The surname of McGOWEN was originally derived from the Gaelic Mac a Ghobhainn a name meaning 'the son of the smith'. The original bearers of the name would have been skilled workers in metals. They are said to be an old Stirlingshire family and the name is also found in Elgin and Galloway. Early records of the name in Scotland mention Gilbert Makgowin, a follower of the earl of Cassilis, 1526. John Riauch McGawin in Auchanichyke was fined for reset of Clan Gregor in 1613. (Reset meant receiving or concealing stolen goods). Willielmus M'Gawyne is recorded in Hauch in 1643. and Alexander M'Gowne was documented in Dumfries in 1672. Abraham M'Goune and Alexander McGowne, were residents of the parish of Borgue in 1684.
It is possible that families of this name are descended from a king of the Strathclyde Britons, who was killed in the year 1018. The first people in Scotland to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
The name has many variant spellings which include MacGoun, and MacGown.
Arms registered at Skeoch, County Wigtown.
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