Owen Surname Genealogy

Owen was a personal name in Wales. The name was first Owain,
Owin, Owens, and then Owen. It had always been popular, being the
name of princes and leaders such as Owain Gwynedd (in the 12th century)
and Owen Glendower (in the 14th), the latter being a symbol for Welsh
resistance against the English. Owen began to be used as a
surname in Wales in the 16th century.
Both Owen and
Owens exist as surnames
. Owens started out as an Irish
surname and, despite its similarity in spelling to Owen, has quite
different origins.

Resources on

Owen Ancestry

Two notable Owen-surname families emerged during the 15th and 16th
centuries in north Wales, in Anglesey and Merionethshire.

Anglesey The
Owen family of Bodeon in Anglesey claimed descent from Hwfa ap
Cynddelw, steward to the Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd. They were
prominent in the political life of Anglesey in the 16th and 17th
centuries (the Owens of
Bodsilin producing the
Royalist soldier, Sir John Owen
), but thereafter their
influence declined.

The Orielton branch
at Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire, begun through an
advantageous marriage in 1571, proved more successful. These Owens
survived the turmoil of the Civil War
and remained a force
in Pembrokeshire until 1857 – when the Orielton estate, burdened down
by debts, was sold.

Baron (Judge) Owen of Dolgelley served as deputy chamberlain of North
Wales during the reign of Henry VIII and was the forebear of a number
of Owen families in Merionethshire. These included the Owens of
Tan-y-gadair and Peniarth, Hugh Owen the Puritan “apostle of
Merioneth,” and the Quaker Owens who emigrated to America.

There were also Owen families by the English border in
Montgomeryshire. Rowland Owen of Llanllo, the first of his family
to adopt the Owen surname, was sheriff of Montgomery in 1611.
This family later held Bettws Hall.

Another Owen family claiming
an ancient lineage lived at Llangurig and later of Glansevern in
Berriew. They came into local prominence in the mid 1700’s when Owen
Owen was
made county sheriff. Subsequent Owens from this family
themseves in the Royal Navy and then founded a colony in New Brunswick,
Canada. They remained at Glansevern until 1951.

Robert Owen was born in humble circumstances, the son of an ironmonger,
in Newtown, Montgomeryshire in 1771. He was to make his mark as a
social reformer in the Lancashire cotton industry.

“In industrial England Robert Owen
stood up for the principles of industrial equality, the education of
the young, and decent and respectable living conditions for the workers
in factory towns.”

Then there
were also numerous Owens in Llanidloes,


The Owen name spilled across the border into Shropshire. The
first of these Shropshire Owens was probably Thomas Owen, MP for
Shrewsbury in Elizabethan times who built his home at Condover Hall.
This manor stayed with the Owen family for over three hundred
years. Other Owen lines from Wales were to be found in
Shrewsbury. The most famous Owen from Shropshre was the World War
One poet, Wilfred Owen.

Lancashire As
the 19th century progressed the larger number of Owens were in
Lancashire. There was an early outpost in Lancaster where the
Owens were West Indian merchants. The family fortunes had
declined by the time Richard, later the famous naturalist and
anatomist, was born in the early 19th century.

Subsequent Owens
from north Wales came to industrial Lancashire. William Owen was
one of the Welsh house builders in Liverpool in the 1850’s. Owen Owen started a
drapery shop in Liverpool
in the 1860’s which expanded into
a chain of department stores. A later arrival to Liverpool – in
the 1950’s – was Alun Owen, the actor and screenwriter.

America. Although Thomas
Owen had been an early arrival to America on the Susan in 1622 (to the fledgling
colony of Jamestown) and William Owen then came to Braintree,
, the main early influx of Owens was to be seen
later in the 17th century and into Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Pennsylvania and Maryland
Griffith Owen, a Quaker from Dolgelly in Merionethshire, had secured
from William
Penn a tract of 40,000 acres on which the Welsh alone would have the
right of purchase and on which the Welsh language should prevail.
He himself arrived in the new colony styled Merion in 1684. Being
one of the first doctors there, he found himself very much in demand.

Later Owen arrivals were:

  • Richard Owen (later Owings),
    from Llanllugan,
    Montgomery in 1686 (to Baltimore county, MD)
  • Robert Owen, from Fron Goch,
    Merionethshire in 1690 (to Merion, PA)
  • Thomas ap Evan (Owen), from
    Wales in 1698 (to Gwynedd, PA)
  • and the Rev. Robert Owen, from
    Llandrinio, Montgomery in
    1699 (to Prince George county, MD).

North Carolina
Some Owens were to be found in North Carolina by the 18th
century. These included the Owens of Bladen county,
plantation owners who played their part in the Revolutionary War.
Guy Owen grew up on a tobacco farm there during the 1930’s and has used
his recollections of that time in his fiction and poetry.

Another Owen family arrived in North Carolina from England in
1756. They became potters. the first of these potters being the
brothers JJ and Joseph in the 1850’s. Their line has continued to
the present and Ben Owen III of Seagrove, North Carolina who was named
NC Living Treasure by his state in 2004.

Heading West
Owens also headed westward. The first was probably Colonel
Abraham Owen. He came to Kentucky in 1785, but was killed at the
battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Owen counties in Kentucky and
Indiana were named after him.

Samuel Tine Owen migrated first to
Alabama and then in 1850 led a wagon train of new settlers to Henderson
county, Texas. Jason Owen was the forebear of a family that
headed first for Nebraska and then to Missouri. Stella Owen of
this family was born in Missouri in 1877 and lived there until 1981
(Lyle Owen has written about her in her 1978 book, Memories of An Ozark Mother: The 100 Years
of Stella Owen)

Robert Owen, the English social reformer, established his American
community at New Harmony, Indiana in 1825. While he himself did
not remain in America, his three sons – Robert, David, and Richard –
did and all led prominent lives there. At the end of the Civil
War Abraham Lincoln appointed Robert Owen as secretary of the
Freedman’s Bureau.

Henry Dixon
Owen arrived from Wales in 1822 and was one of the pioneer settlers in
Hunter Valley six years later. He subsequently had to sell his
farm and he became a squatter.

Robert Owen,
who arrived in 1840, came from a prosperous family in the northeast of
England. He
established himself as a lawyer in Sydney and soon became a large
landowner in the Illawara and Murrumbidgee districts. Some of his
descendants settled in Wollongong, NSW and they produced Evelyn Owen,
the inventor of the Owen sub-machine gun during World War Two.

Owen Miscellany

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

Select Owen Names

(Judge) Owen, deputy chamberlain of North Wales in the early
1500’s, was the forebear of a number of prominent Owen families in
Thomas Owen was the head of a
family of gun and cannon makers that operated out of the Houndsditch
foundry in London in the mid 16th century.
from Merionethshire was the founder of the Welsh colony in
Pennsylvania in the
Sir Richard Owen from Lancaster
was the foremost English anatomist of the 19th century.
was a 19th century social reformer from Wales, considered
the father of the cooperative movement.
Daniel Owen from Mold in north
Wales is considered by many to be Wales’s first great novelist.
His Rhys Lewis, written in
Welsh, appeared in 1885.
Wilfred Owen, the First World
War poet, was born in Shropshire on the English/Welsh borders.
David Owen, born in Plymouth of
Welsh parents, was a leading Labor and subsequent Social Democrat
politician in England in the 1980’s.
was the wonder boy
in the England football team in 1998.

Select Owens

  • 69,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Gwynedd)
  • 45,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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