This is a surname of complicated ancestry. It has three possible origins, and at least three possible nationalities. However spelt it owes its ancestry to either the pre 7th century Olde English word 'gobha' or the Breton-Norman 'goff', both meaning a smith, or the Welsh and Olde British word 'coch, meaning red, and hence a nickname for a red haired man. It is recorded in many forms which are found in all parts of the British Isles, although in their individual spellings the numbers vary from quite popular as Gough, Gow or (Mc)Gowan, to rare or regional foms such as Goffin, Gowing and Going (East Anglia). Other spellings include Goff, Goffe, Gow, Gowan, Gowans, Gowanson, (Scotland), with Gowen, Guan, and Gooch, as well as rare dialectals such as Quogan, Quoane, Quonne, whilst in Scotland and Ireland it is recorded widely as the Gaelic MacGowan and McGowan. In Scotland the MacGowan's are regarded as being part of the Clan Chattan, although quite why this should be so, is unclear. Examples of early surname recordings taken from the surving charters and registers of the British Isles include: Robart Gogh of Cheshire, in the Assize Lists of Cheshire in the year 1287, Richard Gow of Somerset, in the pipe rolls of the county in the year 1230, Alexander Gowansoun, who it is recorded was 'hanged in Dundee' in 1578, although for what crime is not known. Other recordings include Michael Gow, who was arrested in Perth in 1595 for 'raiding', Philip Gowen, a witness at the church of St James Clerkenwell in the city of London on January 6th 1616, and Thomas Gowing of Redenhall in Norfolk, a witness there on August 2nd 1661. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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