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About the study

The BOWRY One-Name study grew out of my wider research into my family history, which I began in 2000, and my increasing interest in surname studies. I learned early on that, as a result of a couple of irregular relationships in my ancestry, BOWRY could have been my maiden name. My BOWRY line can be traced back to Henry BOWRIE who married Alce BERRINGTON at St Mary the Virgin parish church, Datchet, Buckinghamshire in 1588. My suspicions that most, and perhaps all, the BOWRY reference in the records could also be traced back to Henry encouraged my interest in surname studies and this One-Name study. The desire to trace the line back before Henry was the final driver to register this One-Name study in September 2013.

Variant names

The registered variants of the name are BOWERY, BOWREY and BOWRIE. Although some sources suggest that BOWRY is a variant of the BOWRA, I have seen no evidence that the two names are in any way connected.

Name origin

I have not found the surname in any surname dictionary and a search of the Internet produces a number of different possibilities:

  • A topographical or occupational surname from the Olde English pre 7th century word bur, meaning a bower, which was either a small cottage or the inner room of a large house. The surname is either topographical for someone who lived in a small cottage; or occupational for a house servant, one who worked in the bower.
    (source: [ 29 Sep 2013)
  • A locational surname from the villages of East and West Bower in Somerset, or from Bowers Gifford in Essex. The settlement in Somerset was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Bur, and that in Essex as Bura, and as Bures in the Curia Regis rolls of Essex in 1203.
    (source: 29 Sep 2013)
  • A anglicised version of the Dutch bouwerij, derived from an antiquated Dutch word for farm. The Bowery is a neighborhood of Manhatten, New York which, in the 17th century, was an area containing many large farms.
    (source: 29 Sep 2013)
  • A variant of the Gaelic boy'€™s first name, Bowie, meaning yellow or fair-haired.
    (source: no longer available)

Historical occurrences of the name

I have been told a story that has been past down a couple of family lines from Henry BOWRIE (m: 1588) that Heathrow Airport was built on BOWRY land. There is still a Bowry House and a Bowry Drive in Wraybury, Berkshire. One great grandson of Henry, Edmund, was a churchwarden at the neighbouring village of Horton, Buckinghamshire and has his name inscribed on one of church bells there.

Early examples of the surname, according to one website, include:

  • Hugo le Burer recorded in the Assize Court rolls of Lincolnshire in 1218
  • Alice Burrer of Cambridgeshire in 1279
  • Henry del Boure of Cheshire in 1287
  • William le Bourere of Surrey in 1332
  • Mary Bowry who married John Gaffy at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on February 13th 1631
  • William Bowery, whose daughter Mary was christened at St Olave's church, Southwark, on March 22nd 1718.

(source: 29 Sep 2013)

I am slowly working through the transcribed English Poll Tax returns for 1377, 1379 and 1381 and, so far, have found a number of instances of BOUR, BOURE, atte BOURE and de la BOURE in Bedfordshire, Essex, Herefordshire and Leicestershire. It is very possible that all or some of these are bynames rather than surnames. I have, however, found the following more interesting entries:

  • Thoma BOUYR alias Thoma BOURI at Ragdale, Leicestershire in 1379
  • * Andrea BOWERE at Peakirk, Northamptonshire in 1377

It is hoped that this One-Name study will identify whether the first four are actually variants of BOWRY or of another surname.

Name frequency

The BOWRY surname is relatively rare, there only being in the region of 350 instances of it (and its registered variants) in the 1881 UK national census.

(source: 29 Sep 2013)

The current, worldwide population sharing the surname (and its registered variants) is in the region of 3700. (See *Distribution of the Name* below.)

(source: 26 Sep 2013)

Distribution of the name

The current, worldwide distribution of the name (and its registered variants) is a follows:

Country Population
UK 1143
USA 1099
Canada 72
New Zealand 28
Spain 9
France 3
India 1336
Total 3690

(source: with 2012 populations from 26 Sep 2013)

In India, the surname (found as BOWRY and BOWRIE) is primarily found in the Maharastra region. As far as I can tell at this stage, this is appears to be a separate, native Indian surname rather than an Anglo-Indian surname.

Within the UK the surname, although relatively rare, is widely spread within England and occurs in Wales but, as far as is known at this stage, not in Scotland or elsewhere. Historically, from the limited analysis I have carried out, it appears that the name may have originated around Buckinghamshire (or, perhaps, Gloucestershire) and County Durham. Whether the two centres represent to separate points of origin or there was one point of origin together with an early migration from one of the areas to the other is not yet known.