who arrived in New York in 1820
  • Alexander Gow, who arrived in New York in 1844 [4]
  • David Gow, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1854 [4]
  • William Gow, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1871 [4]

Australia Gow migration to Australia +

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

Gow Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Gow, Scottish convict who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for 14 years, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 16th January 1816, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • Mr. Daniel Gow, Scottish convict who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for life, transported aboard the "England"on 28th April 1826, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [6]
  • Mr. Neil Gow, English convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Captain Cook" on 2nd May 1833, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Patrick Gow, aged 19, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Prince Regent" [8]
  • Patrick Gow, aged 19, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Prince Regent" in 1851 [8]

New Zealand Gow 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:

Gow Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Gow, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "John Scott" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 7th March 1858 [9]
  • Mrs. Catherine Gow, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "John Scott" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 7th March 1858 [9]
  • Mr. T. Gow, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Three Bells" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 13th July 1858 [10]
  • Mrs. Gow, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Three Bells" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 13th July 1858 [10]
  • Miss Gow, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Three Bells" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 13th July 1858 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Gow (post 1700) +

  • Paul A. Gow, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Montana, 1940 [11]
  • Charles Rice Gow, American Republican politician, Postmaster at Boston, Massachusetts, 1929-31 [11]
  • Nathaniel Gow (1766-1831), Scottish violinist and composer, youngest son of Niel Gow [q. v.], born at Inver, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, on 28 March 1766 [12]
  • Niel Gow (1727-1807), Scottish violinist and composer, born at Inver, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, on 22 March 1727, son of a plaid weaver [12]
  • Gerry Gow (1952-2016), Scottish footballer, member of the Scotland U23 team in 1974
  • Niel Gow (1727-1807), the most famous Scottish fiddler and dancie of the eighteenth century
  • Alan Gow (b. 1982), Scottish football striker
  • General Sir James Michael Gow GCB (b. 1924), retired British Army General
  • Ronald Gow (1897-1993), English dramatist, best known for Love on the Dole (1934)
  • Peter Gow (1818-1886), Scottish-born, Canadian businessman and politician, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1867 to 1876
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Gow 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: Juncta arma decori
Motto Translation: Arms united to merit.


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/atlas
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th April 2022). https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/england
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/captain-cook
  8. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) PRINCE REGENT 1851. Retrieved http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1851PrinceRegent.htm
  9. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  10. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  11. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 21) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  12. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020


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