The subject of how surnames are adopted and how they change over the centuries is a large one. Although surnames had been used in ancient Rome and China, in Europe, most people were referred to by their first name until the 12th century. Generally, as populations grew, surnames were adopted to distinguish people of the same name. Common sources of this distinction are from their father (eg Johnson, the son of John), their trade (eg John the Tailor), the place they are from (eg Richard of the Hill) or personal distinctions (eg Peter the Short). Since few people could read and write, surnames were often passed on verbally and changed over time, only becoming more fixed as general education improved.
The use of the name Bowdler has been documented back to the 15th century and comes from Shropshire, England. The surname along with the names of the villages of Ashford Bowdler and Hope Bowdler had changed over time with phonetic variations, for example Boulers, Bollers, Bullers, Boulers, Boudlere and Boudlers. In historic texts it is generally accepted that Bowdler came from the de Boulers family who are associated with Shropshire and the lordship of Montgomery.
The first member of that family in England was one Baldwin de Boulers. Baldwin was from Boelare, Flanders and was son of Stephen, Baron of Boelare. He came to England in 1105 when he was granted the Lordship of Montgomery by Henry I King of England in marriage with Sybil de Falaise