Owen


Select Owen Surname Genealogy

Owen was a personal name in Wales.  The name was first Owain, Owin, Owens, and then Owen.  It had always been popular, being the name of princes and leaders such as Owain Gwynedd (in the 12th century) and Owen Glendower (in the 14th), the latter being a symbol for Welsh resistance against the English.  Owen began to be used as a surname in Wales in the 16th century. 

Both Owen and Owens exist as surnames.  Owens started out as an Irish surname and, despite its similarity in spelling to Owen, has quite different origins. 

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Wales.  Two notable Owen-surname families emerged during the 15th and 16th centuries in north Wales, in Anglesey and Merionethshire.

Anglesey  The Owen family of Bodeon in Anglesey claimed descent from Hwfa ap Cynddelw, steward to the Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd.  They were prominent in the political life of Anglesey in the 16th and 17th centuries (the Owens of Bodsilin producing the Royalist soldier, Sir John Owen), but thereafter their influence declined. 

The Orielton branch at Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire, begun through an advantageous marriage in 1571, proved more successful.  These Owens survived the turmoil of the Civil War and remained a force in Pembrokeshire until 1857 - when the Orielton estate, burdened down by debts, was sold. 

Merionethshire  Baron (Judge) Owen of Dolgelley served as deputy chamberlain of North Wales during the reign of Henry VIII and was the forebear of a number of Owen families in Merionethshire.  These included the Owens of Tan-y-gadair and Peniarth, Hugh Owen the Puritan "apostle of Merioneth," and the Quaker Owens who emigrated to America. 

Montgomeryshire  There were also Owen families by the English border in Montgomeryshire.  Rowland Owen of Llanllo, the first of his family to adopt the Owen surname, was sheriff of Montgomery in 1611.  This family later held Bettws Hall. 

Another Owen family claiming an ancient lineage lived at Llangurig and later of Glansevern in Berriew. They came into local prominence in the mid 1700's when Owen Owen was made county sheriff.  Subsequent Owens from this family distinguished themseves in the Royal Navy and then founded a colony in New Brunswick, Canada.  They remained at Glansevern until 1951. 

Then there were also numerous Owens in Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire.

England.
  The Owen name spilled across the border into Shropshire.  The first of these Shropshire Owens was probably Thomas Owen, MP for Shrewsbury in Elizabethan times who built his home at Condover Hall. This manor stayed with the Owen family for over three hundred years.  Other Owen lines from Wales were to be found in Shrewsbury.  The most famous Owen from Shropshre was the World War One poet, Wilfred Owen.

Lancashire  As the 19th century progressed the larger number of Owens were in Lancashire.  There was an early outpost in Lancaster where the Owens were West Indian merchants.  The family fortunes had declined by the time Richard, later the famous naturalist and anatomist, was born in the early 19th century. 

Subsequent Owens from north Wales came to industrial Lancashire.  William Owen was one of the Welsh house builders in Liverpool in the 1850's.  Owen Owen started a drapery shop in Liverpool in the 1860's which expanded into a chain of department stores.  A later arrival to Liverpool - in the 1950's - was Alun Owen, the actor and screenwriter.

America.  Although Thomas Owen had been an early arrival to America on the Susan in 1622 (to the fledgling colony of Jamestown) and William Owen then came to Braintree, Massachusetts, the main early influx of Owens was to be seen later in the 17th century and into Pennsylvania and Maryland. 

Pennsylvania and Maryland  Griffith Owen, a Quaker from Dolgelly in Merionethshire, had secured from William Penn a tract of 40,000 acres on which the Welsh alone would have the right of purchase and on which the Welsh language should prevail.  He himself arrived in the new colony styled Merion in 1684.  Being one of the first doctors there, he found himself very much in demand.

Later Owen arrivals were:
  • Richard Owen (later Owings), from Llanllugan, Montgomery in 1686 (to Baltimore county, MD)
  • Robert Owen, from Fron Goch, Merionethshire in 1690 (to Merion, PA)
  • Thomas ap Evan (Owen), from Wales in 1698 (to Gwynedd, PA)
  • and the Rev. Robert Owen, from Llandrinio, Montgomery in 1699 (to Prince George county, MD).
North Carolina  Some Owens were to be found in North Carolina by the 18th century.  These included the Owens of Bladen county, plantation owners who played their part in the Revolutionary War.  Guy Owen grew up on a tobacco farm there during the 1930's and has used his recollections of that time in his fiction and poetry. 

Another Owen family arrived in North Carolina from England in 1756.  They became potters. the first of these potters being the brothers JJ and Joseph in the 1850's.  Their line has continued to the present and Ben Owen III of Seagrove, North Carolina who was named NC Living Treasure by his state in 2004.

Heading West  Owens also headed westward.  The first was probably Colonel Abraham Owen.  He came to Kentucky in 1785, but was killed at the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.  Owen counties in Kentucky and Indiana were named after him. 

Samuel Tine Owen migrated first to Alabama and then in 1850 led a wagon train of new settlers to Henderson county, Texas.  Jason Owen was the forebear of a family that headed first for Nebraska and then to Missouri.  Stella Owen of this family was born in Missouri in 1877 and lived there until 1981 (Lyle Owen has written about her in her 1978 book, Memories of An Ozark Mother: The 100 Years of Stella Owen).           

Australia.
  Henry Dixon Owen arrived from Wales in 1822 and was one of the pioneer settlers in Hunter Valley six years later.  He subsequently had to sell his farm and he became a squatter. 

Robert Owen, who arrived in 1840, came from a prosperous family in the northeast of England.  He established himself as a lawyer in Sydney and soon became a large landowner in the Illawara and Murrumbidgee districts.  Some of his descendants settled in Wollongong, NSW and they produced Evelyn Owen, the inventor of the Owen sub-machine gun during World War Two. 

Select Owen Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Baron (Judge) Owen
, deputy chamberlain of North Wales in the early 1500's, was the forebear of a number of prominent Owen families in Merionethshire.
Thomas Owen was the head of a family of gun and cannon makers that operated out of the Houndsditch foundry in London in the mid 16th century.
Griffith Owen from Merionethshire was the founder of the Welsh colony in Pennsylvania in the 1680's.
Sir Richard Owen from Lancaster was the foremost English anatomist of the 19th century.
Robert Owen was a 19th century social reformer from Wales, considered the father of the cooperative movement.
Daniel Owen from Mold in north Wales is considered by many to be Wales's first great novelist.  His Rhys Lewis, written in Welsh, appeared in 1885.
Wilfred Owen, the First World War poet, was born in Shropshire on the English/Welsh borders.
David Owen, born in Plymouth of Welsh parents, was a leading Labor and subsequent Social Democrat politician in England in the 1980's.
Michael Owen was the wonder boy in the England football team in 1998.

Select Owens Today
  • 69,000 in the UK (most numerous in Gwynedd)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).



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Archer  Duffy Houston McMahon Sachs
Atkins Elliott Hunter
Metcalfe Sainsbury
Barlow Farrell Irving Murdoch Savage
Bassett    
Ferguson Jacobs Newman Snow
Blair Fisher Jardine Nicholson Spalding
Bliss Fletcher Jenkins O'Connor Starbuck
Bloom Forbes Joyce O'Neill Stein
Bradley Forsyth     
Kellogg Owen Swift
Burns Franklin Knox Peterson Tyler
Cameron Friedman Kramer Pitt Tyson
Carey Gates Kruger Pollock/Polk Upson
Christie Geary Larkin Porter Van Buren
Churchill Graham Leadbetter Quinn Vincent
Coleman Griffiths Lomas Rathbone Wainwright
Connolly Harvey Long
Rees/Reese Walcott
Craven Hawkins Mackay 
Richards Warner
Crowe Hickey Marshall Robson Weinberg   
Daft Hodge Massey Roosevelt Wells
Dempsey  Hoffman Matthews  
Rowe Wren
Dow Holt McKenzie Ryan Yardley

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 500 surnames.

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