Surname Saturday – Brown

 Meaning – Brown Name Meaning

English, Scottish, and Irish: Generally a nickname referring to the color of the hair or complexion, Middle English br(o)un, from Old English brun or Old French brun. As an American family name, it has absorbed numerous surnames from other languages with the same meaning.[i] The name is from an old adjective meaning ‘brown dark red,’ Old English and OHG. [ii] Read More About This Surname


Although only ranked #202 in the world, the surname Brown is ranked #2 in Scotland and Canada, #3 in Australia, and #4 in England and the United States. In the United States, it is surpassed only by Smith, Johnson, and Williams in frequency.[iii]

In the 1840s, the Brown families in the United States were in every state but concentrated in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.[iv]

My Brown Ancestors

#96 – My earliest known Brown ancestor is my 4th great-grandfather, Odel Brown. I know virtually nothing about Odel other than he was probably born about 1773, he married a woman named Jane and had at least two children, David and my 3rd great-grandfather, Barney Brown.

#48 – Barney/Daney Brown was born in New Hampshire about 1814. He married a woman named Mary probably about 1840.[v] Barney and Mary had at least four children, William Henry, Myron O., Alice C., and David V. Brown. Barney/Daney Brown seems to have vanished from the records after 1860 and before 1870, so I believe he died before 1 June 1870.

#24 William Henry Brown (he apparently went by Henry) was born in 1842 in Michigan. I speculate that he married Marion Sanford in 1866.[vi] They had 11 children that I know of.

  1. Arthur Durwood Brown
  2. Nettie May Brown
  3. Charles Dean Brown
  4. Mary Brown
  5. Almond Brown
  6. Gerome Clifford Brown
  7. William Henry Brown
  8. Clyde Hewett Brown
  9. Frederick Brown
  10. Ada Brown
  11. Edward Warberton Brown

William Henry Brown appears to have died between 1885 and 1900.

Arthur Durwood Brown

#12 Arthur Durwood Brown was born about 1864 in Michigan. He married Mary Elizabeth Manning in 1891. Arthur and Mary had twelve children:

  1. Clarence Arthur Brown
  2. Clyde Leroy Brown
  3. Victoria Cecelia Brown
  4. Martin Brown
  5. Cora Elsie Brown
  6. Richard Earl Brown (Aka Clifford Durand Brown)
  7. Dorothy Brown
  8. Edward Lewis Brown
  9. Arthur Eugene Brown
  10. Charles William Brown
  11. Delores Sarah Brown
  12. Nettie Mae Viola Brown

Arthur Durwood Brown died on 27 Aug 1928 in Walker, Minnesota.

Richard Earl Brown

#06 Richard Earl Brown was born 14 September 1903 as Clifford Durwood Brown. He had a daughter, my mother, with Madonna (Donna) Montran. He always wanted to marry Donna, but she said, “No.”

He changed his name to Richard Earl Durand and married Dorothy Amanda Wilhelm. Dick, as he was known, and Dorothy had two children. Living Durand and Mary Lou Durand. He married Cecelia Ann Squires in 1975.

Richard Earl Brown died 19 January 1990.

My Direct Brown Ancestors

  • #96 – Odel Brown (c. 1796-?)
  • #48 – Barney/Daney Brown (c.1814-c.1860)
  • #24 – William Henry Brown (1842-c.1895)
  • #12 – Arthur Durwood Brown (1864-1928)
  • #6 – Richard Earl Brown (aka Clifford Durwood Brown, aka Richard Earl Durand) (1903-1990)
  • #3 – My mother – (Living)
  • #1 – Me – Generation

My known Brown relatives.

My records have 248 direct-line descendants of Barney/Daney Brown identified over nine generations, which is about 5% of my known Brown/Montran family tree. Looking at the Browns another way, I have 144 individuals with the surname of Brown in my Brown/Montran family tree, the most of any surname.


[i]; Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press via

[ii] Web: Forebears –

[iii] Web: Wikipedia – List of most common surnames in North America

[iv]; From the 1840 US Federal Census Date –

[v] William Henry Brown was born in 1842 and is believed to be the first child of Barney and Mary Brown. Assuming they did marry, that would estimate they married about 1840.

[vi]   Marian’s first child was born in 1867 when she was 20. I guesstimate she and Henry were married about a year earlier when she was 19.

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Bio – Barney Brown (c. 1813-c 1865)


By – Don Taylor

Barney/Daney Brown is my third great-grandfather on my mother’s paternal line. I have not found much Barney or his life. In fact, I have only found him in two census records, which is barely enough to prove even his existence. But, this is what I think I know.

c. 1813 – Born in New Hampshire.
c. 1840 – Married Mary C. (Unknown).
c. 1842 – Son, William Henry born in Michigan.
c. 1845 – Son, Myron O. born in Michigan.
    1850 – Lived near Seline, Washtenaw County, Michigan
c. 1852 – Daughter, Alice C. born in Michigan.
c. 1855 – Don, David V. born in Michigan.
    1860 – Lived near Seline, Washtenaw County, Michigan
c. 1865 – Died (Probably near Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan


According to the 1850 and the 1860 Censuses, Barney was 36 and 46 years-old respectively which indicates he was born in 1813 or 1814. Both censuses show that he was born in New Hampshire. Several other researchers suggest that his father was Odell Brown, and his mother’s name was Jane, however, I have not managed to confirm those names. Also, some researchers indicate that he had a brother, David, who was born about 1810.

In the 1850 Census he is named Barney; in the 1860 Census, he is called Daney. This name change leads to some confusion, which is why I call him Barney/Daney. When I find additional documentation, I will correct the name as appropriate.

I know nothing of his childhood, other than he apparently had an older brother.

I have been unsuccessful finding Barney in the 1840 Census. It is likely he was living with his family in New Hampshire, Michigan, or somewhere in between. The 1840 Census only names the heads of households, so if Barney/Daney was living with his father or another person, the 26-year-old would not be listed.

He appears to have left New Hampshire and located in Michigan sometime before 1842 because his oldest son was born in Michigan.

He appears to have married Mary C. (Unknown) about 1840. This marriage is based solely on my knowing his oldest known son, William Henry Brown, being born in 1842. It is not clear if he married Mary C. before he located to Michigan after he settled in Saline, Michigan, or elsewhere.

Barney/Daney and Jane appear to have had four children.[1]

They are:

William Henry Brown (1842-?)
Myron O. Brown (1845-?)
Alice C. Brown (1852-?)
David V. Brown (1855)

In 1850, Barney was living with his wife, Mary, and two children, William Henry and Myron O. Brown in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan as a farmer[2].

In 1860, Barney was living with his wife, Mary, and four children, Henry W., Myron O., Alice C., and David V. Brown in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan as a farmer.[3] Living with the Browns was a Melvina Miller, age 17 who was a domestic and also attended school.[4]

I have been unsuccessful finding Barney in the 1870 Census. I did find his wife in the 1870 census living as a widow with Henry & Ann Davidson in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. Because of that, I believe that Barney/Daney died sometime between 1860 and 1870.

I have been unsuccessful finding Barney’s burial location.

Further Actions:

Determine Barney/Daney’s preferred name, also the date and place of his birth.
Determine Barney/Daney’s date and place of death.
Determine Barney/Daney’s location during the 1820, 1830, and 1840 Censuses.
Follow the other children through the censuses.
Confirm that Odell and Jane Brown were his parents.
Determine Barney/Daney’s wife maiden name.

List of Greats

Arthur Durwood Brown
William Henry Brown
Barney/Daney Brown
Odell Brown?????


[1] The 1860 Census, Population Schedule, does not include family relationships. Consequently, identifying the relationships as parents/children from those records is speculative. William H and Myron O lived with Barney & Mary during the 1850 Census. “Henry W.” and the other children lived with Daney & Mary during the 1860 Census.
[2] 1850 Census; Barney Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Family Search;
[3] 1860 Census; Daney (Barney) Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Family Search; Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Family 644;
[4] Ibid.
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William Henry Brown’s parents were not who most researchers indicate they were.

When a conflict arises regarding an individual’s parents, it is important for me to reset all my assumptions and start afresh. Such is the case with one my more frustrating areas of research, the Browns of Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. In a previous post, Henry Brown (c. 1843-c. 1888), I mentioned was not convinced that the Henry Brown that married Marion Sanford was the child of Benjamin Brown as most researchers have found.
In my continuing Brown research, my next research subject was going to be William Henry Brown’s father.  I began researching Benjamin Brown. I did a thorough look at his facts and determined that although Benjamin Brown did have a son named Henry, this Henry could not be the Henry Brown who married Marion Sanford, had 11+ children (Including my great-grandfather, Arthur Durwood Brown), and located to Dakota Territory about 1883.
To recap, I am certain of the information regarding William Henry Brown back to the 1870 Census. I then found William Henry Brown in the 1860 and 1850 Censuses always in Saline, Michigan.   
Henry Brown, son of Barney & Mary C. Brown
Est Birth Yr.
Dakota Territory
1885 Census[i] – W. H. Brown with wife Marion, and 11 children (Including Arthur).
Dakota Territory
Youngest son, Edward, born in Dakota Territory.
Saline, Michigan
Youngest daughter, Adia born in Michigan.
Saline, Michigan
1880 Census[ii] – Henry Brown (Age 37) with wife Marian & 8 children including Arthur
Saline, Michigan
1870 Census[iii] – Henry Brown (Age 25) with wife Marion & 2 children including Arthur.
Saline, Michigan
1860 Census[iv] – Henry W Brown, (Age 17) in the household of Daney & Mary C. Brown with three siblings including Myron O Brown.
Saline, Michigan
1850 Census[v] – William H Brown, (Age 8) in the household of Barney & Mary C Brown with 1 sibling, Myron O. Brown.
Saline, Michigan
(* Red indicates an outlier.)
Although William Henry Brown usually went by Henry, 1885, 1860, and 1850 Censuses, taken together, indicate why I believe his name to be William Henry Brown.
As I mentioned, many researchers have Henry Brown the son of Benjamin Brown and Eliza Fowler as the Henry who married Marion Sanford, etc. Following that Henry Brown, we see him in the 1850 and 1860 Census with Benj & Eliza, but in the 1870 Census, we find in living with William Brown (an apparent brother).
Henry Brown, Son of Benjamin & Eliza Fowler Brown
Est Birth Yr.
Vernon, Mich.
1850 Census[vi] – Henry Brown, (Age 7) in the household with Benj. & Eliza Brown. Including William Brown (Age 10)
Vernon, Mich.
1860 Census[vii] – Henry Brown, (Age 16) in the household with Benjamin & Eliza Brown.
Vernon, Mich.
1870 Census[viii] – Henry Brown, (Age 28) living with William Brown (age 30)
Clearly the [William] Henry Brown, who married Marion Sanford, and was the father of Arthur Durwood Brown, cannot be the same person as Henry Brown of Vernon.
I was pretty sure I needed to make this correction two years ago when I last looked at William Henry Brown’s life. Now, after reanalyzing the information I am certain.
In my research and records, I have corrected William Henry Brown’s parents to be Barney (Daney) and Mary C. Brown. I’ve also corrected my Brown/Montran Tree on appropriately.


[i] 1885 Census Index – Dakota Territory; W. H. Brown – Census Records: page 44-018; NDSU Archives;
[ii] 1880 Census; Henry Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, ED 237, Page 21, Line 50;
[iii] 1870 Census; Henry Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Page 17, Line 18, Family 115;
[iv] 1860 Census; Daney (Barney) Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Line 34, Family 643; Family Search;
[v] 1850 Census; Barney Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, citing family 185; Family Search;
[vi] 1850 Census; Benjamin Brown – Michigan, Shiawassee, Vernon, (Image 14 of 16) Lines 29-38; Family Search;
[vii] 1860 Census; Benjamin Brown – Michigan, Shiawassee, Vernon Township, Page 55, Line 11; Family Search;
[viii] 1870 Census;;  Census Place: Vernon, Shiawassee, Michigan; Roll: M593_704; Page: 459A; Image: 512; Family History Library Film: 552203
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