Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Bowen Name
Bowen Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
First, this is an Anglicized version of the Welsh surname ab Owain (the son of Owen), which is turn derives from the Latin name Eugenius, which in turn derives from the Greek Eugenois, meaning a person of noble birth Second, it is an Anglicized version of the Irish surname Buadhachain (descendant of Bohan). Another source states its an Anglicization of the Irish last name O’Bachin, and loosely translates as “of victory”. In both cases, this is a patronymic or baptismal surname dating back to medieval times and the Middle Ages in the British Isles of Europe. A third theory or origin/meaning is that it is a locational or habitational name deriving from Norman French name“de Bohun”, denoting a person from locales named Bohun or Bown. According to wikitree.com, the earliest known ancestor of this family Cuhleyn Fardd Gwynfardd was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1090 AD. Several generations down the family tree his descendants bore the surname Bowen. The arms most commonly associated with this family surname is an Azure (blue) shield with an Or (yellow or gold) lion rampant within an orle of roses Or. The family first took root in Pembrokeshire in southwest Wales, which was once part of the ancient Welsh kingdom of Debeubarth, and later in Shropshire, England and Cork, Ireland.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Bown, Bowan, Bohun, Ap Owen, Ab Owain, Bihan, Bowenn, Bowhen, Bouwen, O’Bohan, Bohan, Bohane, Boughan, and about 100 others.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Bowen ranks 370th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following six states: Georgia, Vermont, Maryland, Utah, Idaho, and West Virginia. The surname Bowen frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (444th), Scotland (1,337th), Wales (40th), Ireland () and Northern Ireland (1,132nd). In England, it ranks highest in counties Shropshire and Herefordshire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Kincardineshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Cork. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Tyrone.The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,059th), New Zealand (805th), Australia (486th), and South Africa (2,208th). The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “The Bowens, according to Lower, have their great home in Pembrokeshire, but they are also numerous in Shropshire”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
A one Madocus ap Oweyn was recorded in the Placita de Que Warranto in 1292 AD. John Bowen was documented in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1305 AD. The History and Ant. Of St. David’s lists Lewis ap-Owen, the archdeacon of Cardigan, Wales in 1487 AD, and Arnold Bowen, the prebendary of St. David’s, in 1691. An early baptismal involving this surname was Daniell, son of John Abowen, at St. Peter, Cornhill in 1568 AD. The Register of the University of Oxford documents Thomas Bowen in Cardigan in 1582 and Hugh Bowen in Carmarthen in 1597.
Bowen Family Tree & Bowen Genealogy
The following is a discussion of six different noble, royal, landed, or aristocratic families bearing this last name.
Bowen of Bowen’s Court
The lineage or ancestry of this family traces back to a Henry Bowen, Esquire, a Colonel in the army of Oliver Cromwell, who settled in Ireland and died in Farrihy, county Cork in 1658. He was succeeded by his son, John Bowen, of Farrihy, who in 1660, married Mary, daughter and heir of Captain John Nicholls of Kilbolane, and had three sons and two daughters with her. He died in 1718 and was succeeded by his eldest son John. This John Bowen was an Esquire of Kilbolane, who married (second wife) Catherine, daughter of Richard Stephens of Newcastle, and had two daughters and three sons with her, the sons being: Henry (of Bowen’s Court), John (of Carrigadrohid, ancestor of the Bowen’s of Oak Grove), and Stephen. The eldest son was Henry Bowen, Esquire, of Bowen’s Court, who in 1718, married Jane, only child and heir of Robert Cole, of Ballybacked, and had a daughter with her named Margaret Bowen, as well as a son also named Henry. His son Henry Cole Bowen, Esquire of Bowen’s Court, in 1760, married Margaret, daughter of Ralph Wilson, and had fourteen issue with her as follows: 1) Henry Cole (married Catherine Prittie), 2) John (married Martha Randall), 3) Ralph (married Mary Doherty of Mount Brusi, had issue named Henry, Edmond, Charles, Jane, Mary, and Elizabeth), 4) Robert (discussed in detail below), 5) Nicholls (married Brianna, daughter of Robert Travers, had issue named Henry, Robert, Nicholls, John, Brianna, Mary, and Catherine), 6) William, 7) Stephens (married two sons, Henry and Stephens), 8) Edward, 9) Jane (married Reverend William Berkley), 10) Thomasine (married Honorable George Jocelyn), 11) Catherine (married John Wight), 12) Margaret (married William Percy and later Mr. Maunsell), 13) Henrietta (married John Medge, Member of Parliament for Athlumney), and 14) Isabella (married Edward Sheffield Cassan). His son Robert Bowen succeeded to the family estates on the death of his eldest brother, 1797, in 1806, married Elizabeth, daughter of William Galwey, and died in 1827, having had the following issue: Henry Cole, Robert Cole (Barrister-at-Law, married Elizabeth Mason of Cooline), Edward, and Elizabeth (married Matthew Braddell). The eldest son, Henry Cole Bowen, of Bowen’s Court, was a Justice of the Peace, who married Eliza Wade, daughter of St. John Galwey of Mallow, and had the following issue with her: Robert Cole, Henry Cole (Lieutenant of the Royal Army), Sarah Cole (married Reverend Brabazon T. Disney), Anne Cole, and Henrietta Cole (married Arthur Gethin Creagh, her first cousin, had issue). He was succeeded by his son Robert upon his death in 1841. This Robert Cole Bowen, Esquire, M.A., of Bowen’s Court, county Cork, Ireland was a Justice of the Peace and Captain of the 87th South Cork Light Infantry who was born in 1830. In 1860, he married Elizabeth Jane, daughter of Charles Clarke of Graiguenoe Park, and fathered six children with her: Henry Charles Cole (1862), Robert Cole (1863), Charles Otway Cole (1867), Sarah Frances Cole, Elizabeth Harriet Mary Cole (1865), and Anne Marcella Cole. The family was seated at Bowen’s Court, Kildorrey, county Cork, Ireland.
Webb-Bowen of Camrose
The Bowen genealogy of this line begins with a family that had its roots in county Pembrokeshire, Wales for a many generations, with branches established throughout southern Wales and other areas. A one Hugh Webb, Esquire, son of George and his wife Anne, the daughter of Reverend Charles Bowen, succeeded to Camrose in 1801, and assumed the additional arms and surname of Bowen in the following year. He married Ms. Child of Haverfordwest, and had one daughter with her named Elizabeth. He secondly married Emma, daughter of Thomas Ince of Stoneydale and Elizabeth Townsend, and had seven children with her as follows: Charles Wheeler Towsend (discussed in some detail below), Bell, Reverend William Wheeler (Vicar of Camrose, Haverfordwest, married Mary Grace Von Burr Fortune and later Oiva Duffin, and had issue named Charles Hugh, Thomas Ince, Bell Ince, William, Edward Mostyn, Stewart Charles Duffin, Townsend Ince, Edmund Hanbury Edwardes, Edmund Hanbury Edwardes, Emma Lloyd, Augusta Parry, Olivia Ellen Lockhart, and Eleanor Katharine), Thomas (Lieutenant of the 64th Regiment, died in Kingston, Jamaica), Emma (married J.M. Child of Bigelly House, county Pembroke), Augusta (widow of John Howell of Tigfynydd), and Caroline (married D.P. Callan of Molleston, county Pembroke). He died in 1833. His son Charles Wheeler Townsend Webb-Bowen was an Esquire of Camrose House, county Pembroke, Wales (in modern day United Kingdom), Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff born in 1798. The coat of arms of this family is blazoned as follows: Quarterly: 1st and 4th, argent a lion rampant sable, for Bowen; 2nd and 3rd; gules a fess between three owls or, for Webb. Crest: A lion rampant, as in the arms. They were seated at Camrose House, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire Wales, Great Britain, United Kingdom.
Bowen of Kilnacourt
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Bowen family tree traces back to Hugh Bowen, a colonel in the army, who married Elizabeth, sole child and heiress of Reverend Charles Jones, who was the father of Charles. This Charles was an Esquire of Courtwood, who in 1796, married Martha, daughter and co-heiress of Robert Hartpole of Shrule Castle and his wife Harriet, and had eight issue with her: Hugh Aldborough, Charles Hartpole (of Courtwood), Martha, Harriet, Elizabeth (married John Shelley), Louosa, Emily (married T.W. Lane, Esq. of Ryelands), and Maria. His son Charles Hartpole was an Esquire of Kilnacourt, Queen’s County, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and High Sheriff who was born in 1810. In 1859, he married Emelia Anne, daughter of Richard W. Cooper of Longford Lodge, near Kingstown, and had four issue with her as follows: Charles Edward Hartpoole (born 1862), Emily Frances, Alice Elinor, and Frances Ethel. The Bowen Coat of Arms (erroneously called the Bowen Family Crest by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) are blazoned in the European art of heraldry as follows: Quarterly, 1st, argent on a mount vert a stag segant gules attired or, in the mouth a trefoil slipped proper a crescent azure for difference, for Bowen; 2nd; sable a chevron between three spears’ heads embowed argent, for Bowen, ancient: 3rd, sable a fess ermine between three boars’ heads couped or, for Jones. 4th, quarterly, 1st and 4th, gules a chevron embattled argent, on a chief of the second, a torteau between two lions’ heads erased sable; 2nd and 3rd; ermine a fesse nebulee azure, between three stags’ heads cabossed sable, for Hartpole. Crest: On a mound vert a stag segant, as in the arms, in the mouth a trefoil slipped, proper, a crescent or, for difference. Motto: Virtus vincit invidiam. They were seated at Kilnacourt, Portarlington, Queen’s County, Ireland.
Bowen of Llwyngwair
The lineage of ancestry traces back to a family originally called or spelled Ab Owens of Pentre Evan, county Pembroke, a very ancient Welsh family that located at Llwyngwait since around 1500 AD. James Bevan Bowen was an Esquire of Llwyngwair, county Pembroke, Wales, was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Barrister-at-Law, and Member of Parliament who was born in 1828. In 1857, he married Harriette, daughter of Reverend John Standly, and had three issue with her: George Bevan, James Robert, and Blanche Harriett. George Bowen, Esquire of Llwyngwair, married Sarah, daughter of John Thomas of Longhouse. The Bowen Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Bowen family shield) is has the following heraldic blazon: Quarterly: 1st and 4th azure, a lion rampant or, between eight bezants; 2nd, gules a chevron between two knots in chief and a lion rampant in base or; 3rd, azure a hawk proper. Crest: A lion rampant or, holding in the paws a knot as in the arms. Motto: Audaces fortuna juvat. The family seat was Llwyngwair, near Haverfordwest, Wales.
Bowen of Troedyraur
The lineage of this family is related to that of Bowen of Llwyngwair, which was discussed above. Reverend Arthur James of Troedyraur, Newcastle Emlyn, Cardiganshire, was the Rector of Spaxton in Somerset and a Justice of the Peace for Pembroke, born in 1839. In 1862, he married Gertrude Olivia, daughter of Oeneas Cannon, and had five children with her: Eynon George Rice, Arthur Lawrence Roquier, Harry James ap Owen, Arthur Legh, and Ellen Easter. This family bore the same arms, crest, and motto as the Llwyngwair branch. They were seated at Troedyraur, near Newcastle Emlyn, and they resided at Spaxton Rector, near Bridgewater.
The lineage of this family traces back to Edward Bowen of Hanley, Staffs, son of Edward T. Bowen of Hanley, who married Clarissa, daughter of Thomas Hackwood, who had a son named Albert. This Sir Albert Bowen, 1st Baronet, was a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff born in 1858. In 1884, he married Alice Anita, daughter of Frederick Crowther of Buenos Aires, and had five children with her: 1) Sir Edward Crowther (2nd Baronet), 2) Harold Cedric (married Vera Donnet of Kharkov, Russia, had son named Nicolas who was a Lieutenant in World War II and married Eve Batty having sons Michael Edward and Christopher Anthony Richard with her, and a daughter named Clarissa), 3) Winifred Ada (married General Sir Alexander Stanhope Cobbe, had issue), 4) Gertrude Dorothy (married Kinahan Cornwallis, had issue), and 5) Evelyn Constance (married John Dale Read). He died in 1929 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Edward Crowther, 2nd Baronet. Sir Edward was a a Major of the 12th Lancers or the Inniskilling Dragoons. He was born in 1885. In 1910, he married May Isobel, daughter of John Frederick Roberts of Buenos Aires, and had three issue with her as follows: 1) Sir John Edward Mortimer (3rd Baronet), 2) Sir Thomas Frederick Charles (4th Baronet), and 3) Angela Betty Isobel (married Captain Ivan Francis Low in 1933 and had issue with him). He died in 1937 and was succeeded by his eldest son Sir John Edward Mortimer Bowen (3rd Baronet) of Colworth, county Bedford, England, who was born in 1819. He died in a car racing accident. He was succeeded by his brother Thomas in 1939. This Sir Thomas Frederick Charles Bowen, 4th Baronet, of Colworth, county Bedford, was born in 1939. The Baronet was created in the United Kingdom in January of 1921. The Bowen Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Bowen Family Crest by people unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned as follows in heraldry: Azure, a lion rampant within an orle, all within four roses or and as many bezants, alternately. Crest: A lion sejant proper, holding in the dexter paw a Bowen knot argent. Motto: Audaces fortuna juvat. They resided at Geita, Tanganykia, East Africa.
Other Bowen Pedigree & Family Trees
The earliest known ancestor of this family Cuhleyn Fardd Gwynfardd was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1090 AD. He married Gwrangen Feindroed and had a son with her named Gwewared Ap Cuhelyn who was born in Pembrokeshire in 1119 AD. Gwrwared in turn had a son named Gwilym ap Gwrwared who was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1140 AD. He married Annes Verch Seisyll and had a son with her named Gwrwared who was born in Pembroke around 1160 AD. He married Gwenllian Verch Ednyfed and had a son with her named Gwilyn Ap Gwrwared who was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1212 AD. He married Jane Stackpole. Their son was named Einion Ap Gwylym was born in Nevern, Wales in 1275 AD. He married Dido verch Cadgwan and had a son with her named Owen Ap Einion who was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1305 AD. He married Gwenllian Coatington and had a son with her named Llwelyn Ap Bowen or ap Owain who was born in Nevern, Wales in 1345 AD. He married Nest Verch Hywel and had a son with her named Ieuan Bowen. Ieuan “Evan” Bowen was born in Nevern, Pembrokeshire, Wales in 1372 AD and he married Margaret Arnold and had a son with her named Gwilym (or William) who was born in Pentre-ifan, Pembroke, Wales around 1414. He married Annes Verch James and had a son with her named Owain Bowen who was born in Pentre-ifan, Nevern, Wales around 1453. He was the Sheriff of Pembroke and he married Jonet Llywelyn, having four issue with her: James, Mathias, Thomas, and Elizabeth. His son Sir James Bowen, a knight, was born in Llwyngwair, Wales around 1480. He married Mary Hearle Hale and had numerous children with her including: Sioned Bowen, William, Lewis, Mathias, Elizabeth, Alson, Katrin, Jowan C., Nicklas, Jane, and Marged. His son Mathias was born in Llwyngwait in Wales. He married Mary Phillips and had the following issue with her: James, Owen, William, Jane, Thomas, Harri, Henri, John, Maud, Elen, and Elinor. His son Sir James Bowen was born in Llwyngwair, Pembroke around 1550. He married Eleanor Griffith and had numerous issue with her including Mary, George, Jane, John, Sioned, Maude, Thomas, John, Elizabeth, Hugh, William, Ellen, Morgan, and Robert. His son Morgan was born in the same time in 1601.
A one Richard Bowen was born in Glamorgan, Wales around 1594. He went to colonial America and married Elizabeth Marsh in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1648. He had the following issue: Alice Eleanor (Wheaton), William, Sarah (Fuller), Ruth, Obadiah, Richard Jr., and Thomas. His son Obadiah was born in Wales in 1628. He went to America with her father. He married Mary Clifton and had the following issue with her: Obadiah Jr., Mary, Sarah, Samuel, Joseph, Thomas, Hannah (Brooks), Lydia (Mason), Mercy, and Isaac. His son Thomas was born in Reboboth, Massachusetts in 1664. He married Thankful Mason and fathered the following children with her: Isaac, Nathaniel, Samuel, Mary (Seamans), and Hannah (Seamans). His son Samuel Bowen was born in Swansea, Bristol, Massachusetts in 1701. He married Sarah Smith and had the following issue with her: William, Hannah (Fowler), David. His son William was born in Smithfield, Providence, Rhode Island in 1731. He married Anne Jennings and had three issue with her: Lemuel, John, Jennings. His son John Bowen was born in Rehoboth, MA in 1756. He married Sarah Briggs and had a son with her, also named John. This son John was born in Norwich, MA in 1789 and he married Nancy Vrooman, and had two sons with her: Franklin and Angeline (Dean). His son Franklin Bowen was born in Chautauqua, New York in 1820. He married Permelia Ripley and had a daughter with her named Caroline who was born in 1846 and married Ira Webber in Beloit, Wisconsin in 1863.
Early American and New World Settlers
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions three bearers of this last name:
1) Griffith Bowen, 1638, from Llangenydd, Glamorganshire, a freeman in May of 1639. He married Margaret and had issue as follows: Esther (1639), Abagail (1641), Peniel (1644), and Henry. He lived in Roxbury, Massachusetts, but went back to London, England in 1670.
2) Obadiah Bowen, of Sevanzey, a representative in 1691, who had lived in Rehoboth, MA in 1657. He was an active Baptist. He had sons named Obadiah and Isaac.
3) Thomas Bowen of Salem, 1648, from New London, Connecticut, 1657. He moved to Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where he passed away in the year 1663. He had a brother named Obadiah and a son named Richard.
James, son of William Bowen, was buried at St. Michael’s, Barbados in May of 1679. Other early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Morris Bowen (Virginia 1638), Sarah Bowen (Massachusetts 1640), Anna Bowen (Massachusetts 1642), Phillip Bowen (Virginia 1643), Edward Bowen (Virginia 1701), Peter Bowen (New England 1716), Lewis Bowen (Georgia 1733), and James Bowen (Maryland 1774).
In Canada, one of the earliest settlers with this surname was Samuel Bowen, who came to Nova Scotia in 1750. A one John Bowen came to St. John’s, Newfoundland in the year 1755. In Australia, a family bearing this surname came to Adelaide aboard the Hooghly in 1839: Robert George, Mary Ann, Charles, Ann, and Robert Bowen. In New Zealand, a family bearing this last name came to Nelson aboard the Sir Charles Forbes in 1842: Michael Bowen (a blacksmith by trade, aged 27 years), along with his wife Hannah and young son David.
Early Americans Bearing the Bowen Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains one entry for this surname:
1) Sable on a chevron embattled argent between three fleurs-de-lis or, two lions passant counter- passant gules. Crest: An eagle holding a fleur-de-lis and rising from a ducal coronet. Bookplate Thomas Barton Bowen.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) contains five entries for this name:
1) Richard Bowen of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, 1644, from Glamorgan, Wales. Arms: Azure, a stag argent with an arrow stuck in the back and attired or. Crest: A stag standing vulned in the back and attired or. Motto: Qui male cogitate male sibi.
2) Griffith Bowen of Boston, Massachusetts, 1639, from Glamorgan, Wales. Same Arms as Richard Bowen of Rehoboth.
3) William M.P Bowen, Esquire of Providence, Rhode Island. Same Arms as Richard and Griffith Bowen of Massachusetts.
4) Captain Edgar C. Bowen, St. Paul. Same Arms as Richard Bowen, of Rehoboth.
5) Reverend John E. Bowen, Westport. Same Arms as Richard Bowen of Rehoboth.
Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) contains one entry for this last name:
1) Richard Bowen (1600-1675) of Kittle Hill, Glamorganshire, Wales, who came to New England in 1640, Deputy to Plymouth General Court. Arms: Azure, a stag argent, vulned in the back with an arrow, attired or. Crest: A stag as in the Arms proper.
I have identified seven Bowen family mottoes:
1) Esse quam videri (To be rather than to seem)
2) In hoc signo vinces (In this sign you will conquer)
3) Virtus vincit invidiam (Excellence overcomes envy) (Virtue conquers vice)
4) Audaces fortuna juvat (Fortune favours the bold)
5) Cautus a future (Careful future?)
6) Qui male cogitate male sibi (He who behaves badly does badly to himself?)
We have 15 coats of arms for the Bowen surname depicted here. These 15 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Bowen surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Jehdeiah Bowen (1817-1891) who was an American merchant, pioneer, and politician born in Llanelly, Brecknockshire, Wales, who served as a mayor of Ripon, Wisconsin fin 1859 and 1868 and also served in the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1871, 2) Albert Ernest Bowen (1875-1953) who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was born in Henderson Creek, Idaho, 3) Julie Bowen Luetkemeyer (1970) who is an American actress best known for her role as Claire Dunphy on the comedy Modern Family, as well as her role in the movie Happy Gilmore, born in Baltimore, Maryland, 4) Bruce Eric Bowen Jr. (1971) who is a former American professional basketball player from Mercey, California who played in the NBA from 1997-2009 for five different teams including the San Antonio Spurts, 5) Sir Charles Christopher Bowen (1830-1917) who was a New Zealand politician that served as the 13th Speaker of the Legislative Council, born in county Mayo, Ireland, 6) David Reece Bowen (1932) who was a member of the US House of Representatives from Mississippi from 1973 to 1983, 7) Sir George Ferguson Bowen (1821-1899) who was a British colonial administrator who had appointments in Queensland, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, Hong Kong, and the Ionian Islands who served as the 5th Governor of New Zealand and 9th Governor of Hong Kong, 8) Ira Sprague Bowen (1898-1973) who was an American astronomer and physicist and astronomer who discovered that nebulium was not an element but rather an ion, having been born in Seneca Falls New York, 9) John Stevens Bowen (1830-1863) who was a officer in the United States Army and later a general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil war who was a commander in the Wester Theatre, fighting at Shiloh and Vicksburg, born in Bowen’s Creek, Georgia, and 10) John Bowen (1780-1827) who was a naval officer and colonial administrator who first settled Tasmania, born in Ilfracombe, Devon.