Crowe Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Crowe Surname Meaning

Crowe has two different origins as a surname, one from England and the other from Ireland.

The English Crowe came from the name of the bird (and the Old English crawa) and probably started off as a nickname of someone who resembled a crow, perhaps having particularly dark hair.

Crowe in Ireland, on the other hand, was the anglicized version of the Irish patronymic MacEnchroe – a name which came from the earlier MacConchradra, “son of Conchradra,” sept.

Crowe Surname Resources on The Internet

Crowe and Crow Surname Ancestry

  • from England (East Coast), Isle of Man and Ireland (Clare)
  • to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

England. Early Crows/Crowes came from East Anglia.

East Anglia  The name John Crow appeared in the Suffolk Hundred Rolls of 1274. It is thought that he was part of the Crow family that made their money in Yarmouth out of shipping. Their home was Crow’s Hall at Debenham near Stowmarket. The family extended their estates to Brasted Place in Kent in the 15th century and later established themselves in county Galway in Ireland and, through Sir Sackville Crowe, in Carmarthen in Wales.

Other notable Crowes of the area were Robert Crowe of Swaffham and Charles Crowe of Coddenham. The latter served under Wellington in the Peninsular Wars and kept journals of his endeavors (which have been preserved). The Crowe name was also in the Mildenhall and Lakeheath areas of Suffolk.

By the 19th century, the largest number of Crowes in England were to be found in Norfolk. But Crowes (and Crows) stretched all the way along the East Coast – from Northumberland down to Essex.

Northumberland.  Crowes in Ashington, Northumberland have been traced back to the early 1600’s (these Northumberland Crowes may have some linkages with the Kent Crowes). Mitford Crowe of the family was governor of Barbados in  1707; while his younger brother Christopher became country gentry in Yorkshire.

“In 1705, at the age of twenty four, Christopher Crowe was appointed Consul at Livorno near Florence in Italy. He held the contract for providing the Mediterranean fleet with wine and oil, which earned him his fortune. He helped young men on the Grand Tour of Europe and became an agent supplying wealthy Englishmen with works of art.”

Christopher married well and bought Kiplin Hall in north Yorkshire in 1722. The house stayed with the Crowe family for the next hundred years.

Isle of Man.  Crowe is also a Manx name, originating either from the Scottish McCraw or the Irish MacEnchroe. It first appeared in the Lezayre area in the 16th century. Many of the early Crows were clergymen, most notably Bishop Charles Crow of Ballachree. And many have been involved in stone masonry and in building.

Ireland. The names Crowe and McEnchroe in Ireland came from the MacConchradra sept, whose base was Thomond in the western part of the Inchiquin barony in county Clare. The clan motto of skeagh mac en chroe, or “Crowe thornbush,” has transposed into the present place-name of Skaghvicencrowe near Mount Callan in Clare.

Crowes settled in Clare or nearby Tipperary. The best-known Crowe was probably O’Beirne Crowe from county Galway. According to tradition he was stupid and ill-educated as a boy. Yet he rose through diligence to be amongst the front ranks of Gaelic scholars.

One Crowe family in Galway was not Irish but came originally from Suffolk in England. The forebear of this family was a Richard Crowe. His grandson William Crowe married Emilia Eyre Evans in Galway in the 1720’s and Eyre Evans Crowe of this family later made a name for himself as a writer and historian in London. His son Eyre Crowe was a well-regarded painter; another son Joseph (and his son Eyre) noted diplomats. Another branch of this family emigrated to Nova Scotia.

There were also Crowes in Belfast who were probably English transplants as well; plus some in county Cavan of uncertain origin.

America. There are both Crows and Crowes in America. Some are of English origin, some of Irish origin, a few of German origin (possibly from the German Kroh), and some in fact are Native American – from the Crow nation of the Great Plains (it was the Indian chief Crow who gave the opening battle cry at the Battle of Little Big Horn).

Yarmouth on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and Yarmouth in England are connected through two Crowes (probably brothers), John and Yelverton, who were early settlers on Cape Cod in 1639. Curiously, John Crowe’s descendants changed the spelling of their name to Crowell (although it was still pronounced “Crow”). Their family history was traced in Thomas Crowell’s 1903 book, John Crowe and His Descendants.

Virginia and Maryland.  The Crow spelling was more common for those who entered via Maryland or Virginia and settled in the South.

John Crow was one of the earliest arrivals in Maryland, marrying there in 1717 and settling down in Cecil county. The descendants of his son Walter were to be found in Delaware, Virginia and later in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Other Crows moved out to Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as south to Alabama, Georgia, and Texas.

However, Jim Crow was not one or any of these Crows. The name which tainted the post Civil War South came instead from a popular song rather than from a real person.

Heading West.  Crows also headed West. A Crow family from Tennessee was one of the first Mormons to arrive in Salt Lake valley in 1847. Rachel Crow, newly widowed, left Missouri with her family in 1852 and joined up with a wagon train heading for California. Much more reported has been the Crow emigrant train of 1865.

“The Crow train was a very large outfit under the command of Brad Crow. There were the five Crow brothers and their families in the train. A great many other emigrants were also travelling with them. The Crows were bringing out forty jackasses from Missouri – big Maltese jacks – to raise mules on the San Joaquin river in California.”

Captain Crow arrived in California and founded the township of Crows Landing along the San Joaquin river. Crow descendants are to be found throughout California and also in Alaska.

Canada.  James Crowe and his family set sail from Derry in Ireland on the Hopewell and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in late 1761. They were Ulster Scots. His family ended up settling in communities in what is Colchester county today. It is said that their descendants number as many as 10,000.

Early settlers in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia were Thomas and Margaret Crow, who were married there in 1777. Crowes are still around there today.

Australia.  William Crowe from county Clare in Ireland was an early arrival. He came with the 73th Regiment in 1810 and stayed, taking up land at Appin, NSW. His son James moved onto Gundagai in search of better grazing land. James and his wife Susannah raised fourteen children there.

Later Crowe arrivals from Ireland were:

  • John Walsh Crowe in 1853 from Knockaderran in Clare. His brothers apparently emigrated to America.
  • William Crowe in 1855 from Upper Kilbane in Clare. He moved to Victoria and did well for himself as a farmer, later venturing into politics.
  • Ned Crowe in 1881 from Tipperary. He and his wife Mary raised fifteen children in the Adelaide suburb of Queenstown.

New Zealand.  New Zealand boasts the Hollywood actor Russell Crowe and his cousins, the cricketers Martin and Jeff Crowe. Russell Crowe’s grandfather came from Wrexham in Wales and the book Where The Crowe Flies tells this family story.

Crowe Surname Miscellany

The Life and Times of Sackville Crowe.  Sackville was the son of William and Anne Crowe of the Brasted Crowes of Kent.  He married Mary Manners, one of the daughters of the Earl of Rutland, acquired lands near Llanherne in Carmarthen in Wales, and was made a baronet in 1627.

The other parts of his life were less successful.   His schemes to sell leases on the Crown’s ironworks in the Forest of Dean ended up in litigation.  Later he served as the English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Here he was accused of meddling in the affairs of the Levant Company and was brought back as a prisoner to London.  He spent a lengthy time in the Tower of London before he was bailed out and the charges eventually dropped.  He died in Fleet Prison in 1683.

Sackville’s forebears went back via Brasted in Kent to Crowe’s Hall in Suffolk.  This family later settled in Ireland and married into the Evans and Eyre families there (Eyrecourt in Galway no longer exists but the stairway of the house is now in the Detroit Museum of Art).

Reader Feedback – Kent and Northumberland Crowes.  I wonder if you have any information on the links between Crowe of Kent and Crowe of Northumberland. The coat of arms of Sir Sackville Crowe is also that used on the memorial shield for Patrick Crowe of Ashington in St Nicholas’s Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne.

A family researcher, sadly passed away, stated that there was correspondence between Christopher Crowe of Kiplin and the Kent/Norfolk families.  It was also inferred that the Northumberland Crowes helped fund the Welsh estate of Sir Sackville.  There has to be a palpable link.

Regards, David Evans (

Crows and Crowes in Ireland.  Griffith’s Valuation was a survey of land and property owners in Ireland undertaken for county Clare in 1855. The surname Crow was recorded 16 times and the surname Crowe a total of 148 times. Crowe appeared most often in the parishes of Drumcliff, Killaloe, Kilmurry, Killofin, and Ruan.

Crow and Crowe.  There were more Crows than Crowes in the 19th century.  But the situation seems to have turned round during the 20th century.  The table below shows the current incidence of Crow and Crowe surnames in the English-speaking world.

Numbers (000’s) Crow Crowe Total
UK    4    10    14
Ireland     3     3
USA    7    10    17
Canada    1     4     5
Australia    1     5     6
New Zealand     1     1
Total   13    33    46

In America, you would have probably found Crowes fighting on the Union side in the Civil War and Crows on the Confederate side.

Early Crows in America

Name Birth Particulars
John Crow 1683 (in Maryland) died in 1743
Walter Crow 1717 (in Cecil co, Maryland) lived most of life in
Virginia (Rockingham co)
George Philip Crow 1719 (in Germany) died in 1780 in West Virginia
William Crow 1726 (in Botecourt co, Virginia) died in 1795
Thomas Crow 1749 (in Berkeley co, Virginia) son of John Crow
Thomas Crow 1760 (in South Carolina) died in 1826 in Alabama
Rev. Abraham Crow 1763 (in Prince George co, Virginia) died in Georgia

Jim Crow in the South.  The origin of the phrase “Jim Crow” has often been attributed to Jump Jim Crow, a song-and-dance charicature of African Americans performed by white actor Thomas D. Rice in blackface.  It first surfaced in 1832 and was used at the time to attack Andrew Jackson’s populist policies.  The number was supposedly inspired by the song and dance of a crippled African in Cincinnati called Jim Crow.  Jump Jim Crow was in fact an initial step in a tradition of popular music which would mock African Americans.

In 1877 a national compromise to gain southern support in the Presidential election resulted in the last of the Federal troops being withdrawn from the South.  White Democrats had taken back power in every Southern state by that time. The white Democratic Party government that followed the troop withdrawals legislated “Jim Crow” laws which in effect segregated black people from the state’s white population.

The phrase “Jim Crow Law” first appeared in 1904 according to the Dictionary of American English, although there was some evidence of earlier usage.

The Crow Emigrant Train of 1865.  In the autumn of 1937 Francis Marion Watkins sat down at the kitchen table and related his memories of his journey across America over seventy years ago in 1865.   Local historian Ralph L. Milliken took down the story and his book, Story of the Crow Emigrant Train of 1865, was subsequently published in the Livingstone Chronicle in California.  Later it was reprinted as a

Reader Feedback – Crowes in Nova Scotia.  I am a Crowe in Canada that can trace my ancestors back to the Hopewell.  The Crowe that went to Canada on the Hopewell was in fact an Ulster Scot.  His Crowe family was originally a Lowland Scot one that had settled in Ireland during the plantation period.  Their offspring James Crowe went to Canada to settle in Nova Scotia on land that the English had taken from New France and the Acadians.

Chris Crowe (

Where The Crowe Flies.  Russell Crowe is a legendary hell-raiser with a reputation for womanizing, hard drinking and aggressive outbursts that almost eclipses his talent as an Oscar-winning actor.

But he does not appear to be a patch on his Welsh grandfather, a man so fearsome that he makes the combustible Gladiator star look positively easy-going.  Relatives described Jack Crowe as a volatile wheeler-dealer, the black sheep of his family who was never able to settle in one place.  Jack’s niece Paddianne Neely said:

“He had the most furious temper you could ever believe.   I loved him.  But I once threatened when he came to visit that if he ever hurt me or the kids, I would kick him out.”

Researchers for the BBC Wales show Coming Home traced Russell’s roots from his great grandparents Fred and Kezia Crowe who ran a greengrocer’s shop in Wrexham.  Deeply religious, they had fourteen children, including Jack born in 1907.  However, when the family emigrated to Canada in 1925, Jack stayed behind to look after the family business.

Jack subsequently fell out with his elder brother Frank and, in a huff, took off for New Zealand.  There he married Lois and they had four sons (including Russell’s father Alex).  Their youngest son Charles was killed in a diving accident when he was seventeen, a tragedy which deeply affected Jack and left him with a simmering anger.

Crowe Names

  • John Crow, recorded in 1274, may well have been the forebear of the long-standing Crowe family from Suffolk.
  • Trammell Crow was an American property developer who created several famous projects, including the Dallas Market Center, the Peachtree Center in Atlanta, and the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco.
  • Joe Medicine Crow is an acclaimed historian and author from the Native American Crow tribe.
  • Russell Crowe is an Academy Award winning actor from New Zealand. He won the award for his starring role in the film Gladiator.
  • Sheryl Crow is a popular American singer/songwriter who blends rock, country, and pop in her music. She comes from Missouri.

Crowe Numbers Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

Crowe and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.  Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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