Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 1999-12 > 0946067914
From: Mac McCutchan <>
Subject: Re: Bell's Book-Cowan and Kerby
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 1999 15:38:34 -0500
Merry Christmas, Barnie!
You already have a pretty good handle on Cowan. Yes, it's Scottish,
and yes, it can be from Ayrshire. Black's "Surnames of Scotland" says
it's common on Ayshire, Dumfriesshire, and other lowland counties.
Black thinks it came from the surname Colquhoun; early records in one
Cowan family indicate that many of their ancestors' books bore the name
Colquhoun. Or maybe (in the south highlands) it came from
Macillechomhghain, when the "Mac" was dropped the rest shortened to
Comhain (Gaelic) or in English, Cowan.
The presence in Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire during the Plantation
pretty well guaranteed they'd arrive in Ulster also - and they did.
Bell's "Book of Ulster Surnames" says in Ireland the name is almost
exclusively in Ulster - especially in counties Antrim, Down and Armagh.
Hanna's "The Scotch-Irish" bears this out - in 1890 there were 33 Cowans
born in all of Ireland; of these, 30 were born in Ulster, mostly in
Antrim, Down and Armagh. Bell also equates the name with Colquhoun, but
says there's also an Irish surname (rather than Scottish origin): It
came from the old county Armagh name MacCone or MacCoan.
Kerby is a tough one - it simply is not mentioned, in Bell, Black, or
Hanna. Black mentions a Kirby briefly, in passing - says it's probably
a recent introduction from England. It might possibly be Irish - does
anyone out there with a MacLysaght want to help out? I suspect,
however, that it's of English origin. I checked the LDS database at
A quick look found lots of them - Kerby, Kirby, Kirbie, etc. - but in
the British Isles, I found them only in England. Can anyone with better
sources confirm this?