Gowan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

When Gowan was first used as a surname among the ancient Scottish people, 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 Gowan family

The surname Gowan 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.

Early History of the Gowan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gowan 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 Gowan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gowan Spelling Variations

The arts of spelling and translation were yet in their infancies when surnames began, so there are an enormous number of spelling variations of the names in early Scottish records. This is a particular problem with Scottish names because of the numerous times a name might have been loosely translated to English from Gaelic and back. Gowan has been spelled MacGowan, McGowan, MacGowin, McGowin, MacGowen, McGowen, Gow, Gowan, Gowen, Gowin, MacGavin, McGavin and many more.

Early Notables of the Gowan 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 Gowan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Gowan family to Ireland

Some of the Gowan 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 Gowan migration to the United States +

This oppression forced many Scots to leave their homelands. Most of these chose North America as their destination. Although the journey left many sick and poor, these immigrants were welcomed the hardy with great opportunity. Many of these settlers stood up for their newfound freedom in the American War of Independence. More recently, Scots abroad have recovered much of their collective heritage through highland games and other patriotic functions and groups. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has located various settlers bearing the name Gowan:

Gowan Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Duncan Gowan, who settled in Barbados in 1745
  • George Gowan, who arrived in America in 1798 [2]
Gowan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Philip Gowan, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811 [2]
  • Sarah Gowan, who arrived in New York, NY in 1812 [2]
  • Nancy Gowan, who landed in New York, NY in 1812 [2]
  • James Gowan, who landed in New York, NY in 1812 [2]
  • Henry Gowan, who arrived in New York, NY in 1815 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Gowan migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Gowan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Jacob Gowan, aged 50 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Achilles" departing from the port of Liverpool, England but died on Grosse Isle in June 1847 [3]
  • Miss. Mary Gowan, aged 2 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Syria" departing from the port of Liverpool, England but died on Grosse Isle in June 1847 [3]

Australia Gowan migration to Australia +

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

Gowan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Jesse Gowan, aged Elizabeth, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Somersetshire" in 1839 [4]
  • Stephen Gowan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Somersetshire" in 1839 [4]
  • Harriet Gowan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Somersetshire" in 1839 [4]
  • Sarah Ann Gowan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Somersetshire" in 1839 [4]
  • Frederick Gowan, aged 28, a miner, who arrived in South Australia in 1859 aboard the ship "Lady Ann"

New Zealand Gowan 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:

Gowan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • R H Gowan, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • Mr. H. Gowan, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Olympus" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 20th April 1841 [5]
  • Mr. F. Gowan, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Olympus" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 20th April 1841 [5]
  • Mr. F. Gowan, (b. 1818), aged 22, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Olympus" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 20th April 1841 [5]
  • Mr. H. Gowan, (b. 1817), aged 23, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Olympus" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 20th April 1841 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Gowan (post 1700) +

  • Charles Gowan (1850-1938), American and Canadian pioneer and politician
  • Peter Gowan (1944-2009), Scottish-born football winger
  • John Gowan (b. 1934), Scottish sixteenth General of the Salvation Army
  • Geoffrey Gowan CM, PhD (1929-2013), English-born, Canadian sports broadcaster for the CBC
  • Sir James Robert Gowan (1815-1909), Canadian lawyer, judge, and senator
  • Nelson Lee Gowan (b. 1961), Canadian novelist
  • James Gowan (b. 1977), Australian rules footballer
  • Ogle Robert Gowan (1803-1876), Canadian farmer, Orangeman, journalist and politician in Upper Canada
  • Chris Gowan (b. 1977), Australian rules football player
  • Lawrence Gowan (b. 1956), Scottish-born, Canadian musician

HMS Royal Oak
  • Jack Douglas Gowan (1923-1939), British Boy 1st Class with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [6]
RMS Lusitania


The Gowan 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. ^ 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)
  3. ^ 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. 30)
  4. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) SOMERSETSHIRE 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839Somersetshire.htm
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  6. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html
  7. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 10) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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