Lowell family

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Lowell CoatOfArms.jpg
Lowell family plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery
Lowell family 2016 110.jpg
Current regionUnited States
Connected familiesCabot

The Lowell family is one of the Boston Brahmin families of New England, known for both intellectual and commercial achievements.[1] They originally settled on the North Shore at Cape Ann after they arrived in Boston on June 23, 1639. The patriarch, Percival Lowle (1571–1665), described as a "solid citizen of Bristol",[citation needed] determined at the age of 68 that the future was in the New World. By the 19th and 20th centuries, the Lowells descended from John Lowell (1743–1802) were widely considered to be one of U.S. most accomplished families.[2][3]

Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop needed solid, dependable people to settle the North Shore area as a buffer against the French from Canada and urged that the Lowells relocate to Newburyport on the Merrimack River, at the border of the failing Province of Maine.

Ancestry in the UK[edit]

Origin of the name[edit]

Many suggestions about the origins of the medieval name Lowle were offered during the late 20th century. Some argued that it was Welsh or Saxon while others supported the name was of Norman origin. One possibility is that it originates from the Latin word lupellus (wolf-cub) from Latin lupus (wolf).

Lowell family historian Delmar R. Lowell, gave much weight and persuasion to the origins of the name Lowle in his work and he and others concluded the Lowles of England were unquestionably of Norman descent.[4]

There were still Louels in Scotland on the Scottish Marches in the Royal Burgh of Roxburgh when Edward Longshanks, King of England, ordered the nobility and gentry in Scotland to swear an oath of allegiance to him in the Ragman Roll in 1291. It is during this period, in 1288, that the earliest documentation for the name Lowle appears. William Lowle of Yardley in Worcestershire is documented as a yeoman, and standing as a witness to a border dispute between two of his neighbours. It is from this period that Delmar Lowell traces the descent of the Lowles through England until their departure for the colonies.

Documentation for this period also exists in The National Archives of England showing that there were also Lowels in the Welsh Marches. In 1317, William de Braose, 2nd Baron Braose petitioned King Edward II, the King's Council, and the Parliament to request that Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March send two justices to arrest and bring to trial 200–300 men he accused of attacking his Knights and Ministers and for, "trespasses made against the King's peace to Brewose and his people of Gower.", a peninsula, part of Glamorgan in Wales. Members named in this band of men included Ieuan and Griffith Lowel for the attack at Eynon.

Coat of Arms[edit]

The Harleian Society, a British publisher of the official Royal Heraldic visitations, describes the Lowle Coate of Arms from the herald's records taken in Somersetshire in the years 1573, 1591, and 1623.

  • Blazon: Sable, a dexter hand couped at the wrist grasping three darts, one in pale and two in saltire, all in argent.
  • Crest: A Stag's head cabossed, between the attires a pheon azure.
  • Motto: Occasionem Cognosce (oh-kay-see-OH-nem kogg-NOHS-keh).

The coat of arms has a shield with black field displaying a right hand cut-off at the wrist and grabbing three arrows, one vertical and two crossed diagonally, in silver; above the shield is a male deer's head with a barbed, broad arrowhead in blue between its antlers. A loose translation of the family motto is Know Your Opportunity.

The use of the Lowle Coat of Arms has varied slightly between the generations; some families omitted the pheon azure or substituted blunted bolts for the pointed darts; and one generation, notably a pastor, used an urn in his families crest instead of the stag's head. The right for a man to bear arms traditionally passes from father to eldest son; occasionally subsequent generations change the Coat of Arms to reflect their lives or vocations better, sometimes even "quartering" their Coat of Arms with another family by way of marriage.

It is mentionable that some believe that the Lowle Coat of Arms fell into abeyance when Percival Lowle and his sons emigrated to Massachusetts. They were still subjects of the Crown and its favor until the colonies declared Independence from Britain in 1776 and were entitled to bear their Coat of Arms. Also, there were a number of Lowles who remained in England who could claim the right.

Lowle to Lowell[edit]

After Percival Lowle emigrated to the New World with his sons and after some subsequent generations Lowle became Lowell. Delmar Lowell suggests that Rev. John Lowell was the catalyst in getting the Lowell family into cohesion regarding the spelling of the surname sometime after 1721. At the time, Lowells all over New England spelled their names as many different ways as there were branches. Some spelled their surname Lowel, Lowle, Lowell, Lowl, and some spelled it Louell, and Louel even after arriving in the new world. Spelling was so poorly controlled that some early wills show one son with the name Lowle while another son is Lowel and the wife as Lowell all in the same document. It's unlikely that one member of the family had such a big impact on the name.[citation needed] He may well have influenced many Lowells in America to be consistent, but documentation shows that Lowles in England started spelling their name Lowell around this time as well. By the mid 18th century in England there are plenty of documents for Lowells and none for the prior spellings. This suggests that the proliferation of literacy and a trend to standardize the English language caused members of the family on both sides of the Atlantic to adopt the phonetic spelling.

Family tree[edit]

The Lowell family of Boston was traditionally known as the descendants of John Lowell (1743–1802) of Newburyport. His descendants were the Lowells well known as members the Boston Brahmins.[1]

Notable Lowells[edit]

Other notable descendants:

Other descendants of Percival Lowle:[citation needed]

Portrait gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Scott Steward and Christopher Child, The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport Massachusetts, 2010
  2. ^ Cleveland Amory, The Proper Bostonians
  3. ^ Great American Family: The Lowells of Massachusetts. Oxfordclothbuttondown.com. March 2012.
  4. ^ Lowell, Delmar R., The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899 (pp 208–209); Rutland VT, The Tuttle Company, 1899; ISBN 978-0-7884-1567-8.
  5. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White Company. 1904. p. 328.

External links[edit]