A common surname that comes from English origins is that of Brown. Furthermore, this surname has become so popular in virtually all English-speaking nations and in the United States alone it is considered to be the 5th most common and ties evenly with that of the surname of Jones.
The use of the surname of Brown can be dated back to the Old English name of Brūn which is also related to that of the Norse Brūnn. Coincidentally, the French Brun comes from the Old English. In many cases, the use of this surname is associated with persons who either had brown eyes, brown hair or those who made it a habit of wearing brown colored clothes. Due to the Germanic tribes in the earlier history of England, there is also the possibility that the name can be a shortened version of either Brunwine or Brungar.
Today not only is the surname of Brown popular in the United States and England, but it is also very common in Ireland. Norman Knights had settled in Ireland during the 12th century and the Gaelicised as de Brún has been there ever since.
A derivative of the surname has been used as a personal name since the 10th century. The name Bruno can be associated with both Italian as well as German Saints and the off spring of the Dukes of Saxony was also known by the personal name of Bruno.
Brown also plays an important role in Scottish history. The Clan Brown or as it is also spelled, Broun has been in Scotland for many centuries already. Their clan motto can be loosely translated to let majesty flourish.
There are a number of variations of the surname as well which can be found throughout Germany, Britain, France and the United States which includes Browne, Broun, Braun, Bruen, Bruun, Bruan, Bruene as well as Brohn. Furthermore, following the American Civil War, as the slaves were granted their freedom, many of them took the last name of Brown. This was done for a number of reasons that included due to their skin color, the commonness of the name as well as an honor to John Brown who was a famous abolitionist at the time.
This name is so common that a number of famous people as well as fictional persons have made use of it. This can be seen in the very popular Peanuts cartoons that were developed by Charles Shultz in which the main character was Charlie Brown. You also have James Brown which was the Godfather of Souls and Clarence Brown who became a blues legend in Texas. The famous survivor of the infamous Titanic sinking was Margaret Tobin Brown of which the popular musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown as well as the son of the same name was based on her.
H.Rap Brown was known for his work in the American Civil Rights Movement while Gerald Brown was known as a famous whistleblower. Oliver Brown was the plaintiff in the 1954 supreme court case Brown Vs. Board of Education in which the segregation of schools was deemed illegal. Olympia Brown played a pivotal role in the American Women’s Sufferae Movement.
In Ireland, Bob Brown is known for his comic book drawings and Christy Brown was known for her painting and poetry. Capability Brown was known for English Landscaping while John Brown was a famous English architect. You also have Ford Maddox Brown as Well as John George Brown who were both English born painters.
Of course due to the popularity of the surname you are bound to have those who were made famous for acts that no one would be proud of. Examples of these can include David P. Brown who was made famous after he kidnapped and sexually assaulted a child. On the American FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, one will find a mister Jason Derek Brown who is a suspected murderer. In 1997 John A. Brown Jr. was sentenced and summarily executed in the Louisiana Prisons for the murder of an Omer Laughlin while at the same time you also have John Ronald Brown who performed a number of sex-change operations without a medical license.
But do not feel all down and out because there were a few bad apples in the bunch because you always have people like Harold P. Brown who invented the electric chair that was most likely used in John A Brown Jr.’s death sentence. Of course you cannot forget that Herbert C. Brown won a Nobel Prize for his work in the field of chemistry. Howard J. Brown was known for his work in the ay rights movement. You have several John Browns from Scotland who were both doctors with one being a physician and the other an orthodontist.
In the popular J. R. R. Tolken series, the Browns were the surname of one of the hobbit families in the work. Doctor Emmett Brown was known for his crazy antics in the designing of the flux capacitor which made his DeLorean time machine work and allowed himself and Michael J. Fox to go “Back to the Future”.
Let’s face it, there are many famous Browns. So famous in fact that you will find that the Brown College in Minnesota is a popular institute of higher learning which is only topped by the famous Brown University in Rhode Island. Matter of fact, there are several Brown Colleges in the United States which includes an annex of the University of Virginia as well as the Rice University.
Of course to make things even more exciting, one can find a Brown county in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas as well as in Wisconsin. There is also a number of townships throughout the nation which are known as Brown Township. Ohio has the most of them with a Brown Township in Carroll, Darke, Delaware, Franklin, Knox, Miami, Paulding as well as Vinton counties.
Who knows, you may find out that somewhere in your lineage you are related to a Nobel Prize winner, a murderer, or even the founder of a college or U.S. county and all that you need to do is to research and find those missing connections.
Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: None
Updated On: 04/04/2009