Cowan Tapestry



Cowan Tapestry
Cowan Links

……………………..The Tapestry
Families Old Chester OldAugusta Germanna
New River SWVP Cumberland Carolina Cradle
The Smokies Old Kentucky



Distribution of Cowans in the US 1810 Census


A summary of current status of research into the Cowans' of the Tapestry
Cowan YDNA Project
Cowan in Chalkley's Chronicles


Common variants,

In the United States

Typographic variants

common in original

Similar in pronunciation

Likely independendent Origin





TypeDiscussion. See:Analysis. Surname DerivationSources
Patronymic. Derived from "McCowan", itself derived from "McEwen", or "son of Ewen", a common gaelic given name. Anglicized form of the old Gaelic MacEoghain or MacEoin. The Gaelic prefix "mac" means "son of", plus the personal name Eoghan from the old Celtic "Oue(i)n", well-born, but believed to derive ultimately from the Greek "Eugenious", "born lucky" or "well-born". Ancestry citing Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, and Surname Database
Occupational(Origin Gaelic) Gobhainn, a smith; SearchForAncestors citing An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names With an Essay on their Derivation and Import; Arthur, William, M.A.; New York, NY: Sheldon, Blake, Bleeker & CO., 1857.
OtherFrom Gowan, a Scottish word for a wild flower.
Traditionalfrom the Gaelic surname ColquhounThis derivation is commonly cited. Source, Arthur, 1857 cited above gives a discussion of the origin of "Colquhoun" as a surname.


Data from the 1841 UK census shows a peak concentration of Cowan's in Scotland, in the counties of Ayrshire, Dumfrieshire, and Lanarkshire. We might expect this pattern of distribution in England to be similar to that which prevailed there at the time the Cowan's immigrated to America prior to the Revolution. (See Also, Distribution of Cowan's in England in the 1841 Census.)
The majority of Cowans in Ireland in 1901 were centered in County Down and Antrim. Further west and south, the number of Cowan's decreased substantially. This presumably reflects the initial immigration from Scotland to Ulster, followed by dispersion south and west.
In the 1810 US census persons with the Cowan surname appear in 11 states. They are concenteratred primarily in North Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania/Maryland/Delaware. Much of this distribution is related to the immigration of the Scot-Irish into Pennsylvania beginning about 1710, and then spreading southward into Virginia, and North Carolina. The presence of small numbers of Cowan's in the New England states probably reflects independent immigration to these areas. The concentration of Cowan's in New York could have arisen from migration north from Pennsylvania, but it probably represents an independent center of immigration, or immigration south from New England. The distribution of Cowans by county in the 1790 census for Pennsylvania shows a negligible population of Cowans in the northern half of Pennsylvania. This suggests that few if any Cowans in New York would have come to that area by crossing the PA/NY border.

The following summarizes information concerning Cowan linegages that have been examined in the Tapestry Area. Lines not represented in the Tapestry area are not considered here.

Old Chester

Pequea Creek CowansThe earliest Cowan's in the area including (David, William, and John Cowan) settled about 1720 in Salisbury Township in what is now Lancaster County. Fleming included them in what he called "The Four Brothers".
Octoraro Creek CowansPerson:Hugh Cowan (4) settled on in West Caln Township and on Octoraro Creek adjacent Sadsbury township before 1729. Presumed kinsman Person:Robert Cowan (17) settled nearby. Fleming includes Hugh (4) as one of his "Four Brothers", based on their phsyical proximity to each other. YDNA analysis, however, shows that he is unrelated to the Pequea Creek Cowans, whom Fleming also includes in his Four Brothers Group. The same YDNA evidence shows that Hugh (4) is kinsman to the Cowan's Gap Cowans, though further work is needed to confirm this.
Cowan's Gap CowansSettled in and near Cowan's Gap in Bedford/Fulton County PA by 1781. Probably related to the Octoraro Creek Cowans based on YDNA results.
Roaring Springs Cowans Settled near Roaring Springs in Bedford County PA about 1780. Relation to other Cowans in PA unknown
Seven Cowan Brothers Believed to have settled in PA in the 1720's. Fleming is unable to document their presence in the area, and picks up on them as they move into Old Augusta, The Carolina Cradle, and SWVP Tapestry, as well as Smoky Mountain Tapestry. YDNA analysis shows this to be a very large lineage, characterized by the YDNA signature known as Niall of the Nine Hostages. About one in twelve males in Ireland show a similar YDNA signature, indicating a common, but "very deep" ancestor. It is possible that despite sharing a common YDNA signature, some branches of the Cowan lineage are not related to each other in a genealogically meaningful timeframe.
Cowans of Teagues DelightA John Cowan is said to have married Susannah Teague (possibly daughter of Edward Teague), 25 September 1712 probably in Baltimore County. There are several YDNA test recpients who claim descent from a John Coen in Baltimore County about this time. Their YDNA signature is similar to that of the Seven Brothers Cowan]] line, but current analysis suggests that it is not close enough to justify thinking that the two lines share a relatively recent common ancestor in a genealogically meaningful timeframe.

Old Augusta

Old Augusta Cowan TapestryA number of Cowans appear in the Beverly's Manor area of Old Augusta beginning around 1740. They are presumed to be related to one of the Cowan groups in Old Chester County, but which one has not been determined. Those who trace descent to them seem to fall, for the most part, into the Seven Cowan Brothers lineage. Also, the Cowans of Old Augusta proper seem to be related to the Cowan's who settled on the east side of the Blue Ridge circa 1734, in company with the Woods, Campbell, Wallace, and Gass families.

Source:Chalkley's Chronicles show the following very early Cowan's in Old Augusta:

Person:Andrew Cowan (20) by 1742 who is probably the same person as person:Andrew Cowan (4), the Gentleman Justice in Southwest Virginia by 1772
Person:David Cowan (1); presumed brother to Andrew Cowan (20), living in Albemarle County in 1767, probably near a James Cowan. Appears to have moved to Southwest Virginia by 1769, and then to Sevier/Blount/jefferson County TN after Revolution. Believed to be person:David Cowan (1)
James Cowan by 1746, probably gone by 1767, with perhaps another James Cowan continuing on in Rockingham County. May be the same James Cowan presumed to be living in Albemarle county in 1766
John Cowan, purchases land in beverly Manor in 1749, sells out in 1751; no further mention
Robert Cowan, testifies to land sales on Borden's Grant in 1758 and 1768. No further mention until 1789 when listed as a debtor, and son of James Cowan.
Samuel Cowan, two records both in 1767, one identifies him as a "runaway"; the other places him in Rone Oak
William Cowan, first mentioned in 1766 as an appraiser of the estate of Stephen Trigg, with Edward Cowan. Buys land in adjacent to "his own land" which appears to have been on Beverly's Manor. Is described as "of Rockbrdige County" when he sells property in 1778 to Andrew Cowan Sr. This land sale identifies him as "William Cowan of Rockbridge County", and names his wife as "Elizbeth". This seems to preclude him from being Person:William Cowan (12) of Castles Woods who is believed to have married Jane Walker about 1772.

New River

New River Cowan TapestryWythe County CowansKegley "Early Adventures on Western Waters" mentions a number of references to Cowans in the New River Valley, as well as in Southwest Virginia. Source:Chalkley's Chronicles also makes sporadic mention of Cowans in the New River Valley. Most of these records seem to be transitory in nature, in themselves not usually suggesting that these particular Cowans were long term residents of the area. Nonetheless, later records indicate the occasional Cowan marriage in Wythe County. These suggests that there were long term Cowans in the area, we just don't know who they were. Two descendants of these Cowans have taken the YDNA test. Their results show that they belong to Haplogroup G, and that their ancestors in Wythe county did not belong to any of the other Cowan Groups.

South West VA

Southwest Virginia Cowan Tapestry Seven Cowan Brothers Four related Cowans appear in Southwest Virginia beginning about 1771. Three of the four (Person:David Cowan (1), Person:Samuel Cowan (1), and Person:William Cowan (12))settled in the Castle's Woods area, while the fourth (Person:Andrew Cowan (4) seems to have settled lower down on the Clinch River, perhaps in Rye Cove. Andrew Cowan remained in the area after the Revolution, probably dying there after 1800. Samuel Cowan died during an Indian attack about 1776. After the Revolution his son person:John Cowan (12) left the area, settling with kinsman of uncertain affinities, first in Blount County TN, and later in Franklin County TN. William Cowan also settled in Blount County, dying there after 1800. David Cowan settled nearby in Sevier County. There are indications that there may have been other Cowans in Southwest Virignia, settling on the Holston watershed, but direct evidence for them is very limited.

Carolina Cradle

Pequea Creek CowansSeveral members of this group came from Old Chester County, PA, to Rowan County in the Carolina Cradle, about 1750. In addition, evidence exists to suggest that at least some of the Cowans of Old Augusta came migrated to the Carolina Cradle about 1756-1766. Whether they are in anyway related to the Cowans of the Carolina Cradle is unknown. Some members of the Seven Cowan Brothers may be in this area, though this has not been examined.
Spartansburg CowansJohn Snoddy immigrated 1772 on Ship James and Mary, arrived Savannah, settled near Moore, SC., married Jan Coan, probably in Ireland.

Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountain Cowan Tapestry
Sullivan County Cowans Person:Robert Cowan (20), person:Andrew Cowan (6)
Seven Cowan BrothersMembers of this extensive group of Cowans are known to have settled in several areas of northeastern Tn shortly after the end of the Revolution. Settlement areas include:
The Nolachucky in Green County, (Person:Robert Cowan (10)
French Broad in Jefferson County, Person:Andrew Cowan (5)
Sevier County, Person:David Cowan (1)
Blount County. Person:William Cowan (12), .........
Knoxville Merchant Cowans The Knoxville Merchant Group is named for three Cowan Brothers, Samuel, Nathaniel, and James, who settled in Knoxville about 1792. Samuel and Nathaniel were well known merchants in the area, and numerous records of their business dealings survive. A descendant, Perez Dickinson Cowan was named for a his mother's family, and was a cousin of the author Emily Dickinson. There are a number of other kits in the Cowan YDNA Project which match the Knoxville Merchants. The earliest ancestor for most of these kits is identified as someone living in South Carolina, suggesting. This may suggest that the Knoxville Merchants (per se), came to Knoxville from the Carolinas. There are, however, other kits in this group that have an early ancestor in New Jersey.
Person:Samuel Cowan (18),
Person:Nathaniel Cowan (1),
Person:James Cowan (35)

Old Kentucky

Savannah River

About 1760 a group of related families came from Albemarle County, VA to the Savannah River area. Among them are members of Flemings Seven Brother Cowans. Descendants of some of the Cowans present in the area show a YDNA signature similar too (but different from) that of the Seven Brothers line. Two such lines trace their descent from person:Andrew Cowan (32) (1742-1786) who married Ann in 1763. This Andrew is sometimes identified as the son of a "John Immanuel Cowan", and sometimes as the son of James Cowan and Hannah Woods. Little data is available for John Immanuel Cowan, but James Cowan is commonly associated with the Seven Brothers line. This suggests that some of the lineages for the Savannah River Cowans have become intermingled with persons from independent lineages.