Recorded in various spellings including MacCowan, McCowan, McCowen, McCone, McKeown, the popular Cowan, Cowans, and Cowing, this interesting name is Gaelic. In origin it may be either Scottish or Irish. It is a short form of the pre 10th century Gaelic 'MacEoghain'. The translation is either the son of John, or the son of Eoghan, the latter being a personal name which is claimed to derive ultimately from the Ancient Greek name "Eugenious", meaning born lucky. In either case it is probably a 'Crusader' name.That is to say a Gaelic version of one of the Biblical or Greek names which were brought to Europe by the returning Knight Templars of the 12th century. The various patronymic forms of the surname also include MacOwen, MacCown, and Owenson. It should be noted that most of the names lost their 'Mac' prefix during the 17th century, although recently many nameholders have reintroduced them. Early examples of the surname recording include: John Cowan, who was the Chancellor of Christ Church, Waterford, Ireland, in 1582, whilst Cowan's Hospital in Stirling, Scotland, was founded by John Cowan, a merchant there, in 1639, and John McCowan was recorded in Kilbrandon, county of Angus, Scotland, in 1691. Jane McCowan emigrated from Ireland on the ship 'Mayfield of Liverpool', bound for New Yorks, on May 17th 1846 at the begining of the Irish Potato Famine (1846 - 1851). Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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