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3Irish, Danish, or English?

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  • Jeff
    Dec 27, 2008
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      My current research proposes a number of possible explanatons as to
      the origins of the name Bowes in Ireland. Firstly the name itself,
      has I think two basic origins:

      1). The name derives from the ancient Gaelic Sept, O'Buadhaigh


      2). The name is linked to the North Yorkshire English place-name
      Bowes, which derives from the Saxon/Danish word Bogas meaning 'bow'
      or 'bend'.

      If the name is indeed of 'English/Danish/Saxon' roots then when and
      how did it travel to Ireland?

      a) Possibly through the Norse/Danish incursions into Ireland during
      the 9th Century? Well not entirely satisfactory as Vikings tended in
      general to name their children after the Father, thus JorgenSON,
      HaroldSON etc. They did occasionaly choose 'nick' names or adopt
      place-names, but this was rarer. Besides, the Danes were amonsgt the
      last in Europe to use surnames, a time after the Viking period in

      b) The name 'Bowes' could possibly have been adopted later by
      Scandinavian settlers

      c) The adding of an 'S' to a name was a widespread practice used by
      the Saxon-English to suggest 'son-of'. For example: RichardS EdwardS
      etc. Could BoweS have a similar origin? If the name has English roots
      at what stage did it move to Ireland?

      Well we can to some degree rule out the 12th Century Norman invasion
      of Ireland, the majority of whom were Norman and Welsh. Any English
      component of this incursion were made up of troops from the West
      Country of England, where the name 'Bowes' is not at all common.
      Besides at this time many ordinary people had not taken up the
      practice of distinct surnames.

      Where does that leave us? Well the name 'Bowes' would certainly have
      developed and been adopted more numerously by the 16th Century and
      one wonders if this was the period that heralded the arrival of the
      English name 'Bowes' to Ireland during the Elizabethan, Cromwellian
      and later plantations. Do we have any evidence to support this idea?
      Not specifically. However there is a fascinating clue in the
      prevalance of the Bowe/Bowes name in Counties Wexford and Kilkenny,
      both areas of particularly high English settlement from the Middle
      Ages onwards. With further DNA testing of Bowes from these areas it
      could be possible to detect Danish/Saxon haplogroups, which may well
      have arrived through English settlers.

      In conclusion we have two versions of the name, one Gaelic Irish, the
      other Old-English/Danish, revealing which one we belong to is of
      course a challenge being addressed by DNA testing.
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