Select Rowland Surname Genealogy

Rowland and Rowlands have similar origins, although the former tends to be an English name and the latter a Welsh one. The personal name Roland - comprising the Germanic elements hrod meaning "renown" and land as "land" - was a popular one in Europe during the Middle Ages as a result of the fame of one of Charlemagne's warriors by that name.   Roland was the common spelling in England and France, Rolland in Germany, Rolando in Spain, and Orlando in Italy.

Roland became Rowland as a surname in England and then often evolved into the patronymic Rowlands (son of Rowland) in Wales.  Rowland is more prevalent than Rowlands as a surname outside the UK.

Select Rowland Resources on The Internet

Select Rowland Ancestry

Scotland.  Some suggest the early Rowlands were Scottish, possibly from the Norman Roland, Lord of Galloway, who was made constable of Scotland in 1196.  The names of Gilbert and John Rolland of Ayrshire were recorded in the Ragman's Roll of 1296.  However, the Rowland name is scarce in Scotland today.

  Rowland was a fairly common personal name in north Wales and may have emerged first as a surname in Caernarvonshire.  One Rowland family began with Rowland ap John of Llanbebig.  His son became a successful banker in London, returned as John Rowlands, and built his family estate at Plas y Nant in 1671.  The Rowlands stayed there until Emma Rowlands' marriage into the Bulkeley family in the 1750's. Meanwhile Henry Rowland of Mellteyrn, the son of Rolant ap Robert, was Bishop of Bangor from 1598 to 1616.

Rowlands in nearby Anglesey included:
  • Henry Rowlands of Plas Glyn, an early historian and antiquarian of his native Anglesey.  His best-known work was Mona Antiqua Restaurata, published in 1723.  Later Henry Rowlands were vicars at the local church in Llanedwen until the 1840's. 
  • and the Rowlands of Plas Tirion, Llanrug.   Hugh Rowlands of this family was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War and later rose to be a General in the British Army.
From Cardiganshire in mid-Wales came Daniel Rowland who led a Calvinist Methodist revival in Wales in the mid-18th century.  His son Nathaniel followed in his father's footsteps, but was less successful and lost his position for alleged drunkenness in 1807.  Another Daniel Rowland of this family prospered as a lawyer in London and built a medieval-style mansion, Saxonbury Lodge, in Sussex.  Meanwhile William Bowen Rowlands was the Cardigan MP from 1886 to 1895.

England.  There were Rowlands in Elizabethan and early Jacobean London, although their general origin is uncertain.   Samuel Rowland was a popular writer of London life of his time.   His father was thought to be Anthony Rolland, a cooper in London.  Richard Rowlands, another writer, was also the son of a London cooper but the grandson of a Dutch immigrant.  Thomas Rowland, born in London in 1562, was the forebear of William Rowland, an early emigrant to Virginia. 

Rowland was a popular first name in English border counties such as Shropshire and Cheshire.  It too became a surname, generally Rowland.  Rowland and Rowlands divide roughly equally in Shropshire and Cheshire, because of the proximity to Wales.  In Lancashire further away, the name is mainly Rowland. 

The Rowland place-name in Derbyshire, near Baslow, probably gave rise to the Rowland surname there. Humfridus Rowland was born in Baslow in 1584.  Later Rowlands of this line were to be found in Chesterfield and Sheffield.  There is also the place-name Nymet Rowland in Devon, formerly Rowlands Leigh, which might have been the source for some Devon Rowlands.

Ireland.  Rowland in Ireland is an anglicization of the Irish O’Rothlain, descendant of Rothlain.  Rowlands can be found in and around Castlebar in county Mayo.  One family from here emigrated to Iowa in 1854.

  The first Rowland in America was probably English, beginning with William Rowland in James City county, Virginia in the 1630's.  He later got caught up in Bacon's rebellion of 1667.

"William Rowland was pressed into Bacon's service during the rebellion of Nathan Bacon.  He was imprisoned and forced to pay 8,000 pounds of tobacco for his enlargement."

Later lines of this family were in Botecourt county, Virginia and in North Carolina.  William Rowland led his family first across the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee in 1816 and then south, twenty years later, to what would become Tippah county in NE Mississippi.

Rowlands to Pennsylvania from Wales included John Rowland, who came in 1699, and Owen Rowland and his family, who arrived in 1725.  John's descendant Benjamin founded what was to become the Rowland Shovel Works in 1796.  John Rowland, born in Pennsylvania, was an early settler in Los Angeles.  His house, built in 1855, is the oldest surviving brick structure in southern California.

Canada.  William Rowland from the Orkney islands off Scotland was recruited into the Hudson Bay Company in 1820.He spent his life in the Canadian West as a fisherman, hunter and trader, first at Norway House in Manitoba and later in Saskatchewan.

.  Welsh settlement at the Chubut colony in Patagonia began in 1865 and Rowlands – such as James Rowlands, William Price Rowlands, and Hugo Rowlands – were among those who migrated there in the next fifty years.  James Rowland published his memoirs of those times in 1946.

Australia.  Another William Rowland, this time from Cornwall, departed with his young family on the Warrior in 1839 for South Australia.  He worked there for a while as a gardener before he and his family decamped to Victoria in the early 1850’s at the time of the gold discoveries.  His son George Rowland had some success in his gold prospecting and later farmed at Rathscar.

Select Rowland Miscellany

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

Select Rowland Names

Daniel Rowland was one of the leaders of the Calvinistic Methodist revival in Wales in the 18th century.
John Rowlands, born in north Wales, changed his name to Henry Stanley in America and became famous for discovering Dr. Livingstone in Africa.  
Tiny Rowland, born Roland Fuhrhop in India, developed his business empire in Rhodesia, creating the Lonrho conglomerate in the 1960's.   Prime Minister Heath called him "the unacceptable face of capitalism."
Clive Rowlands was the successful coach of the Welsh rugby union team between 1968 and 1974. 
Gena Rowlands is an American actress.  She is of Welsh descent.

Select Rowlands Today
  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Georgia) 
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page