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The Bowles of Canada and their Roots in Ireland and Great Britain

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Norman Origins of the Bowles Surname

(for some of the Bowles in or from England)

Back to The Origins of the Bowles Name or The Norman Origin of the Bolles of Swineshead?

See also Middle English Origins of the Bowles Name

There were likely many independent origins for the different branches of Bowles, Boles, Boals, Bolds etc. living in England today and which have spread all over the world.  These are ancient lines so it's unlikely we will find records to prove many of their origins. DNA testing may eventually help us to sort out some of the major branches. 

I believe I can make a case for two Norman origins for some of the Bowles lines in England.

First: The de Boules: they likely arrived in England from Bouelles, Normandy when knights from there accompanied their lord Hugh de Gournay in William Prince of Normandy's conquest of England in 1066.  By the 1100's they had established themselves in Bedfordshire.   It's possible that they did not all develop from just those 2 or 3 knights who arrived in 1066.  Other family members from Bouelles may have arrived in 1204, the year that King John lost Normandy to King Philip of France.  Normans living in Normandy who were loyal to John had to abandon their land and settle in England to avoid having to swear loyalty to France.   There are so many references from the 1200's for de Boeles in Stratfordshire, Berkshire, Essex and Shropshire, that it's likely more of them did arrive from Normandy in 1204.  Notably at least three members of the family, brothers William and Hugh de Boeles and an Alda de Boeles, were prominent in the Royal Court.

Second: Ernold de Builli, the brother of Baron Roger de Busli, Lord of Tickhill, Yorkshire, had known descendants in Bedfordshire who became Bowles over the centuries and there are several indications of other descendants of his which unfortunately I have not been able to confirm.  There were also several de Buelles who served in the royal court who held land or left descendants where we find Bowles in later years but due to the passing of so many under-documented centuries their connection is only 'likely'.

Until recently the best documented case for a Norman root for the Bowles was thought to be as stated in the section on the Boyle family in 'The Norman People and their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States of America' by Henry S. King and Co. published in London in 1874 which is available online here. While it primarily refers to the Boyle ancestors it does quote several sources for Boels references.  See Boels References in 'The Norman People' and The Norman Origin of the Bolles of Swineshead, Lincolnshire for how that claim does not hold up under closer examination.

In ‘The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages, in three volumes’ (London 1889) Volume 1 The Duchess of Cleveland lists some very early Boels-like references. 

In her Preface she compares the various lists of names in the Battle Abbey Roll that had been recorded by five previous authors who examined the same original document.  The difficulty in transcribing 11th century Latin text is illustrated by the variety of names listed for the same entry.  Examining her lists we find that Holinshed’s transcription of the Roll lists a Boels while Duchesne’s lists a Bools. Her account of Leland’s Roll has nothing close other than a Bussy and a Buscel, but these are other known Norman families.  In Dive’s roll she lists a Roger de Bulli.  Lastly she adds 'NAMES ADDED TO THIS LIST BY M. DE MAGNY IN THE 'NOBILIAIRE DE NORMANDIE' in which there are no names which could be the ancestor of our Bowles.  Unfortunately their lists cannot be compared with the original roll as it no longer exists, it was possibly burned in the Great Fire of 1793.

Note for later reference that Holinshed, Duchesne and Dive all missed one prominent Norman knight who was included in Leland's Roll as Vipount and by de Magny as Guillain de Vieux-Pont.  This knight's Veteri-Ponte descendants will play a prominent roll in the early Bowles history.

The Duchess then borrows from the book The Norman People for her genealogical notes for many of the Norman families listed including this for the Boels:  

"Boels: from Boelles, or Buille, now La Buille, near Rouen. Osbert de Boel was of Lincoln, 1138 (Mon. ii. 326). Osbert de Boelles, 1165, held lands in Devon (Liber Niger): Lambert de Boelles in the Eastern Counties (Ibid). The family afterwards appears in Bedford, Warwick, Southants, Stafford, Rutland, and Salop. In the latter, William di Buels (descended from Helias de Buel, living temp. John) sold estates in 1290 to Robert Burnel, Bishop of Bath (Eyton, Salop). His son William and his family settled at Hereford, and hence sprung Ludovick Buel, or Boyle, of Hereford (Harl. MS. 1545), ancestor of the Earls of Cork, Burlington, Orrery, Shannon, and other great houses."—The Norman People.”

While she used these references to document her claim that these were the ancestors of the Bolles of Swineshead, a closer look at the references only provides several connections to Ernold de Builli or to the de Boelles and none at all to the Bolles of Swineshead.  See Boels References in 'The Norman People' for my comments on these references.

See also my summary of Possible Bowles Ancestor References in the Domesday Book of 1086

I believe I can make a good case for Ernold de Builli and The de Boelles as being the only demonstrable Norman ancestors of some of the current Bowles lines in England.

This site was last updated 12/22/19