Day: January 21, 2012

Surname Saturday – Cowgill

The surname Cowgill appears in my tree thirteen times at the moment.  None of the people are in my direct line of ancestors.  They are wives, husbands or in-laws of cousins – so not close.

According to surnamedb the name has two possible derivations.

The first is from the early Medieval English or Olde French ‘cokille’ which means ‘a shell’ or ‘cockle’.  It is suggested that this surname may have been applied to pilgrims to the Shrine of St. James of Compostella who sewed shells on their clothes as a sign of pilgrimage.  A cockle-hat (with a shell stuck on it) was also worn as a sign of pilgrimage.  Here’s an article called the Way of St. James in Wikipedia – so make up your own mind.

The second possibility is that Cockle is a locational name (from Cockhill) from a place of the same name in the West Riding of Yorkshire.  The name having been corrupted to Cowgill or Cockell in some directories.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Cockel, which was dated 1198 in the Pipe Rolls of Northampton.

Alternatively information can be found on the Internet suggesting that the name also has origins in Scotland.

A family in the Pictish tribe of ancient Scotland is said to be the first to use the name Cowgill.  They lived in the lands of Cargill in east Perthshire where the family at one time had extensive territories.

In medieval Scotland names were more often spelled according to sound than any regular set of rules.  So over the years Cowgill has been spelled as Cargill, Cargyle and Kergylle amongst others.

Some noteable Cowgill’s include:-

Bryan Cowgill (1927-2008) – BBC television executive and pioneer behind Grandstand and Match of The Day

George L Cowgill (b1929) – American anthropologist and archaeologist

Collin Brannen Cowgill (b1986) – American professional baseball player