Show ContentsGowans History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The people known in ancient Scotland as the Picts were the ancestors of the first to use Gowans as a name. 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 Gowans family

The surname Gowans 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 Gowans family

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

Gowans Spelling Variations

In medieval Scotland, names were more often spelled according to sound than any regular set of rules. An enormous number of spelling variations were the result. Over the years, the name Gowans has been spelled MacGowan, McGowan, MacGowin, McGowin, MacGowen, McGowen, Gow, Gowan, Gowen, Gowin, MacGavin, McGavin and many more.

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

Gowans Ranking

In the United States, the name Gowans is the 15,501st most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [3]

Ireland Migration of the Gowans family to Ireland

Some of the Gowans 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 Gowans migration to the United States +

In such difficult times, Ireland, Australia, and North America looked like better homes for many Scots. The trips were expensive and grueling, but also rewarding, as the colonies were havens for those unwelcome in the old country. That legacy did not die easily, though, and many were forced to fight for their freedom in the American War of Independence. The Scottish legacy has resurface in more recent times, though, through Clan societies, highland games, and other organizations. Immigration and passenger lists have shown many early immigrants bearing the old Scottish name of Gowans:

Gowans Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Gowans, who arrived in Tennessee in 1829 [4]
  • William Gowans, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1872 [4]

Australia Gowans migration to Australia +

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

Gowans Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Jemima Gowans, (Whiteman) who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Cadet" on 10th November 1848, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [5]
  • Jane Gowans, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Duncan" in 1849 [6]
  • Mr. John Gowans, (b. 1830), aged 18, Scottish printer who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for 7 years for theft, transported aboard the "Bangalore" on 1st January 1850, arriving in Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia [7]

New Zealand Gowans 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:

Gowans Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Gowans, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Sevilla" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd December 1859 [8]

Contemporary Notables of the name Gowans (post 1700) +

  • Arthur Bradford "Brad" Gowans (1903-1954), American jazz trombonist and reedist
  • William Gowans (1803-1870), American prominent antiquarian bookseller in New York City
  • Fred R. Gowans (b. 1936), American emeritus professor at Brigham Young University
  • Peter Gowans (1944-2009), Scottish football winger
  • Sir James Gowans (1821-1890), Scottish architect and builder in Edinburgh
  • John Gowans (1934-2012), Scottish 16th General of the Salvation Army from 1999-2002
  • Sir James Learmonth Gowans CBE, FRS, FRCP (1924-2020), British physician and immunologist, he assisted at the liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a voluntary medical student
  • Betty Gowans (b. 1947), Canadian sprint canoer in the semifinals of the K-2 500 m event at the 1968 Summer Olympics
  • Chris Gowans (b. 1977), Australian rules football player
  • James Gowans (b. 1977), Australian rules footballer who played for St Kilda in the Australian Football League
  • ... (Another 2 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Gowans 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 17th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/cadet/
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The DUNCAN 1849 . Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Duncan.htm
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 11th September 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/australasia
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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