This notable Irish surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Ruadhain", descendant of Ruadhan, a male given name from "ruadh", red. The principal "O'Ruadhain" septs originated in Connacht: one belonged to the Ui Maine (an ancient territory embracing mid Galway and south Roscommon), and the other were located in Ui Fiachrach (north Mayo, Sligo and south Galway). In the latter territory, the name is sually Anglicized as Ruane and Roughan, with Rowan scattered throughout the four provinces. The 16th Century Elizabethan Fiants Records relating to Counties Clare, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Wexford, Wicklow, Kildare and Laois show "O'Ruadhain" under the variants: Rowan, O'Rowane, O'Rowhan, O'Rowghan, O'Roan, O'Roen and O'Rwna. The O'Rowans of County Mayo (later Ruane) are described in the Annals as "people of property and importance in the barony of Gallen", and the Rowans of Thomond (Counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary) were hereditary stewards to the illustrious O'Grady sept. They survive in east Clare as Rohan as well as Rowan. In Petty's 1659 "Census" of all Ireland (O)roughane is listed as a principal name in the baronies of Bunratty (east Clare) and East Carbery (County Cork). The name is now frequently rendered Rowan in these counties. On March 2nd 1806, Elizabeth, daughter of John Rowan, was christened at Mallow, County Cork. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Felix O'Ruadhain, Archbishop of Tuam, County Galway, which was dated 1215, in "Records of the Irish Prelates at the Latern Council, Rome", during the reign of King John of England, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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