Select Howe Surname Genealogy

Howe derives from the Viking haugr or the Old English hoh, words for a man-made mound or burial barrow. The surname could come from the place-name Howe, found near Norwich in Norfolk and in north Yorkshire, or it could describe someone who lived by such a mound. 

Its first recording as a surname was possibly that of William de Ho in Essex feudal documents of 1121.  How was an early spelling of the name.

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Select Howe Ancestry

England.   The 19th century distribution of the Howe name suggests that there were three main clusters:
  • one in the southwest, around Somerset and Devon
  • the second in the southeast, covering London, Essex and Suffolk
  • and the third in the northeast, notably in Yorkshire and Durham. 
SW England.  John Howe from a west country family married well in the early 1600's and was given estates in Wiltshire by his wife's family.  Later John Howes were MP's for Gloucestershire.  John Howe married Annabella Scrope of Langar in Nottinghamshire.  Their son Scrope Howe was made a Viscount and established his family there.  His son Emanuel Scrope Howe was Governor of Barbados, but died of disease.  However, Emanuel's wife was in the bloodline of King George I and she was able to promote the careers of their three sons:
  • George Howe, General in the British army who was killed in America in 1758 during the Seven Years' War.
  • Richard Howe, Admiral of the Fleet who was in command of the British fleet during the American War of Independence
  • and William Howe, the British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of the British land forces in the same war.    
None of these three brothers left any male heirs.
SE England  Essex had Howes from an early date.  The Howes at Buckhurst Hill in Epping Forest may go back as far as 1357.  Howe women featured in the Essex witch trials of the late 1500's.  Thomas Howe who made a name for himself in London in the 1640's came from South Ockendon in Essex. 

Further north in Suffolk, one family history began with the marriage of John How and Dorothy Hunton in Rougham near Bury St. Edmonds in 1700, another with the marriage of Henry Howe and Elizabeth Fuller in Buxhall in 1757.   

America.  Three early Howes lines in New England were:
  • John Howe from Warwickshire who arrived in 1630 and settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts.  One branch of the family established the the Red Horse tavern (made famous by Longfellow in his Tales of the Wayside Inn).  Granddaughter Elizabeth survived three years of captivity in Canada where she had been taken by Indians who had raided her home.  Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, was a 19th century descendant.  This family was traced in Daniel Wait Howe's 1929 book Howe Genealogies.   
  • Edward Howe, who came on the Truelove in 1635 and settled in Lynn.  His son Jeremiah moved onto New Haven, Connecticut.  A branch of the family migrated west to Ohio in the 1830's.  Horatio Howe grew up in Pennsylvania and moved with his family to Iowa in the 1850ís.
  • and James and Abraham Howe, two brothers from Essex, who came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1638. James's daughter-in-law Elizabeth Howe got caught up in the Salem witch trials.  Meanwhile the family line via Abraham Howe went to Joseph Neals Howe, a Boston shipowner, and his son Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, an abolitionist campaigner.  His wife Julia composed the words of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song which became popular during the Civil War.
The descendants of these three family branches met in 1871 for a reunion cewlebration at Harmony Grove near Boston. 

Descended from John Howe of Sudbury was a later John Howe who became passionately converted to the British cause and departed New York for Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1780.  He was appointed there the King's Printer and started the Halifax Journal.  His son Joseph Howe became one of Nova Scotia's greatest and best-loved politicians.  C.D. Howe, a powerful Canadian Cabinet minister from 1935 to 1957 who grew up in Massachusetts, was a distant relative of this family. 

Caribbean and Australia.  The first Howe who came to St. Kitts in the Caribbean was said to be John Howe from Ireland in 1747.  These Howes became government printers, starting the St. Christopher Gazette and Caribbean Courier Thomas Howe was apparently related to the famous Howe brothers. 

His grandson George Howe was sent to London for training as a printer, but was tried and convicted of shoplifting there (rumor has it that he was framed) and was transported to Australia.  There he started Australia's first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette, in 1803.

Another early convict in Australia was Michael Howe, transported to Tasmania in 1812.  He escaped and became a famous bushranger, at large for six years before he was finally cornered and killed in 1818.

Select Howe Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Howe Names

William Howe was the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces during the American War of Independence.
Elias Howe was the inventor of the sewing machine in 1846.
Jackie Howe was Australia's legendary sheep shearer, famous for shearing 321 sheep in seven hours and forty minutes.
Gordie Howe, often referred to as "Mr. Hockey," was a Canadian ice hockey player generally regarded as one of the best to have played the game.
Geoffrey Howe was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary in Britain in the 1980's under Margaret Thatcher's Government.

Select Howes Today
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northamptonshire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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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