Select Fowler Surname Genealogy

The surname Fowler is believed to have come from the Old English fugal meaning “fowl” and fugelere, meaning a hunter of wild birds.  In the medieval period a fowler would have been an important position and all major houses would have employed one.

The name of Richard Fugelere appeared as a witness in Lancashire's assize courts in 1218.  But the Fowler spelling had taken hold by 1300.

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Select Fowler Ancestry

England. The first Fowler of record was Richard Fowler of Foxley in Buckinghamshire.  He accompanied Richard the Lionhearted to Palestine in 1191 and was rewarded for his valor with lands and a coat of arms. The subsequent line would seem to have gone via Reginaldus le Fowler, who was recorded in Shryvenham, Berkshire in 1301, and later onto: 
  • Sir William Fowler, who lived in Rycote, Oxfordshire.  He was granted Preston Manor in Buckinghamshire for his services to King Edward IV and he died there in 1466.
  • his son Sir Richard Fowler, who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Edward IV in 1469 (although his son, known as "Sir Richard the Foolish," was a great spendthrift and lost most of the family estates).
  • and later Fowlers who resided at Harnage Grange in Shropshire.
When Sir Richard the elder died in 1477, he left money for a monk to sing a daily service at St. Dunstan's chapel in Westminster Abbey “where my father lies buried."

The Fowler name cropped up in Islington, then a village outside London, in Tudor times.  Thomas Fowler, a merchant in Calais when it was still in English hands, acquired Barnesbury Manor in 1542.  Queen Elizabeth seems to have been partial to Islington and made frequent visits to the Fowler home there.  The male line died out in 1656 and the manor passed to Sir Thomas Fisher who had married the heiress Sarah.

Early Fowlers in Gloucestershire were:
  • the Fowlers of Bisley, starting with Thomas Fowler who was born there around 1520.  One line of this family moved to Derbyshire and then, with Deacon John Fowler, crossed the Atlantic to Connecticut in the 1640's.
  • the Fowlers of Stroudwater who prospered in the local cloth industry.  Richard Fowler was a clothier who took a lease on a mill at Stonehouse in 1533.  These Fowlers remained clothiers there until the late 18th century.
  • and the learned printer John Fowler, born in Bristol in 1537, who opposed the Protestant tendencies in England and took his press to Antwerp to aid the Catholic cause.
The later distribution of the Fowler surname showed it widely spread, but with three concentrations - one around London in the southeast, a second in the southwest with Gloucestershire prominent, and a third around Yorkshire and Lancashire. 

Robert Fowler was a Protestant clergyman from Lincolnshire who settled in Ireland in the 1760’s and became the Archbishop of Dublin.  His son, also named Robert, was Bishop of Ossory.  A later Robert of this family, born in Meath, earned schoolboy renown for his all-round performance in the 1910 Eton vs. Harrow cricket match which came to be known as Fowler’s match.

Scotland.  The Fowler name extended into Scotland, mainly on the East Coast from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. The early spelling was Foular:
  • John Foular was an Edinburgh notary who kept the town records from 1500 to 1534 in his Protocol Book.  Then there was William Fowler, a prominent merchant and burgess who lived around that time at Foular's or Fowler’s Close, now Anchor Close.   His son is thought to have been the poet and courtier William Fowler. 
  • David Foular's birth was recorded in Nigg, Kincardineshire in 1686.  One Fowler line has been traced from the marriage of William and Isobel Fowler there in 1751.
America.  In 1657 Robert Fowler from Bridlington in Yorkshire led the second party of Quakers to Massachusetts.  He departed London for America with eleven Quakers on his small sloop the Woodhouse, with few of them having any experience of sailing.  Remarkably they all landed safely on Long Island only a few miles from their intended destination and moved up the coast to the Quaker safe haven in Rhode Island.

Another Fowler arrival in Rhode Island was Henry Fowler from Rutland who had come in 1653 and married Rebecca Newell in Providence two years later.  Their son William was in Queens, Long Island
in New York state by 1680 and later moved to Westchester county.  

In the early 1700's there was an Indian at Montauk, Long Island by the name of James Fowler.   A descendant David Fowler was one of the founders of Brothertown in Oneida county, New York in 1775.  By the time of the Revolutionary War, Fowlers in America were most numerous in New York state.  Sylvanus Fowler, born in Newburgh, migrated to Tennessee in the 1790's.

Many Fowlers entered America via Virginia.  Among the early arrivals were:
  • Francis Fowler who came with Captain Roger Smith in 1622 as a young lad and survived the massacre in Jamestown the following year.  But he was dead by about 1640.
  • and the Quaker John Fowler from Wiltshire who came on the Hopewell in 1662 and settled in Henrico county.  His line has been covered in Grover P. Fowler's 1940 book The House of Fowler
James Joyce's 1991 book Annals of the Fowler Family traced early Fowlers in Virginia and the lines of Joseph Fowler in North Carolina and Godfrey Fowler in Kentucky.

New Zealand.
  John Fowler had been a policeman in Ramsbury, Wiltshire.  It was said that
when he had to arrest some striking farm workers, he decided to resign from the force rather than accompany them to Tasmania as their jailer.  Instead he departed for New Zealand with his family, arriving there in 1842.  They were one of the early settlers at Riwaka near Nelson.  Their young son George, born in New Zealand, was drowned in the Riwaka river in 1848.  But the rest of the family survived.  John lived onto 1888.

Select Fowler Miscellany

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

Select Fowler Names

Richard Fowler of Foxley was an English commanding officer in Palestine in the 1190’s during the Third Crusade. 
Henry Watson Fowler
was an early 20th century writer on English usage, best known for his A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. 

Henry Fowle
r was US Secretary of the Treasury from 1965 to 1968 under the Johnson administration.  Kevin Fowler is better known as the actor Kevin Spacey (his grandmother’s maiden name).

Select Fowlers Today
  • 29,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 24,000 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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