My Rowat Family Connection

Posted by on December 12, 2022 in Blog Posts, Community & Family History, Featured Flag | 3 comments

I’m in the process of reviewing, updating, and ‘closing’ research on various branches of my ancestral lines. I gathered a vast amount of research over the years and need to consolidate, paper, electronic and other information. This is the first post identifying the research I am finalizing and I am inviting readers to contact me if this family is of interest to you. My philosophy is that there is a point where I can say “I’ve taken this as far as I want to, now over to you.”

My connection to the Rowat family is via Christian Rowat, 1782-1846, daughter of James Rowat and Janet Stirling of Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She married Abraham Ferrier I, and they arrived in Canada in 1815, and helped to carve the community of the Scotch Line, near Perth, Ontario, from the forests in 1816. My work documenting her descendants is ongoing, but I think I have been successful in discovering who she was and who her ancestors may have been. The Rowat story takes us back to Glasgow in the later part of the 16th century. I have now identified my link to Scandinavian and Norman ancestors that falls in line with my genetic heritage.

I would welcome discussion and sharing of family information with those who may be interested. However, my family lineage research suggested I should dig further back into the history of the family name and that’s what I am sharing today!

The following is not from primary sources, and I have quoted liberally, so I have been careful to list my references at the end of this post. Information from various websites was combined to eliminate duplication and I endeavored to create a timeline that pulls it all together. All the website presented only part of the info and differed in content. Please visit each of the sites to explore further.

Here is a summary of what I found.

The Rowat Name

The Rowat name has taken many forms through the years, and this presents a challenge to researchers.

Rowat, Rowatt, Rouat, Roatt, Rowet, Rowett, Roat, Roett, Roet, Rouet, Rouett, Rolt, Rollett, Rollitt, Rowlett, Rowlatt, Rylett, Rylatt, Rillett, Rylett, Rillatt, Roll, Rolle, Rule Row, and Rowe

MaCrowat, or Makrowat, Gaelic names, were used in Scotland briefly.

Background on the Name variations

There are many suggestions regarding the origins of the name:

  • This surname of Rowat was derived from the Old Norman or (Norse word) word HROALDR meaning ‘glory-brave’ (or ‘fame ruler’), and the name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066.
  • The surname Rowat may be a pronunciation of the (Norman) Old French personal name Ro(h)ald or a diminutive form of the surnames usually found as Roll(e), Rule or Rowe.
  • The name may be derived from a given name such as Rue, a short form of Rudolph, or from Rous, meaning red or even from Rollo, a popular Germanic given name of ancient times. The suffix ending is the French diminutive ‘petit’, to give in this case the meaning of ‘Little Row’ or more probably ‘Son of Row’. ‘Petit’ shortened to ‘et’, was a regular addition to base surnames throughout the Middle Ages both in England Scotland, and of course France itself.
  • These all derive from the Norman-French ‘Rou’ or ‘Roul’, introduced into England after the Conquest of 1066. It may be said that the true origin of the name is Germanic from the male personal name ‘Rolf’, which despite its short appearance is composed of the two elements ‘hrod’, meaning ‘renown’ and ‘wulf’, the wolf. The suffix was originally ‘petit’ (little) which was foreshortened and anglicized to ‘et’ and ‘at’. The people of the ‘dark ages’ were very keen on names which glorified heroism, victory, and the warrior in general, and ‘Rolf’ was a popular example. The modern forms of the surname include a wide range of spellings although all have the same meaning of ‘Little Rolf or Son of Rolf’. These include Rollett, Rollitt, Rowlett, Rowlatt, Rylett, Rylatt, Rillett, Rylett, Rillatt and many others.
  • meaning red or even from Rollo, a popular Germanic given name of ancient times. The suffix ending is the French diminutive ‘petit’, to give in this case the meaning of ‘Little Row’ or more probably ‘Son of Row’. ‘Petit’ shortened to ‘et’, was a regular addition to base surnames throughout the Middle Ages both in England Scotland, and of course France itself.
  • The surname Rowat may be a pronunciation of the (Norman) Old French personal name Ro(h)ald or a diminutive form of the surnames usually found as Roll(e), Rule or Rowe.
  • Rowat name may represent a Scottish or English pronunciation of the (Norman) Old French personal name Ro(h)ald. May be connected to name Rolt, the Middle English personal name Ro(h)ald Rohaut usually an Old French form of Continental Germanic *Hrothowald Rodoald (from *hrōd- ‘glory’ + *wald- ‘rule(r)’) although it could also formally derive from the cognate Old Scandinavian Hróaldr Róaldr.
  • It was also suggested that RowatRowet, Rowett are derived from the Old English *rūwet “rough ground” or to the term ‘Row’, recorded in the modern popular surname as Row or Rowe, and describing a person who lived in the ‘village row’, or the main part of the village.

In summary, the most popular history of the name may go back to the Norse, was carried to England and Scotland by the Normans and has been adapted to the accents and languages it encountered along the way.

Impact of Location and History on the Name


  • 1 BC  In the 1st century BC, Normandy saw one of its first great invasions by the Romans. The area was an important part of the Holy Roman Empire until the 4th century.
  • 9th century In the 9th century, the area received its name of Normandy after it was raided by the Vikings, or Norsemen, which is how the name came to be.
  • 911  When Viking Rollo, Earl of Orkney, invaded the territory in 911, he forced King Charles III of France, or Charles the Simple, to concede Normandy. Rollo then became the first Duke of Normandy.
  • 1066   William, a descendant of Rollo, conquered England, thereby initiating England’s claims to the area.
  • 1152   Henry II of England, Duke of Normandy, married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 and the region passed into the royal dynasty of Plantagenet and thus England expanded its claims to continental land.
  • 1337-1453   The Hundred Years’ War, a series of armed conflicts between England and France originating from disputed claims to the French throne between the English House of Plantagenet and the French royal House of Valois. The people and landscape of Normandy suffered dearly from this long conflict and roughly three-quarters of the Norman population was lost. Normandy was, however, finally secured by France in 1450 and became a semi-autonomous state. 


  • 600         After the Romans left, Anglo-Saxon peoples invaded Britain, and by 600 CE they controlled much of what is now England. The British held back Saxon advance into the south-west for some time longer. The relations between the Britons and the Saxons in Somerset are not entirely clear. The laws suggest that many Britons were slaves and that many were considered a significant population.
  • 1066            Norman invasion. The surname Rowat was first found in Somerset, where a Norman noble was granted lands by his liege Lord, William, Duke of Normandy. After the Norman Conquest, the county was divided into 700 fiefs, and large areas were owned by the crown. with fortifications such as Dunster Castle used for control and defence.
  • 1175            Alanus filius Ruhald, appears in 1175 in County Yorkshire
  • 1086           The earliest name on record appears to be ROLD (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086.
  • 1273             Edward Rowath was documented in Lancashire.
  • 1327             William Roulot, which was dated 1327, in the Suffolk Subsidy Rolls, during the reign of King Edward 11, known as ‘Edward of Caernafon’, 1307 – 1327.
  • 1379              William Rowett of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax
  • 1605              Inglaterra George Rowet was christened on September 15th, 1605 at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England
  • 1629              Edward Rowett married Anne Flower on November 17th, 1629, at Tattershall, Lincolnshire.
  • 1635              James Rillett was recorded in London at St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, on August 21st, 1656.
  • 1754              Thomas Rylatt married Martha Christiana Scarborough at Boston in Lincolnshire on October 15th, 1754


  • 1054              First Normans appeared in Scotland in a battle between the King of Scots, MacBethad mac Findlaich and Mael Coluim mac Donnchada (later Malcolm III). These Normans were mercenaries and were all killed in battle. Nevertheless, during the successive reigns of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada’s three sons, Edgar, Alexander and David mac Máel Coluim, the Norman settlement in southern Scotland becomes noticeable.
  • 1124              One of the most famous surviving charters in Scottish history was issued when David mac Máel Coluim (David I) was inaugurated at Scone in 1124 AD. This was the grant of Annandale to Robert de Brus, a Norman knight in the entourage of the new king.
  • 1513              John Makrowat of Wigtown, Dumfies and Galloway, Scotland, during the reign of King James V of Scotland who reigned from 1513-1542.
  • 1165-1214      During the reign of William I (1165-1214 AD) that the Norman presence in northern Scotland becomes particularly noticeable. There are probably two main reasons for this. Firstly, under the terms of the Treaty of Falaise (1174), William I was forced to temporarily abandon Scottish claims to lands in Northern England (particularly Northumberland). The King of Scots was able to focus on extending royal authority north of the Mounth in areas like Moray and Ross. As each ‘rebellion’ was defeated, lands in Moray, Ross, Sutherland and Caithness were granted to families – usually of Norman or Flemish extraction – loyal to the kings of Scotland. . Although the heads of these kindreds do not often appear in the primary documentation available to historians, when records of their role in government and society do appear they can be seen to be acting on behalf of an earl and leading the fighting men of the kindred in war.
  •  1554      Katherine Rowat in Glasgow reserved a liferent
  • 1585       John Rowett or Rowatt was a member of the Scottish parliament for Glasgow
  • 1606       Adam Rowat, maltman, was burgess freeman of Glasgow
  • 1623       Robert Rowat is recorded in the toun of Stanehouse (Lanark)
  • 1631       Alexander Rowatt, in Glasgow, is recorded as receiving payment
  • 1668       The 9 shilling lands of Rowatstoune in Ayrshire are mentioned

In Scotland, most early charter and church recordings of the name are from the old English-speaking kingdom of Strathclyde in the southwest of Scotia.

Reference Sources

Each of these sites offer more information. Please check them out. 

 The Surnames of Scotland (1946) by George Fraser Black (1866-1948); 

Surnames of the United Kingdom (1912) by Henry Harrison

Abstracts of Protocols of the Town Clerks of Glasgow, Volume 11, By Glasgow (Scotland)


  1. Hello Dianne,
    I have finally had a moment to read your Rowat Family post and I think we may have a connection to Jane Rowat and James Davison (Davidson. They are my 3rd gr.grandparents from Huron County.
    If this fits with your search, I would love to connect with you.
    I am a fibre artists as well, dabbling in a few art mediums.
    Yours in Genealogy,

  2. Thank you so much Diane Duncan. I assumed that the Ferrier line went back to the Norse people but of course I have less info on the Rowat family. I am in Alberta visiting my kids- Edmonton, Sherwood Park and Wetaskiwin – hockey games and basketball included. I will read this aricle more thoroughly when I get home.

    • I was planning to send you a copy of my research – my most complete info is on my computer. I am currently finalizing work on the Wrathall lines back from Sarah, and the Rowat family back from Christian as well, but have a lot remaining work on the down-lines – procrastinating re finishing the book on the Ferriers – although I have the lines back from Abraham and John done. I’m just filling in some blanks on the down lines and the book partially assembled! I’m trying to clear some of my paper files from Dad’s research as I consolidate years of research.
      Merry Christmas.

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