This interesting and unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from the place in Lancashire, now called Cowburgh, in the parish of Kirkham. There is some doubt as to whether the second element of the name derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "burna", stream, or from "burh", fort, usually the site of a Roman fortification, but since the first element of the name is the Olde English "cu", cow, the derivation from "bruna" seems the more likely one. Early spellings of the name in Lancashire tend to confirm this; Cowbourne, Couburn and Cowburn, with the common medieval transposed forms Cowbron and Cowbrun. The surname is well recorded in the 17th Century; John Cowburn and Elizabeth Baitson were married in Blackburn, Lancashire, on May 21st 1601; while in Yorkshire, the christening of Thomas Cowburn was recorded in Featherstone, on August 16th 1646. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lawrence Cowburn, which was dated September 15th 1541, marriage to Ellen Harrison, at Kirkham, Lancashire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Good King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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