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Family spelling variants includes Browne, Broune, Brun, Broun

BROWN Family History

Family spelling variants include Browne, Broune, Brun, Broun.

The name was originally an English and Scottish nickname for a person with brown hair or brown complexion. It comes from the Middle English word brun, or broun which was derived from the Old French word 'brun', meaning brown (which in turn comes from continental German). In German Ashkenazi Jewish it is an anglicisation of the German 'braun' or Yiddish 'bron'. For some families, the Brown surname may derive from the Old Scandinavian 'brúnn' or 'brúni'. 

In Irish and Scottish, it is a relationship name adopted for Ó Duinn (Dunne) or for any of the many Irish and Scottish Gaelic names containing the element donn ‘brown-haired’ (also meaning ‘chieftain’), for example Donohue. Also in Irish, the name is a phonetic anglicisation of Mac an Bhreitheamhnaigh (Breheny).

In medieval Nottinghamshire, the surname was interchangeable with Brownson.

There are approximately 2,367,380 Brown family members around the world. In general this figure can probably be doubled when maiden name connections and other relations are taken into consideration.

It is estimated that the largest group of Brown family members lives in the USA, with 1,756,746 (74.2%) members. In England there are 283,740 (12%), in Canada 108,883 (4.6%), Australia 91,228 (3.9%), South Africa 47,218 (2%), Scotland 46,035 (1.9%), Ireland 13,848 (0.6%), Wales 11,313 (0.05%) and New Zealand 8,396 (0.4%). 

Early bearers of the surname include: Richard Brun, le Brun le mercer 1111–38, about 1140 in Ekwall, ELPN; William le Brun, 1169 in Pipe Rolls (Northants); William Brun, 1182–1205 in Bury Saint Edmunds Kalendar (Suffolk); Hugh Bron, 1274 in Hundred Rolls (Shrops); Agnes Broun, 1296 in Subsidy Rolls (Sussex); John le Browne, 1318 in Feet of Fines (Cambs); Agnes Brown, 1539 in IGI (Watford, Herts); Edmon Brown, 1539 in IGI (Clifford Chambers, Warwicks); John Brown, 1539 (North Elmham, Norfolk); John Brown, 1539 (Shorne, Kent); Nicholas Brown, 1539 (Shobrooke, Devon); John Brown, 1636, Robert Broon, 1678 (Rippingale, Lincs).

On the 1891 census, there were 172,021 occurrences of the surname in England and Wales as a whole, with a further 35,564 occurrences in Scotland.

Notable people

  • David Brown, an English convict from Kent, was transported aboard the ship 'Ann' in August 1809, settling in New South Wales, Australia.
  • Robert Hanbury Brown, AC FRS (1916 – 2002) was a British astronomer and physicist born in India. He made notable contributions to the development of radar and later conducted pioneering work in the field of radio astronomy.
  • Louise Joy Brown (b. 25 July 1978) is an English woman who was the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation (IVF).


1881, 1891 Census

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890

International Genealogical Index, https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/igi

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain



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    Raymond Brown

    I believe Guillaume (William) le Brun de Lusignan came to Northumberland in 1170-72 after the Lusignan castle was raised by Henry II in 1169.  William went to Ireland as a mercenary for Henry II.  Later he or one of his sons went to Aberdeenshire, then Fife and Ayrshire.  James Brown came to the United States, probably from Ayrshire in 1827 with his father John and mother Margret into Baltimore Harbor.
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    Roxanne Piche

    My family originates from Ballymena, and emigrated to Canada in 1880. My great grandfather was Alexander Brown, married to Margaret Stirling in Ballymena.
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    Anthony Barrett

    (Part 1 of 3) The Brown name has a long history in Ireland. The Brown story [dominated by DNA tribal marker R1b-L513, Subgroup B2] can trace their origins to the Finn Valley in Donegal, Ireland from 50 BCE. Perhaps the journey begins with the Clanna Dedad; Deda, son of Sen or Deda Mac Sin. The Brown surname origin is from Clan Birn from which will emerge surnames Bruen (Brown) [DNA Tribe R1b-L513, Subgroup B1] and relations who remain in Ireland take the modern surname (O’)Donnelly, McDonald, Donohue and Hughs from the larger Clan Domnaill in Ireland.
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    Anthony Barrett

    (Part 2 of 3) According to research, the Domnaill name is also found in Brittany, France. It is a very old name which appears in the 5th century Roman inscriptions as Dumnovellaunos in Brittany meaning “Deep Valour” equivalent to Irish Domhnaill. But how could this be? Recent discoveries from DNA testing are unlocking the migration patterns of Celtic tribes as late as 800 CE to 1200 CE. The Brown story begins in pre-history Ireland but relatives will then move to Wales where the family can be traced back to their Welsh tribe Cydifor Fawr. A descendant and many of his kin will then move to Brittany, France during the Dark Ages.
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    Anthony Barrett

    (Part 3 of 3) Discover their newly found untold story and how forgotten texts bring their story back to life. From the ebook, “The Tribe Within” learn how DNA unfolds this amazing tale and if you look in the right places, how history narrates this evidence. There is another written account of their story, but it is camouflaged in smoke and myth – it will become the tales of King Arthur. Come follow in the footsteps of Deda Mac Sin and visit https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/401207
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