The last name Brown is one of the most common family names, or surnames, in the world. In the United States, Brown ranks fourth among last names and is the most common last name among African Americans. Furthermore, in England, it is the fifth most common family name, and in Australia, it ranks sixth. We will delve into the long history of the Brown family name, explore some interesting facts about it, and note some of the most famous people who share this last name.
The Brown Family Name: Meaning and History
The Brown family name dates back to the Middle Ages. It stems from the Old English word “Broun,” which means “brown.” Brown is a descriptive surname since it describes the physical characteristics of the family. Historians suggest that the name identified someone with either brown hair or eyes or someone with a dark complexion.
In 1185, the name “Le Brun” appeared in Normandy in some of the earliest records. The descendants of the “Le Brun” clan held a county seat in that region. The name also frequently appeared in the Domesday Book, which is one of the earliest records of land ownership in England. Like many names originating in the Middle Ages, several spellings exist in these records. Medieval writers spelled words phonetically, without any set spelling rules. This led to a variety of spelling variations of common last names.
In the Middle Ages, families and clans used mottos as war cries and displayed them on their coats of arms. The Brown family adopted “Floreat majestas” as their motto, meaning “Let majesty flourish.” Royalty in England and Scotland frequently used the surname Brown, as suggested by the family motto.
Records indicate that many people with this family name migrated to Ireland. In Ireland, the name also has its roots in the Gaelic word “donn,” another word for the color brown. In the 17th century, records reveal people named Brown began immigrating to America. The earliest records reveal that a number of Browns arrived in Salem and Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1630. Furthermore, during the 1700s, England sent many convicts to Australia, including a significant number of individuals with the last name Brown.
Variations of the Brown Family Name
With such a long history, the Brown family name appears around the world and has many spelling variations. You may come across some of these variations during your research. These variations are why it is important to keep an open mind and consider alternative spellings of your last name whenever you have a research block.
The name Brown has many variations across different countries. In France, it is often spelled as “Le Brun,” whereas in Ireland, it is “de Brún.” In Denmark, you may come across “Bruun.” Meanwhile, in Dutch, you find two common variations: “de Bruijn” and “Debruijn.” In Spain, the last name Brown appears as “Moreno” or “Pardo.” Finally, in Italy, the Brown family name is “Marrone.”
Here is a list of other common variations of the Brown family name.
Genealogy Resources for the Brown Family Name
Researching common last names like Brown poses special challenges. Despite the abundance of information available online, you may feel overwhelmed. You may even find online research counterproductive. The best approach to genealogy research is to gather as much information as possible about your family.
Begin by interviewing relatives and researching the information they provide. Look for historical records that support this family history, and make backup copies of any significant records you find. Don't forget to check historical societies and libraries, as not all genealogy records are available online.
Once you have a solid base of information, consider sharing it online to help other researchers. Additionally, DNA testing can be a valuable tool for genealogy research and has become more accessible in recent years through DNA websites. Here are some online resources to help you research the Brown family name.
- Ancestry – The Ancestry website has approximately forty-two million records relating to the Brown family name, including family trees, immigration records, and census lists.
- The Brown DNA Study – This DNA study includes over 463 tested members from 242 different Brown, Browne, and Braun families.
- Brown Family Genealogy Forum – This genealogy forum also has separate links for the Braun and Browne family names.
- FamilySearch – FamilySearch offers free genealogy resources and currently has 37,999,952 records for the Brown surname.
Facts About the Brown Family Name
Here are some interesting facts about the Brown family name.
- According to Forebears, approximately 2,599,112 have the Brown last name.
- Out of every 100,000 Americans, there are approximately 1.94 individuals with the last name Brown.
- 23andMe reports that British and Irish DNA is most commonly found in individuals with Brown family ancestry, representing 49.6% of users. French & German ancestry comes in at a close second with 21.3%, followed by Nigerian ancestry, which accounts for 4.9%.
- African-Americans adopted the Brown last name in honor of abolitionist John Brown, making it their most common surname, according to historians.
- Most people named Brown in the United States live in Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia.
- Out of every 100,000 Mississippi residents, 6.44 have the last name Brown, making it the most common surname in the state.
- People with the last name Brown in the US register as Republicans at a rate of 56.21%, which exceeds the national average of 46.77%.
- In the United States, people named Brown earn an average annual income of $40,421, which is 6.32% less than the national average.
- People in the Brown family identify as belonging to different Christian denominations around the world. In Ireland, it's mostly Catholic (36%); in Russia, it's Orthodox (68%); in Kenya and Nigeria, it's Christian (98%); in Lebanon, it's Evangelical (55%); and in Ukraine, it's Orthodox (76%).
- Charlie Brown, the main character of the Peanuts cartoons created by Charles Schultz, is a beloved and endearing fictional character.
Famous People With the Brown Family Name
Many people with this last name have gone on to great success in life. Here are some of the most notable people named Brown in history.
- Alton Brown – This American television personality hosted the Food Network shows “Good Eats” and “Good Eats: The Return.” He also appeared as a commentator on “Chef America” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
- Bobby Brown – One of the pioneers of a style of R&B called “New Jack Swing,” Bobby Brown hit the charts with “Every Little Step” and “Don't Be Cruel.” He was also Whitney Houston's husband.
- Chris Brown – Chris Brown is an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. His contemporaries refer to him as the “King of R&B.”
- Dan Brown – Dan Brown is an author famous for his novels “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons.”
- Gordon Brown – This British politician served as the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 2007 to 2010.
- James Brown – Brown, a famous American musician, is best known for the hits “The Payback” and “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag.”
- Melanie Janine Brown – Better known as “Mel B,” she is an English singer who rose to fame as “Scary Spice” in the Spice Girls.
- Millie Bobby Brown – This English actress shot to fame after portraying Eleven in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
- Molly Brown – One of the most well-known survivors of the Titanic disaster, Molly Brown, was the inspiration for the play and movie “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
- Zac Brown – He is the lead singer and guitarist of the band, Zac Brown Band.
The Brown family name has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. As with many old family names, there are various versions of this surname as it spread throughout the world. Brown has been a common name in several countries for centuries, so it is crucial to begin researching your family's legacy with a good set of family stories and documents. Once you have them, you can begin your search to discover your family's place in the history of this large and notable family.
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