Descendants of Andrew Gawn, Halftown, Co. Antrim:
Born 1777


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The Name: "Gawn"

Its Origin

The Surnames of Scotland by George F. Black, pages 292 – 293 refer to Gavin as a favourite forename throughout Strathclyde in past times. It is the Scots form of the English Gawayne. In the Welsh Arthurian romances it appears as Gwalchmai, which signifies Hawk of Battle. This was Latinised into Walganus. In Surnames of the United Kingdom, Henry Harrison, page 160, says that Gawayn or Gawain is from the Latinised form Walyn-us of the Welsh Gwalchmai. Gwalch, means a hawk, Mai, a field or plain. The name was also common in Brittany. In France the Anglo-Norman Walwain became Gawain or Gauvain.

 The name as it is now spelt seems to be of recent origin, by which I mean not more than 400 to 500 years old. The earliest date that I am aware of: is of a John Gawn of Hastings, Sussex, England born in 1540, died 1592. What I believe was his father is also mentioned, but in his case the name is spelt Gawen. It was Jeffery Gawen, born 1500, died 1558, also of Hastings. Later some of his descendants, when they married, moved to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. There is still a number of Gawn families in this area. In the Isle of Man over the last two to three hundred years there has been a number of Gawn families recorded. Also the same is so in Scotland, the earliest being in the 1600's. There is a record of James Gawn who was imprisoned and sent to America in 1685 during the persecution of Presbyterians in Scotland.

 Although since 1600 there has possibly been nearly 20 generations of Gawns; the number of families world wide has not greatly increased and therefore it is one of the less common names in use today. The Burke’s Peerage World book of Gawns, which was published a few years ago, names 32 counties in England, Scotland and Wales where Gawns now live. Hampshire has the largest number with 19 families, Surrey 12 families, Isle of Wight 10, Essex 6, London 6. There are a few families of Gawns in Scotland. The census records for England for 1851 list 12 names, two of which were born in Ireland. In 1861 this rose to 60 names of which 56 were resident in Hampshire. There was a slight decrease in 1871 to 51 names, 49 in Hampshire. There was a significant increase in 1871 to 126 names and whilst the majority lived in Hampshire there were representatives in a total of eight counties. In the next ten years this dropped to 54 names but increased to 71 in 1901. The census records for the Isle of Man show a small number of entries over these years but never more than 10 at any one time.

 Overseas, New Zealand comes high on the list followed by Australia, Canada and the USA; according to Burke the largest concentration there being in Florida. Census records for the U.S.A. show in 1790 only one name, that of Thomas Gawn. In 1800, none. In 1810 and 1820 one name; Mary Gawn. Back to zero in 1830 and then gradually increased to 50 in 1880 and decreased to 22 in 1930. It would appear that these records were far from complete as American Civil War records for 1861 to 1865 show that 12 soldiers bearing the name of Gawn served; 5 on the Union side and 7 on the Confederate side.

The first place in Ulster, Ireland that the Gawns are known to have settled was in Co. Antrim. John Gawan is recorded to have lived in the Carnmoney district in the early 1720s. The earliest reference in Donegore is that of John Gawn, whose will was probated in 1786. This may have been the same John Gawn as there is no record of Gawns in the Carnmoney district in later years. From Donegore some went to nearby Halftown, Ballyboley and Dunsilly (see map). Except for those who emigrated, there has been little movement away from this general district, and in Ireland the only place where Gawns are to be found at present is in Co. Antrim and Belfast. They are mainly from farming stock but some had connections with the linen trade. In the early 1800s, before the standardisation of family names, sometimes the name was spelt as Gawin as with some of the Dunsilly branch and seen in the 1stAntrim Presbyterian Church records. Later these same people were referred to as Gawn.

 The name Gawn has at times been used as a Christian or first name. On August 6, 1680 the Duke of York granted William Penn, Gawn Lawry and others the Soil and Government of West New Jersey. No doubt this was the same William Penn as was granted, in 1681, the area of land now known as Pennsylvania. The name Gawn crops up in other ways as well. There is a Gawn Lake in Abitibi County, Quebec, Canada. There is a Gawn Street off the Newtownards Road in Belfast and, in a more remote region of the world, there is a Piedmont Gawn in Antarctica. This was named after Ted Gawn who was a member of a New Zealand polar team along with Sir Edmund Hillary. Ted was descended from James Gawn who emigrated to New Zealand in 1864 on the ship ‘Resolve’. James was a grandson of Andrew of Halftown




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