Select Gould Surname Genealogy

Gould came from gold and was a nickname for someone with fair or golden hair.  Shakespeare wrote:

"Golden lads and lasses all must
Consign to thee and come to dust."

It is said that in the time of Shakespeare "gold" was pronounced "gould," which would give one indication as to why the spelling changed.  However, one "Gould" family in Staffordshire was pronounced "Gold."  So there could have been local dialect variations.

Is Gould Jewish?  Some think the Gould name may be Jewish in origin.  It is not.  Gould is a prominent Jewish name because Jewish names like Goldberg and Goldstein were anglicized to Gould.  That occurred both in America and Britain.  For instance, it was the Jewish Tommy Gould who received the Victoria Cross for gallantry in 1942.  

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England.  The Goulds were mainly to be found in the west country, in a line from Somerset and Dorset in the south going north to Staffordshire.  Was this because fair-haired people were unusual for the dark-haired Britons of the region?  The surname Gould and its early variants probably developed as a nickname.  It would not generally denote someone of rank or importance.

Somerset  John Golde was a soldier from Somerset who stood in for a Norman knight in a Crusade to the Holy Land.  He distinguished himself at the siege of Damietta and, as a reward, was granted an estate at Seaborough in 1229.  His descendants remained there until the 1500's and then have been traced to Devon, Dorset, and later to Hertfordshire.  A line continued to early immigrants to New England.

Another Gould family in Somerset traces its roots back to the village of Brewham, near Bruton. 

However, the most prominent of the Somerset Goulds was the family of Sir Henry Gould, a judge on the King's Bench who lived at Sharpham Park near Glastonbury.  His grandson, the Rev. William Gould, was of a scientific nature, a naturalist whose work on ants earned him the title of "the father of British myrmecology."  Another grandson from his daughter Sarah was Henry Fielding.  It was she who encouraged him in his literary pursuits which resulted in his comic masterpiece, Tom Jones.

Dorset  Goulds were to be found at Dorchester in Dorset from the 1500's.  Some left with the Pilgrims; others remained:
  • John Gould, a local merchant, established his home at West Stafford in the 1630's.  It remained in the Gould family until 1831.
  • James Gould was the MP in the 1690's
  • and Samuel Gould a bookseller and stationer in the 1750's. 
Some of these Dorset merchants made it in London; Nathaniel Gould who played a role in the formation of the Bank of England in 1694, and Edward Gould, another successful merchant who lived and died in Highgate.  In 1902, Harry and Florence Gould opened a draper's shop in Dorchester, which flourishes today in the town as Goulds.

There was also a Gould family at Studland in Dorset.  Hikers will come across Jenny Gould's Gate (local legend has it that Jenny was a witch). 
The Goulds of Woodbury Hill were carpenters and builders for several generations, beginning in the 1720ís.  And Lyme Regis produced that distinguished Victorian ornithologist, John Gould.

Staffordshire  A cluster of Goulds were to be found further north in Staffordshire and its environs.  Goulds were tenant farmers in the upper Dovedale area of the Peak District on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border.  We remember them because William Gould kept a diary between 1783 and 1788 of his estate management for the Duke of Devonshire (which was handed down and later published). 

Joseph Gould farmed at Pilsbury Grange in the early 1800's and Goulds were still farming there a century or so later.  The Gould family of Hanson Grange in Dove Dale produced Nathaniel Gould, a tea merchant in Manchester, and Nat Gould, a writer of popular sporting and adventure stories in the early 1900's.  Nat was buried in the village of Bradbourne.  

Ireland.  The Irish spelling has been Goold, traceable to William Goold (possibly of Anglo-Norman origin), the mayor of Cork in 1443.  They remained there for generations, with some interruptions, as landowners and merchants, in latter years from a base at Old Court. 

However, the line fell away disastrously in the late 1800's.  The elder son, James, ran away to Australia to escape his identity, working in laboring jobs there for the rest of his life.  The younger son, Vere Goold, ended up being tried and convicted in a sensational murder case.

America.  Most Goulds from England came to New England.

New England  There were a number of Goulds who arrived there in the 1630's:

  • John and Grace Gould came on the Defence in 1635.  Grace died soon after, but John, who settled in Charlestown, married twice more and raised five children.
  • Jarvis Gould arrived from Kent on the Elizabeth in the same year.  One line of these Goulds moved north to Kittery in Maine, another to Vermont and later to Ohio. 
  • while Zaccheus Gould and his wife Phebe from Hertfordshire came in 1638 and were the first settlers in Topsfield.  He then followed his brother Jeremy and his wife who had settled in Rhode Island because of the greater religious toleration there.  Their Quaker son Daniel Gould and his descendants were farmers there for generations. 
Nathan Gould came to Fairfield, Connecticut in 1646 and was a member of the Connecticut Colonial Council from 1651 until his death in 1694.   Later Goulds of this line were sea captains.  Captain John Gould owned a fleet of schooners that plied trade between New York and Richmond, Virginia for about forty years from 1826.  The last of the male line was another Captain John Gould who died in 1871.

Maine  The Rev. Daniel Gould from Cape Cod was one of the early settlers in Bethel, Maine.  He was described as "of a rather worldly disposition, bringing the first chaise to Bethel, and wearing cocked hat, silk gown, and knee breeches around town."  When he died in 1842, he left his entire estate for the formation of a local school on the proviso that it be named after him.  Since the town of Bethel lacked a public high school, all local children were educated at the Gould Academy until 1969.

Heading West  Many later Goulds from New England headed west.  John Gould, who grew up in New Hampshire, set off for Moline in Illniois in the 1840's where he formed a business partnership with John Deere (later the famous plow manufacturer).  John himself became a stalwart of Moline through his various business and civic enterprises 

Daniel Gould set off in 1857 for Davenport in Iowa where he established a carpet and furniture business. Edward Gould was homesteading in Colorado in 1887 (the township of Gould is named after him).  And Hiram Gould arrived via Minnesota and San Francisco at the new town of San Diego in 1883.  The Gould numbers there expanded as the town expanded and they are now in their fifth generation of San Diego Goulds.

However, it was Jay Gould, from Roxbury in New York, who was to have the biggest impact on the West.  In his early life he travelled the country as a surveyor.  His interest later shifted to railroads and he became one of the big wheeler-dealers of the railroad expansion west and, in the process, amassed a huge fortune.

His daughter Anna was a celebrity of her day, probably best known for her marriages and divorces.  The line via his son George led to Kingdon Gould Jr, a noted real estate developer in the Baltimore area, and his grand-daughter Georgia, the US mountain bike champion in 2012.

Goulds in New York  New York today has the largest number of Goulds in America.  19th century Goulds included the New York merchant and financier, Charles Judson Gould. 

The numbers swelled with the Jewish immigration, Goldsteins and Goldbergs anglicizing their names to Gould.  Prominent this century have been:

  • Milton Gould, a famous New York trial attorney
  • Nathan Gould of the Jewish ORT foundation for women
  • Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science
  • Morton Gould, the distinguished classical musical composer
  • Elliott Gould, a well-known Hollywood actor
  • and Carol Gould, the playwright, filmmaker, and journalist.
Canada.  The early Gould immigrants into Canada seem to have been Empire loyalists who left America after the Revolutionary War:
  • One family account refers to a John Gould from Staten Island in New York who joined the Butler's Rangers and ended up being exiled to Nova Scotia. 
  • Another exile from America at that time was a Quaker Gould family from Pennsylvania.  They settled in Uxbridge township, Ontario.  Their son Joseph was a farmer and businessman who later became a prominent political figure in the province.

There were Jewish Gould families in Canada, such as the Goulds of Gould's Camera and Art shop in Ottawa (founded by Abraham Gould who had arrived from Lithuania in the 1890's).  Thomas Gold, a furrier in Toronto at the turn of the century, insisted that he was not Jewish and changed his name to Gould.  His grandson, the pianist Glenn Gould, was born in Toronto in 1932.

Australia.  William Gould was a forger and thief sentenced to transportation to the penal colony of Tasmania in 1827.  His convict time there was littered with offences for drunkenness and thievery.  But Gould had a talent as a painter and illustrator.  He painted exquisite water color pictures of the local game, fish, birds, and flowers during his captivity, many of which now hang in the nation's art galleries.  Gould's Book of Fish is Richard' Flanagan's fictionalized account of his life.

The Victorian ornithologist John Gould visited Australia in the 1830's and published his Birds of Australia over the next decade.  The Gould League, founded in Australia in 1909, probably gave many Australians their first introduction to birds.

New Zealand.  George Gould, a carpenter in England, arrived in Christchurch in 1850 to become a pioneer merchant and financier there.  His company Pyne Gould remains family-run.  One of his descendants, George Gould, now has his own investment arm, Gould Holdings.

Select Gould Miscellany

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

Select Gould Names

John Gould from Dorset was one of the great Victorian ornithologists.  His best-known work was The Birds of Australia, published in 1840-48.
Jay Gould was a 19th century American financier, often vilified as a robber baron, involved in railroad development and speculation.
F.C. Gould, born in Somerset, became in 1888 the first political cartoonist to be employed by a daily newspaper.
Nat Gould was a hugely popular writer of sporting and adventure stories in the 1910's and 1920's.  He came from Derbyshire farming stock.
Glenn Gould
from Canada was one of the best-known and most celebrated pianists of the 20th century.

Select Goulds Today
  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous in Wiltshire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York).
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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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