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

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

Select Gould Resources on

Gould Ancestry

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.

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. 

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
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 1720’s. 
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
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
    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
  • 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
    in Rhode Island because of the greater religious toleration
    there.  Their Quaker son Daniel Gould
    and his descendants were farmers there for generations. 

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.
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
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
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
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
area, and his grand-daughter Georgia, the US mountain bike champion in

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

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
    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
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
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)



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