Select Dow Surname Genealogy

The surname Dow has both English and Scottish origins, and possibly different origins there:
  • the Scottish Dow, pronounced as "doo" or the Gaelic "duhb" and describing someone who was dark or swarthy, is believed to have come from the black bird daw, as in jackdaw. 
  • while the English Dow may have been descriptive of someone of a gentle nature, like a dove.  "Dove" transposed over time to different surname spellings in different places, including Dow in Norfolk.  

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Select Dow Ancestry

Scotland.  One line sees Dows moving north from Berwick to Edinburgh and then a Robert Dow owned land in Perthshire in 1497. 

Perthshire is where Dows are most numerous in Scotland today:
  • Thomas Dow's will was recorded in Methven parish near Perth in 1609 and several Dows were recorded at Comrie, Crieff, Dull, and Monzie in the 19th century. 
  • Daniel Dow was born in in Muthill in 1830.  His son Daniel was a sea captain of the great Cunard liners at the turn of the century. 
  • Donald Dow, when interviewed in the 1950's, was one of the last Gaelic speakers in Perthshire. 
Dows also have had a presence further north in Aberdeenshire.  Alexander Dow was born in Tarland, Aberdeenshire in the early 1760's.  A later Alexander Dow of this family emigrated with his three sons to Massachusetts in the 1870's. 

England.  Dow is not that prevalent a surname in England.  It originated in Norfolk, first appearing there in the 13th century.  John Dowe was recorded in Great Yarmouth in Elizabethan times.  The name is mainly to be found in London and East Anglia today.

America.  The Dows in America could be of English, Scottish, or even possibly of Dutch or Chinese origin.  The Dutch Duows were from Gerald Duow, a painter, whose kin came to New Amsterdam about 1630 and settled near Albany.

New EnglandHenry and Joan Dow came to New England in 1637 from Ormsby in Norfolk.  The family were Quaker and their descendants moved to Hampton in New Hampshire and Berwick in Maine.  Neal Dow, born of Quaker parents in Portland Maine, was one of the founders of the American temperance movement.   Other Dow descendants were to be found in Connecticut.  They included:
  • Henry Dow of Derby, Connecticut and his son Henry Herbert Dow, the founder of the Dow Chemical Company.
  • the itinerant preacher Lorenzo Dow, born in Coventry in 1777
  • Daniel Dow, born there six years earlier in 1771, who set off in later life for Iowa
  • and the Charles Dow of Dow Jones fame, born to a Sterling farming family in 1851. 
Another early Dow arrival was Thomas Dow who came to Newbury, Massachusetts with his wife Phebe in 1639.

Robert P. Dow's 1929 book The Book of Dow covered these various American genealogies.

Chinese Dows.  Hom Soon Dow and his wife Alice left China for Massachusetts in 1902.  He started the H.S. Dow laundry in Boston five years later.  His son Harry was to become the first Chinese American to study law and be admitted to the Massachusetts bar.  Having survived McCarthyite anti-Chinese prejudice in the 1950's, Harry went on working on community besed projects in Boston until his death in 1985 at the age of eighty.

Canada.   Dows came to New Brunswick from America in the days before the Revolutionary War.  There were two groups of Dows that migrated and each established a Dow settlement:
  • one with William Dow in Brighton, Carleton county 
  • and the other with Enoch Dow in Canterbury, York county. 
Some of these New Brunswick Dows later headed back to America.  Wentworth Dow was a lumberman in Wisconsin who fought in the Civil War.  Edward Dow became a postmaster in Belton, Montana.

William Dow came to Montreal from Perthshire in Scotland in 1818.  He and his brother Andrew started the Dow brewery there in the 1830's.  It prospered and William, who never married, grew rich.  Dow Breweries continued until 1966.

  Several Dows emigrated to Australia from Scotland, most notably William Henry Dow in 1854.  He settled in Melbourne and earned repute as a violin maker.  He was said to have made 200 violins and six cellos during his lifetime.

Select Dow Miscellany

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

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Lorenzo Dow was a well-known itinerant preacher in America in the early 1800's.
Neal Dow from Maine co-founded the National Temperance Society in 1865 and ran for President on their ticket in 1880.
Charles H. Dow from Connecticut founded the Wall Street Journal and devised the Dow Jones industrial stock average.
Henry Herbert Dow who founded the Dow Chemical Company was one of the chemical pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Sir Hugh Dow was a British civil servant who was governor of Sindh from 1941 to 1945.  The Dow Medical College in Karachi was named after him.

Select Dows Today
  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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