This interesting and unusual surname, with variant spellings Bownass, Bownas, Bowness, Bonas, Bonass and Boness, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational from either Bowness, in Cumberland on Solway Firth, near Annan (Scotland); or from Bowness, on the east side of Lake Windermere, Westmorland. The former placename means "rounded headland", from the Olde English pre 7th Century element "boga", or the Old Norse "bogi", both meaning "bow", and the second element "ness" or "naess", headland; while the latter, means "bull headland", from the initial Olde English element "bula", bull. The place in Cumberland appeared as "Bounes" in 1225, in the Records of St. Benet of Holme, 1020 - 1210 (Cumberland), while the other was recorded as "Bulnysperke", circa 1390, in the records of Kendale. People were often distinguished from one another by their place of origin, thus this was one of the main characteristics in surname formation. One Matthew Bownas was recorded in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1633. and the christening was recorded in London of Mary Ann, daughter of Edward and Agnes Bownass, at St. Anne's, Soho, Westminster, on July 31st 1796. Coats of Arms were granted to families called Bownas and Bownes. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Bownus, which was dated 1592, in the "Register of the Freemen of the City of York", during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as 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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