There were many early variants of Bowles, Bolle, Bolles, Bowls, Boals, Bowle, Boles, and finally Bowles. Some Bowles were once Bould and Boulds, names which have remained as a separate regional form. Boles and Bowles both continued into the 19th century. But now Bowles is generally the standard spelling.
The recognized forebear of the Bowles line is Alleyne Bolle who resided in the 1200’s in Bolle Hall on the head of the Swine river in Lincolnshire. He is possibly of Norman descent and the name originating from Bouelles in Normandy. Other suggestions are that the name is of Saxon origin, Boll meaning "steward," or comes from a Viking named Bolla.
Select Bowles Resources on The
- The Bowles Name Website. Genealogy of the Bowles name.
- Bowles Family History Name. Bowles genealogy.
- Bowles Families in Canada. Bowles in Canada.
African Americans. Virginia, North Carolina and South
Carolina - Beverly to Brogdon.
- Bowles Group. UK Bowles discussion group.
- Bowles DNA Project. DNA
England. The original line continued until Elizabethan times when Sir John Bolle was the dashing captain at the capture of Cadiz. Three branches said to have derived from these Bolles were those of Gosberton, Bromley/Chislehurst, and Osberton:
- the Gosberton
country seat was Scampton Hall in Lincolnshire. There is early
evidence, in the 1450’s, of their presence in Kent. The draw of
and its trade opportunities appeared to
be the reason.
- a possibly related branch also settled in Kent in the
late 1500’s. Proximity to political power in
London enabled William Bowle and his successors to secure and hold onto
the oddly named “Groom of the Tents and Pavilions,” in essence an
exclusive license to supply the army with tents.
- the third Bowles branch was started by William Bolles from Suffolk, one of the commissioners executing the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Out of these profits, he acquired property at Osberton near Worksop in Nottinghamshire.
Ireland. However, the earliest emigration was to Ireland, following Cromwell as "adventurers for land in Ireland." Thomas Bowles arrived in Cork in 1648. Bowles were later to be found elsewhere, particularly in Limerick. They generally remained staunch Protestants in a Catholic land. As sectarian strife mounted in the early 19th century, many departed for Canada.
America. The Bowles in America were first of the merchant/planter class, initially in Virginia and later, as opportunities there diminished, in the south. Other Bowles did arrive and settled elsewhere. Two notable later Bowles, both with Indian associations, were William Bowles and John "Chief" Bowles.
The Federal Census of 1920 showed that the old slave-owning states of Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri still had the largest number of Bowles in the United States.
Canada. Bowles from Ireland came to New Brunswick, Montreal, Quebec City, and various parts of Ontario by the 1820's. Charles Bowles, who arrived from Tipperary in the late 1820's, was the forebear of a formidable Bowles family, including Annie Bowles, the mother of a future Prime Minister of Canada, Lester Bowles Pearson.
Select Bowles Miscellany
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select Bowles Names
Alleyne Bolle of Bolle Hall in Lincolnshire is the reputed founder of the Bowles family.
Sir John Bolle was the daring adventurer for Queen Elizabeth in the attack on Cadiz in 1595.
Thomas Bowles started his renowned printing and publishing business in London in the 1690’s which was passed down over four generations.
John “Chief” Bowles’ father was Scotch/Irish, his mother Cherokee. He became a Cherokee Chief, but was massacred with his people by Texan troops in the Battle of the Neches in 1839.
Paul Bowles from New York achieved success as a musical composer and later, after he had moved to Tangier in 1950, as a writer and author of such novels as The Sheltering Sky. His wife Jane Bowles was also an accomplished writer.
Select Bowles Today
- 8,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
- 7,500 in America (most numerous in Virginia)
- 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
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 800 surnames.
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