This unusual surname is of medieval Scottish origin, and is a locational name from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place believed to have been in South East Scotland, probably in Roxburghshire or Selkirkshire. The component elements of the placename point to the Gaelic "gabhann", enclosure, (cattle-)pound, apparently reinforced by the Gaelic "loca", pen, fold. The Olde English pre 7th Century "loc(a)", synonymous with the Gaelic "loca", may also form the second element of the name. Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. An interesting entry in 16th Century "Documents illustrative of the History and Literature of Scotland" reads, "Patrick Gowanlok was banished the town (Edinburgh) in 1530 for harboring a woman infected with the pestilence". In the modern idiom the surname has a number of variant spellings including: Gowanlock, Govanlock, Gowenlock, Govinlock, Gouinlock and Gowanloch, the interchange of an internal "w" and "v" being widespread in Anglicized forms of Gaelic names. On December 25th 1766, the marriage of Betty Gowenlock to James Laidlaw took place in Abbotrule, Southdean, Roxburghshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Gowanlock, a charter witness in Edinburgh, which was dated 1471, in the "Register of St. Marie of Newbottle", Scotland, during the reign of King James 111 of Scotland, 1460 - 1488. 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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