Select Rowe Surname Genealogy

The 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 emerged.     
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England.  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 stands. 

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 1500ís and at St. Just in Penrith from the mid-1600's.  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 appeared 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 attended. 

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, Newfoundland 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 recollection:

"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 Jamaica. 
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.
Select 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 Cornwall.
Nicholas Rowe was an early biographer of Shakespeare and the Poet Laureate in 1715.
Jimmy Rowe 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 Today
  • 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).

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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