Scituate Cowans YDNA Group

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Person:John Cowen (1)
Person:John Cowing (1)
Google Books, Cohasset Town History, Bigelow, 1898


The Cowan YDNA project includes kits for a number of persons who claim descent from John Cowen (1) who arrived in Scituate Massachusetts between 1652 and 1656. The kits for those tracing descent from from John (1) were designated the "Situate Cowan Group".

John is generally believed to have been born in Scotland about 1608, and to be the John Coehon (Colquhoun) who arrived in Boston February 1652 on the ship "John and Sara". The ships passenger's list included nearly 300 Scots captured by British forces under Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651. Others do not give his date of arrival until 1655 or 1656 when a John Cowen married widow Rebecca Mann in Scituate. Rebecca is commonly identified by genealogists under her married name "Rebecca Mann", but some give her name as "Rebecca Small", and a distinct minority give it as "Rebecca Brewster". Some trace Rebecca to the "Rebecca Short" who married a Richard Mann in Norwich, England in 1636, and which couple are recorded as having left England for the Netherlands the following year. Evidence is needed that this same couple eventually went on to New England Presumably Rebecca's maiden name was either Small or Brewster. However, no documentation has been located to support the Brewster claim, so currently a better case can be made for her last name being "Short".

By 1670 John and his family were living in Cohasset [1] John's date of death is commonly given as 17 December 1697, but this is the date on "when land granted to John by the town of Scituate was laid out.". It is likely that he died before September 27, 1703 when his son Israel sold this same land.

An analysis of the YDNA signatures of the kits belonging to members of the Situate Cowan Group shows that in reality the kit owners can not share a common ancestor in the relatively recent past. The dissimilarity in their YDNA signatures has led to designating two subgroups of the Scituate Cowans, Scituate A, and Scituate B.


Traditionally two separate lineages have been associated with the descendancy of John Cowen (1)=Rebecca Short. YDNA evidence for these lines indicates that they do not, infact, share a recent common ancestor. Examination of the lineage data, coupled with an examination of original source documentation, shows that the bulk of this traditional lineage does descend from John (1) and Rebecca.

Four individuals who believed they descended from John and Rebecca took the YDNA test through FTDNA. The first kit, (referred to here as Scituate A, traced descent from Israel Cowen (1), a son of John and Rebecca. The other three kits (Scituate B) traced descent from John Cowen (2), another son of John and Rebecca, through his son John Cowing (1). Descendants of John Cowing (1) matched each other closely, but did not match the single kit which traced descent from Israel Cowen.

John Cowen (2) presumed ancestor of the Scituate B line, had a son John Cowing (1), born in 1692. Massachusetts court records of 1729 identify four of John (2)'s sons and gives their place of residence. Son John is shown as living in that year in Provincetown, Massachuesetts, while the other three sons (Joshua, Caleb, and Israel), are shown living in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Rhode Island records, show that a John Cowing married Sarah Mitchell in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1718. Birth records for this couple show that they had a number of children at approximately 1 to 2 year intervals beginning in 1719, and continuing through 1734. From this we can infer that the couple and their children were living in Rhode Island from 1718 until after 1734. Among those children were sons James (74), John (3) and Joseph (2) through whom the Scituate B line traced descent.

These data show that The John Cowen who married Sarah Mitchell in Providence Rhode Island can not be the same John Cowing (1) who was living in Provincetown, Massachuesetts in 1724.

Traditional DescendancyRevised Descendancy


KitWeReleateGroupDOBPOBDODPODDOMPOMFatherMotherSpouseVia SonNotes
178649 Person:John Cowen (1) Scituate A 1608 c1700 Person:Israel Cowen (1)

13583 Person:John Cowing (1) Scituate B ????
71980 Person:John Cowing (1) Scituate B Person:James Cowan (74)
187781 Person:John Cowing (1) Scituate B Person:John Cowen (3)
79041 Person:John Cowing (1) Scituate B Person:Joseph Cowen (2)


  1. This modern place name was probably originally "Connihassett", or "Qounahassit", etc. supposed to be Algonquin for "long rocky place". See: History of the town of Cohasset, Bigelow, 1898:97