Recorded in several spellings including Bownass, Bownas, Bownes, Bowness, Bonas, Bonass and Boness, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname. It is locational from either Bowness, near Annan in Scotland, or from Bowness, the small town on the east side of Lake Windermere, Westmorland, England. The former placename means "rounded headland", from the pre 7th century English word "boga", or the Old Norse "bogi", both meaning "bow", and the second element "ness" or "naess", a headland; whilst the Westmorland town name means "bull headland", from the English word "bula", a bull. This town appeared as "Bounes" in the records of St. Benet of Holme, 1020 - 1210, whilst the Scottish town was recorded as "Bulnysperke", circa 1390, in the records of Kendale. Locational surnames were usually given to people after they left their original homes, to move somewhere else, and were one of the main characteristics in surname formation. Early examples include Matthew Bownes in the register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1633, and the christening of Mary Ann Bownass, at St. Anne's church, Soho, Westminster, on July 31st 1796. Coats of arms were granted to families called Bownas and Bownes. The first recorded spelling that we have been able to prove is that of William Bownus. This was dated 1592, in the register of the Freemen of the City of York", during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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