Rowe Surname Genealogy

surname Rowe has at least two derivations and possibly more.One root is the Old English word raw
meaning “row.”  Rowe here would be locational, describing someone
who lived by a hedgerow or by a row of houses.  Iin Cornwall and
Devon, however, where the name is prevalent, Rowe is thought to have
come from Rollo, the name of the first Duke of Normandy.  Over
time, the “ll’s” became increasingly silent and Roe or Rowe


Resources on

Rowe Ancestry

Rowe is a common name in Devon and Cornwall.

Devon  The first
of this name is
believed to have been Sir Everard de Rowe who fought in the Crusades in
the 13th century and received as reward the Lamerton estate in south
Devon.   The family contributed John Rowe, an early settler
in New
England, and Nicholas Rowe, a biographer of Shakespeare who was
appointed Poet Laureate in 1715.  These Rowes built an imposing
home for themselves in 1735, Kingston House near Staverton, which still

The Rowe name has also appeared in Bere Ferrers and Princetown
and, in north Devon, in Hartland and Great Torrington.

Cornwall  There
were records of Rowes
at Camborne from the late
1500’s and
at St. Just in Penrith
from the
One Rowe family of miners traces itself back
to the mid 1700’s and a step-father named William Rowe in the village
of Madron near Penzance.  A Rowe family was for many
generations shoemakers in Constantine, a small village between Falmouth
and Helston.

Many Rowes became miners in the 18th and early 19th
century.  When the Cornish mining industry collapsed in the mid
19th century, Rowes emigrated in search of work – to America, Canada,
Australia, and even to places like Mexico and
Argentina where there were mining jobs and they could use their
hard-rock mining expertise.

Elsewhere  The
Rowe name is not just associated with the southwest.  It
in Cheshire from an early time. William del Rowe was the Black Prince’s
bondsman of the forest of
Macclesfield.  Several Rowes were mayors of Macclesfield during
the 14th century and Stephen Rowe was one of the early silk button
workers of the town.  The Rowe name was later to be found in
Cheshire and Manchester.

Then there were the Rowes of Penshurst in Kent from the early 1500’s
and possibly earlier.  They made their money in trade (as
ironmongers) and prospered in London.  Father and son were Lord
Mayors of London during Elizabethan times.  The Rowe family of
nonconformist ministers active in London a century later came
originally from Devon.

America.   Two John
Rowes from Devon came to Massachusetts during the early days of the
colony.  The first, the son of an old established family, arrived
in the 1640’s.  He settled in a desolate part of Gloucester
known as the Farms.  One of his descendants, also
called John, fought for Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Meanwhile, another John Rowe had become a prominent merchant and
property developer in Boston.  As a merchant, John Rowe’s most
famous cargo was the tea that played a starring role in the Boston Tea
Party. As a developer, his name is remembered for Rowe’s Wharf, a
modern development on the site of his original wharf.

German Rowes
Rowe in America may be of German origin.  George Rau, for
instance, arrived in Philadelphia on the Phoenix from the Rhine Palatinate
in 1734.  His family were Rows or Rowes by the time of the
Revolutionary War. They gave land for the Lutheran church in Salem,
Pennsylvania.  The bicenntennial of the church was observed in
1975 and many Rowe descendants from all over the United States

Another Rau/Rowe was Johannes Rau who had arrived in
Milan in upstate New York in 1760.  In 1800 he too helped to build
a church, now the Rowe United Methodist Church.

Later Arrivals
The first Cornish miner exodus to America occurred in 1840.  Rowes
from Cornwall were to be found later in mining communities such as
Reading, Pennsylvania and Flint, Michigan.

Canada.  Edward Rowe came to Trinity,
from Somerset sometime in
the mid 1700’s.  His family were shipbuilders in the area for many
generations.  Another early Rowe family were Empire Loyalists who
came to Canada after the War of 1812.  A descendant Earl Rowe was
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in the 1960’s.

Caribbean.   Rowes
from Devon were Jamaican plantation owners, running the Bagdale and
Fullowswood estates in St. Elizabeth.  Their Rowe name was passed
onto the Maroons, black slaves who had escaped captivity and set up
their own communities in Jamaica.  According to one Rowe

“When I was eight years old, my father
told me that my great grandfather, a Maroon in Jamaica, received the
name either from a slavemaster or from a plantation owner who favored
him enough to give him hiis last name.”

Ira Rowe, born in St.
Elizabeth, rose to be a leading jurist in post-independence

The first two Rowes in Australia were
convicts, John and William from Cornwall, who came on the First
Fleet.   James Rowe was an early settler in Adelaide,
arriving there in
1836.   He and his family ran Ingle Farm in the suburbs until
1959 when the land
was acquired by the South Australian Housing Trust.

Cornish Miners.
Then came the Rowe miners from Cornwall.  John Rowe was a
developer of the
Mochatoona mine in South Australia in the 1840’s.

Other Rowes
headed for the goldfields of Victoria.  James Rowe and his
brothers Phillip, John, Edward, and Hannibal from Camborne arrived in
Melbourne in 1859.  These Rowe Brothers became well-known as gold
mining pioneers in the region south of Castlemaine.  Their story
was covered in Richard Rowe’s 1998 book From Miners and Blacksmiths We Come.
Two Rowe brothers even owned a gold mine there, the Cornwall
mine.  However, they had bought it
cheap in 1873 after its best years were behind it.

Some Rowes in this area were
part of the Ranters Gully settlement and eventually started their own
farm at Eden Park in the early 1900’s.

Rowe Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Rowe Names

Sir Everard de Rowe who fought in
the Crusades may have been the forebear of the Rowes in Devon and
Nicholas Rowe was an early
biographer of Shakespeare and the Poet Laureate in
was a pioneer in the
development of radar during World War Two.
John Rowe was the historian of
Cornwall in its industrial revolution.

Select Rowes

  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cambridgeshire)
  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in California)
  • 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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