Select Goodwin/Godwin Genealogy

Godwin is an Anglo Saxon personal name whose use pre-dated the Norman Conquest.  Its roots were the Old English god, "good," and wine, "friend," and meant "good friend."  There were many famous early Godwins, including Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and his son Harold who famously lost the Battle of Hastings.  Godwin was one of the few Anglo Saxon names which survived the latter influx of Norman names.

Godwin emerged as a surname in the late 1100's and 1200's.  W.G. Hoskins has recorded this transition in the village of Wigston Magna in Leicestershire.  Robert, son of Godwin, was living around 1210.  By 1250, the father's name Godwin became the surname of the family which lived in the village for seven generations until their property was sold by Joan Godwyne in 1351. 

Both Godwin and Goodwin developed as surnames.  This is not surprising - in an age without standardized spelling, both "god" and "good" were pronounced as "good."  Thus Earl Godwin gave his name to the dangerous sandbanks off the Kent coastline which came to be called the Goodwin Sands. 

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Select Goodwin/Godwin Ancestry

England.  Godwin was perhaps more used than Goodwin as a surname until the 17th century when Goodwin became the more usual spelling.  Thus James Godwin, born in Staffordshire in the 1630's, was recorded as Goodwin in Lichfield records when he died in 1709.  Goodwins outnumbered Godwins by four to one by the time of the 1891 census, with Godwins holding strong only in the west country.

The early Goodwins were in Buckinghamshire.  There were also Goodwins in East Anglia and Derbyshire.

Buckinghamshire  From small beginnings as peasant farmers in the Wooburn valley in Buckinghamshire, the Goodwin family was doing well enough by the mid-1400's that John Goodwin could pay to have a steeple erected at his local church.  By the mid-1500's they had secured the manor at Winchendon near Aylesbury and become local gentry.  They, like their near-neighbors the Hampdens, were staunchly Puritan in the years building up to the Civil War.  Arthur Goodwin who had raised a regiment of foot and horse died of camp fever during the conflict. 

East Anglia  Another Puritan stronghold with Goodwin connections was Norfolk.  The name Walter Godwin was to be found in the county's pipe rolls as early as 1177.  Jo Goodwyn was recorded as marrying in Loddon in 1479; William Goodwin was born a few years later at Blofield near Norwich; and a nearby family from Burlingham counted Daniel Goodwin the emigrant to America among its later descendants. 

At the time of the Civil War, Norfolk had two notable Puritan writers and preachers named Goodwin, one John Goodwin the greater theologian perhaps and the other Thomas Goodwin who was the more readable.

There were also Goodwins at that time in Suffolk villages such as East Bergholt, Earl Soham, Southwold, Troston and Yoxford, as well as in Essex and London. 

Derbyshire  Francis Goodwin was a prosperous woollen draper in Derby who died in 1660.  His son Samuel who died an old bachelor in 1712 donated his estate of Plumbley in Eckington to the local church. 

Other Derbyshire Goodwins were to be found in the Peak District.  Anthony Goodwin inherited from his wife a farm in Great Rocks Dale in the early 1700ís.  In Bradwell in the Hope valley, it appears that the Goodwin name was initially Dudden or Doodin and only became Goodwin in the 18th century.  George Goodwin - who married an aristocratic young lady but with an unhappy outcome - was born there around 1725.

Ireland.  Goodwin is also an Irish name, but probably an English implant.  The name cropped up in the Londonderry muster roll of 1630.  It was to be found mainly in county Fermanagh.  Many Goodwins left Ireland in the 19th century for America, Canada, or Australia.   

America.  There was a Puritan edge to these early Goodwin arrivals in New England:
  • William Goodwin and his brother Ozias from Essex on the Lion in 1632.
  • Christopher Goodwin to Charlestown, Massachusetts in the 1640's.
  • and Daniel Goodwin from East Anglia to Kittery, Maine also in the 1640's.
The elder William Goodwin is commemmorated as one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut.  The Hartford businessman J.J. Goodwin did a very extensive compilation of this family line in The Goodwins of Hartford, Conn. - Descendants of William and Ozias Goodwin, published in 1891. 

Christopher Goodwin was a mason, devoutly Puritan, as was his son John who became sadly embroiled in the witchcraft controversy.

"In 1688, four of his children, said to be possessed with a spirit of childish mischief, perplexed and befooled the Rev. Cotton Mather - which caused Mary Glover, the Goodwin's washerwoman, to be convicted of dealing with the devil and hanged."

Daniel Goodwin who settled in Kittery (now Berwick), Maine was the forebear of numerous Goodwins in Maine and, through Nathan Goodwin from the late 1700's, also in Nova Scotia.  The Ichabod Goodwins of this family date from the 1720's.  One of these Ichabods was in the 1850's a successful merchant and politician in Portsmouth and then a Governor of New Hampshire.  His house in Portsmouth, the Goodwin Mansion, has been preserved as a landmark.  John Noble Goodwin later served as the first Governor of Arizona territory.
William Goodwin was a later arrival in 1713 to New England, moving to Marblehead two years later to build the Second Congregational Church there.  These Goodwins have been a presence in the town through nine generations since that time.  Today the telephone book lists twenty Goodwin households in Marblehead.

Virginia and North Carolina  Both Goodwins and Godwins came to Virginia.  James Goodwin arrived from London in 1650 and was a tobacco planter in York county.  A branch of this family later moved onto Tennessee.  Godwin immigrants included:
  • Thomas Godwin, who arrived in the early 1650's and settled in Nansemond county (the Godwin name has continued in that county and includes Mills Godwin who became Governor of Virginia in the 1960's).
  • and Deveraux and Elizabeth Godwin, who arrived in 1653 and settled on Godwin's Island in Northampton county. 
Some of these Goodwins and Godwins were to be found in North Carolina and other points south by the 18th and 19th centuries.  Theophilus Goodwin, for instance, moved to Franklin county, North Carolina in the 1730's.  Theophilus, a story depicting the sod-bustin,' tobacco-croppin,' cotton-pickin' southern Goodwins, is a somewhat fictitous autobiography of Theophilus Goodwin and his descendants by Ron Goodwin.  These descendants spread south and west and are said to number more than 15,000 today.

Elsewhere  Silas Goodwin and his son Hartley were pioneer settlers in Port Angeles, Washington state.  Silas had arrived there from Maine in 1864 and then summoned his family.  They got there a year later after a nerve-wracking journey which had seen their ship wrecked off the coast of Panama.  Clara Goodwin, who died in 1944, was the last survivor of that epic voyage.

Canada.  Daniel Goodwin from the west country had fought with the British Army in Canada in the 1750's and stayed.  He settled in the Bay Verte area of New Brunswick.  He and his wife raised twelve children and his descendants are to be found all over Canada. 

Robert Goodwin arrived from Essex in 1781, as a surgeon for the Hudson Bay Company.  He was stationed in Fort Albany in the Far North where he met his native wife Mistagoosh.  He later became a trader and he and his family moved west.  But he died young in 1805, at the age of 45. 

Alexander Goodwin arrived in Ontario from Scotland in 1812.  Later immigrants came from England and Ireland.  Eli Goodwin, the grandson of immigrants there, was an early homesteader in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century.
Australia.   Andrew Goodwin and Lydia Munro were convicts on the First Fleet which arrived in Australia in 1788. They were married in Sydney in 1790 but were to spend the next eighteen years of their life on Norfolk Island before being relocated to Tasmania.  They had eleven children in total and their descendants number in the thousands. 

Other Goodwin convict arrivals were:
  • Amelia Goodwin who came as a convict eleven years later in 1799.  She and her partner James Rixon created local history by becoming the first parents of triplets in the new colony in 1806.  They too have nemerous descendants. 
  • and then there were the nine children and sixty three grandchildren of Ann Goodwin and George Colless.  Ann Goodwin had arrived as a convict on the Experiment in 1804.
A later arrival in 1831 was William Goodwin, the skipper of a convict ship.  He became a prominent and outspoken Tasmanian newspaper editor for the next thirty years. 

Another William Goodwin, this time from Ireland, arrived in 1841 and set off for the interior.  William drowned in the Numeralla river in 1850.  But his wife and sons lived on.  Henry, the youngest, died in Queensland in 1922 at the age of ninety seven.
Select Goodwin Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Goodwin/Godwin Names

, Earl of Wessex, was the kingmaker in England in the years prior to the Norman Conquest.  His son Harold was famously defeated by William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Thomas Goodwin was a Puritan theologian and preacher from Norfolk who served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell.
William Godwin was an English political philosopher at the time of the French Revolution who advocated egalitarianism and anarchy.  His daughter Mary married the poet Shelley and wrote Frankenstein.
Ichabod Goodwin was a 19th century New England merchant and financier and Governor of New Hampshire at the time of the Civil War.
Fred Goodwin presided over the Royal Bank of Scotland's rapid rise to world prominence between 2000 and 2008.  However, the bank spectacularly collapsed in 2008 and he became a symbol of the overweening corporate greed of the time.
Paul Goodwin from Warwickshire in England has been an accaimed oboist who progressed to conducting orchestras in the 1990's.

Select Goodwins/Godwins Today
  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous in Manchester)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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