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History of the Rowson family and the Rowson name

I am yet to find any firm evidence of the origin of the Rowson name, or indeed its meaning.

Several people have contacted me, either with confident theories or speculative ideas.

Focusing on the UK:

  • In the 1901 England and Wales census there were 1,471 Rowson's listed and in the 1911 census there are 1,695 Rowson's listed.
  • The most popular area for the Rowson name appears to be Lancashire, with 496 listed in 1911.

Rowson's by region in 1911:

Lancashire: 496
Lincolnshire: 202
Yorkshire: 175
Cheshire: 109
Staffordshire: 90
Shropshire: 88
London: 85

According to there are an estimated 3,135 Rowson's in Great Britain, making it the 3550th most popular surname. However, there is seemingly no explanation on the site as to how they make their estimates.

Origins of the name:

There seem to be two main theories:

1) There are a number of suggestions that it is a patronymic from Rowe - i.e. son of Rowe. This is probably the most simple theory, but is it just assuming the obvious?

2) The second theory is one of a Viking or Danish origin. This fits with the concentration of Rowson's in the Lincolnshire area. It has been suggested that Rowson sounds like the Viking for "Red sands" - which again would be consistent with the iron rich sands of Lincolnshire - but I am yet to find a Viking speaker to confirm this theory. In modern Danish, Norwegian and Swedish this doesn't quite hold true - but may be the ancient Viking dialect was different.

Supporting this theory, the dictionary of English surnames claims to trace various spellings of it back to one something like "Roulfisson" which, it suggests, is the name of people who came over with the Danes or Vikings to the East coast around the 8th century.

Famous Rowsons:

There are a few Rowson's who have acquired fame, these include:

Rowson, Martin, English cartoonist. Martin Rowson was born in London in 1959, and has been a full-time free-lance cartoonist since leaving university in 1982. His work appears regularly in The Guardian, The Mirror, the Scotsman, Time Out, The Times Education Supplement, The Irish Times, The Independent on Sunday and Tribune. His books include comic book versions of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy". In 2000 he was voted Political Cartoonist of the Year at the annual Cartoon Arts Trust Awards, and is also Chairman of the British Cartoonists' Association. He lives in Lewisham with his wife and their two children. (

Rowson, Pauline, crime writer. Pauline Rowson is the author of the contemporary crime novels featuring the flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton. There are now eleven in the DI Andy Horton series of crime novels with the first featuring her detective DI Horton, Tide of Death, published in 2006 and hailed by Amazon as the 'Best of British Crime Fiction.' Following this, in swift succession, were two further stand alone crime novels, In Cold Daylight, which was voted by the public as their third best read in an online poll for World Book Day 2008 and In for the Kill. (

Rowson, David Andrew, football player (born 14 September 1976 in Aberdeen), is a Scottish football player who last season 2005/6 played for Northampton as a midfielder after coming from Partick Thistle in the summer of 2004. He recently signed for Darlington on a free transfer.
He started his professional career at his hometown club Aberdeen, and was a key player during his time there, winning Scottish Under-21 caps, before leaving for Stoke in 2001. However, injuries blighted his time there, limiting him to only 18 appearances, and he returned north of the border to join Partick Thistle. After playing there for a season, he announced his desire to move to an English club in the summer, sparking a host of clubs bidding for his signature, and he joined League Two side Northampton on a two-year contract.
He impressed in his time at Sixfields, and despite injuries in the 2005/06 season, he was an important figure in Northampton's push for promotion. However, after the final game of the season, then manager Colin Calderwood decided to not offer Rowson a new contract. He recently inked a one year deal with Darlington in the English second division for the 2006/07 season. (

Rowson, Jonathan, chess player (born 18 April 1977) is Scotland's 3rd chess Grandmaster, after Paul Motwani and Colin McNab, and has played board 1 at recent Chess Olympiads. He made his Scotland debut for the national Primary School team in the match against England in 1988. Although not the best player in his age-group at the time, his progress was rapid and he began competing on the world stage in 1991, winning a silver medal in the European Under 18 Championship in 1995 (behind Robert Kempinski of Poland).

Rowson, Susanna Haswell, author, 1762-1824, American author and actress, b. England. She was brought to America as a young child, but after the Revolution, the family returned to England. Her first novel, Victoria, appeared in 1786, the same year she married William Rowson. Having acted for a short time in England, the Rowsons emigrated to the United States in 1793, joining a theatrical company in Philadelphia. Retiring from the stage in 1796, Mrs. Rowson opened a school for girls in Boston, one of the best of its day, which she directed for 25 years. She wrote novels, poetry, and plays, but is remembered for one novel, Charlotte: a Tale of Truth (1791), called in later editions Charlotte Temple, a sentimental and didactic story, which went through more than 150 editions.