Owen Surname Meaning and Family History

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Derived from the Welsh first name Owain, the surname Owen is generally thought to mean "well born" or "noble," from the Latin eugenius. As a Scottish or Irish surname, Owen may be a shortened Anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac Eoghain (McEwan), meaning "son of Eoghan."

Surname Origin: Welsh

Alternate Surname Spellings: OWENS, OWIN, OWINS, OEN, OWING, OWINGS, OWENSON, MACOWEN, HOWEN, OEN, OENE, ONN

Famous People with the OWEN Surname

  • Daniel Owen - Welsh novelist; well-known for writing in the Welsh language
  • Evelyn Owen - Australian designer of the Owen machine gun
  • John Owen - early 19th century governor of North Carolina
  • William Fitzwilliam Owen - British naval officer and explorer
  • Robert Owen - Welsh social reformer

Where Is the OWEN Surname Most Common?

The Owen surname is most prevalent in the United States according to Forebears, ranking among the top 500 most common surnames in the country. Owen is found in the greatest density, however, in Wales, where it is the 16th most common surname.  It is also fairly common in England, where it ranks just outside of the 100 most common last names, and Australia (ranked 256th).

WorldNames PublicProfiler shows that the Owen surname in 1881 was found most frequently in Wales, especially in the area around Llandudno in northern Wales. According to Forebears, the Owen surname at that time ranked 5th in Anglesey and Montgomeryshire and 7th in Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname OWEN

Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as an Owen family crest or coat of arms for the Owen surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.

  • The Owen/Owens/Owing DNA Project: Individuals with the Owen surname, and variants such as Owens or Owing, are invited to participate in this group DNA project in an attempt to learn more about Owen family origins. The website includes information on the project, the research done to date, and instructions on how to participate.
  • OWEN Family Genealogy Forum: This free message board is focused on descendants of Owen ancestors around the world.
  • FamilySearch - OWEN Genealogy: Explore over 4.8 million results from digitized historical records and lineage-linked family trees related to the Owen surname on this free website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • GeneaNet - Owen Records: GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Owen surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.

Resources and Further Reading

  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.