Gold Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Gold Surname Meaning

Gold is normally thought of as a Jewish surname, either by itself or in ornamental names such as Goldberg and Goldstein.  Sometimes in America Gold became a less Jewish-looking Gould.

There was an early English surname Gold derived from the personal name Golda or Golde.  It meant “golden” and was generally given to someone with bright golden hair.  This Gold surname ended up being spelt Gould as both names were pronounced the same at that time.

Gold as a surname is also found in Russia, Egypt and West Africa.

Gold Surname Resources on The Internet

Gold Surname Ancestry

  • from Western England and from Jewish emigrants
  • to England and America

England.  The early presence of the name was in the west of England.

Somerset and Devon.  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.  They have also been traced to Devon, Dorset, and later to Hertfordshire. A line continued to early immigrants to America.  In Devon, Adam Golde who died in 1395 served as the MP for Exeter in 1390.  He was followed by his son Roger.  However, by 1500 the Gold spelling had tended to become Gould in both Somerset and Devon.

Elsewhere.  A later Gold sighting was in Birmingham, rapidly emerging as a growing industrial town in the late 1700’s.  John Gold, born there in 1779, was a merchant.  His grandson Charles moved to Essex, became the MP for Saffron Walden in 1895, and was knighted.  Cyril Gold, another descendant, became a Mormon and departed for Salt Lake City.

Jewish Golds.  The 1881 census showed a growing number of Golds in London, mainly in its East End, as Jews began arriving.  Moses Gold, for instance, had arrived in Bethnal Green from Poland around 1877 and was working in the clothing business.  His son Hiemy emigrated to Canada in 1905 but later returned.

The London numbers later included Charlie and Minnie Gold.  Their son Jacob, better known as Jack, was born in 1930 and became a well-respected film and TV director in the 1970’s.

Godfrey Gold, known as Goldy, got involved in London gangland crime in the 1930’s and served time in prison.  His son David started the publishing business which introduced sex magazines to the British high street; while his grand-daughter Jacqueline expanded the small Ann Summers retail chain of lingerie and sexy clothes into a multi-million pound business.  Both died in 2023 – David in January and Jacqueline two months later in March.

America.  The English did bring the Gold surname to America.

Early Golds.  Nathan Gold from Suffolk came to Fairfield, Connecticut around 1643, having altered his name spelling from Gould to Gold.  He was a member of the Connecticut Colonial Council from 1651 until his death in 1694.   In one line the family spelling reverted to Gould, many of whom were sea captains.  The last of the male line here was Captain John Gould who died in 1871.

In another, via the Rev. Hezekiah Gold, they made their home in Cornwall, Connecticut.  This line produced two remarkable individuals:

  • Egbert H. Gold, born in Cornwall in 1868, who invented the first cast-iron radiator for railroad cars.  He started to produce them from his factory in Evanston, Illinois in 1901.
  • and his daughter Mary Jayne Gold, born in Evanston in 1909. who inherited enough wealth from her father to travel around Europe in style in the 1930’s.  But the outbreak of war saw her stranded in France as the Germans invaded.  She chose to remain and spent a year sheltering refugees and organizing their escape via freighters or across the mountains into Spain.

A second early Gold arrival was Richard Gold from Devon.  He came to Virginia and was first recorded at Mecklenburg in 1648.  Later Golds migrated to North Carolina around the year 1800.  Pleasant Gold, born there in 1833, was a prominent Baptist leader in the state for over half a century.  In 1867 he co-founded the Baptist newspaper Zion’s Landmark and served as its editor until 1920.

Jewish Golds.  Two early Jewish arrivals from Poland were Louis and Mary Gold.  They had come to New York before the Civil War and then headed west to Santa Fe where they were pioneer settlers.

Louis started Gold’s Old C’rosity Shop, a famous showplace of Indian and Mexican curios in its day.  His eldest son Aaron who had fought in the Civil War ran a general store, but died young at thirty-nine in 1884.  A younger son Abe then took over his father’s shop.

Jacob Gold immigrated to Pittsburgh from Poland in the 1890’s.  After peddling for several years, he started his Gold Real Estate Company in 1901, advertising in local Yiddish newspapers.  The fourth generation of these Golds joined the business in the late 1980’s.

Many Golds came to Brooklyn.  There were Paul and Rose Gold whose son Bill, born in 1921, became famous for his film poster designs; and Hyman and Tillie Gold, arrivals in the 1920’s, who achieved more local fame with their Gold’s Horseradish.  Often the name in New York became Gould, not Gold.  Well-known Goulds from New York have been Milton Gould the trial attorney, Stephen Jay Gould the popular science writer, and Elliott Gould the actor.

Golds in Los Angeles have included:

  • Ernest Gold, an Austrian-born composer who arrived there in 1940 and won an Academy Award in 1960 for his score to the movie Exodus.
  • and Dave Gold, the son of Russian immigrant parents in Cleveland who moved there in 1945.  Dave later founded the hugely successful 99 Cents Only chain of stores.

Gold Surname Miscellany

John Golde and Seaborough.  The story and registers of the little parish church of St. John’s in Seaborough have been transcribed into a 160-page book by Peter Benson, a local resident and one-time churchwarden. A church building has stood on the site in one form or another since 1415.

The donor of the land was a descendant of John Golde, the crusader.  The church contains a rare early stone effigy of a 13th century crusader which is believed to be John Golde.  The register records date from 1562 (although most Goulds had left the area by then).

Isaac Gold, Murder on the Brighton Line.  It was June 27, 1881 – the height of summer – and Isaac Gold, an elderly dealer in coins, had been visiting his shop in south London.  There his manager paid him more than thirty-eight pounds and he called at his bank.  After that he headed to London Bridge station for the journey to his home on the South Coast. Nothing untoward, nothing unusual.

The train reached Preston Park station just short of its final destination of Brighton. One of the passengers to alight from the train then attracted the attention of the ticket collector.  Horrifying to the ticket inspectors’ eye, the man had a lot of blood on his face and his clothes. With no hat or collar or tie, the man looked dishevelled indeed. Strangely the inspector noticed a gold chain trailing out of the man’s shoe.

The man stammered: “I’ve been robbed! When the train went through the tunnel back there, some men in the compartment set on me and beat me. Knocked me out, clean cold they did. When we came out of the tunnel they had disappeared, I swear to God.”

The police were called in, but they didn’t really believe his story.  The man was not much hurt.  When they searched him they found two most interesting coins, Hanoverian coins in fact. The man said he knew nothing about the coins.

A telegram was sent from Brighton to London and the police began a search of the tracks further up the line. And they discovered a body lying beside the track near the Balcombe tunnel, looking very like he has been murdered. Shot and stabbed as well by the look of things.  The murdered man was Isaac Gold.

However, during this time the man on the train – identified as Percy Lefroy Mapleton – had slipped from the police’s grasp.  After some desperate police searching he was caught a week later, tried, and hanged in November 1881.

Before he died Mapleton confessed:  “I was so short of money I went to the station in London to rob someone.  I ended up following Gold. The old fool wouldn’t give up his money. He made me kill him. I would never have done that if he hadn’t put up a fight.”

The Rev. Hezekiah Gold in Cornwall, Connecticut.  Theodore Gold published his Historical Records of the Town of Cornwall, Connecticut in 1904. He wrote about the first Gold minister there as follows:

“The Rev. Hezekiah Gold was a native of Stratford, a  grandson of  Governor Nathan Gold  and a son  of  the  Rev. Hezekiah Gold  of  Stratford.    His father, who was an evangelical pastor of the First Congregational church of Stratford, advocated the cause of religious revival.  His  son,  who  became  the  minister of  this  town,  was  educated  at  Yale  College  where  he  graduated in 1751.

He possessed a superior mind, having talents  comprehensive and  penetrating  by  which  he  easily  obtained  a  thorough knowledge  of  human  nature;  and  of  course  being able  to  acquire  much influence  with  those  he  associated.

Until unhappy dissensions took place in the latter part of his ministry, Mr. Gold’s influence among the people and families of his charge was almost unbounded. In every concern, private and public, civil, military, and domestic, the advice and opinion of Mr. Gold was esteemed as highly important. During the former and greater part of his ministerial labors a very large assembly gathered at the house of God on the Sabbath.”

The Gold Family History: Eleven Generations from Moravia to Pennsylvania.  His initial question was: “How did a large group of ethnic Germans come to live among the Slavic Czechs in Moravia?”

David Gold’s 2014 book The Gold Family History: Eleven Generations from Moravia to Pennsylvania traced the history of his family from their modest beginnings in the 1600’s in Moravia, in present-day Czech Republic, to their arrival in America.

The book covered their travails though of the Thirty Years War and their time in shackles for their religious beliefs. It continued to the community of Herrnhut and across the ocean on the ship Irene.  Upon their arrival in the United States, the family resided in the Pennsylvania Moravian community of Bethlehem and were members of the “Great Wedding.”

The Death of Aaron Gold.  Aaron Gold, a Santa Fe pioneer, died in 1884 when he was only thirty-nine.  He was survived by five of his six children by his wife Phoebe.  His wife Phoebe tried for years to obtain a Civil War widow’s pension, but was denied due to Aaron serving one day short of the ninety days required for a pension.

The Santa Fe New Mexican Review reported on May 5, 1884:

“Moses Aaron Gold breathed his last at 6 pm on Saturday evening after a long and painful illness. He was one of Santa Fe’s oldest citizens and leaves many friends with his large family and his brothers, Jake and Abe Gold, to mourn his death.  His family are left in comfortable circumstances and besides will secure $5,000 for which the deceased held a policy on his life. He was 40 years of age.”

Three years earlier, The Santa Fe Weekly Democrat had this to say about his businesses in Santa Fe:

“His various and lucrative business establishments in this city are all indicative of the spirit, enterprise and solidity of the proprietor. The general merchandise store is replete with everything that is needed in the way of groceries, provisions, etc. to make one enjoy life, and the liberal manner in which it is patronized attests to the fact of his always looking after the best interests of his customers.

Next in order comes his Indian curiosity establishment. Here can be seen some of the most curious specimens of Indian ingenuity to be found on this continent. During the visit of the Presidential party, Mrs. Hayes paid this place a visit and was highly pleased by what she saw.”

Gold’s Horseradish in Brooklyn.  Hyman and Tillie Gold were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Romania who had tried their hand in a business selling and repairing radios in Brooklyn, but unsuccessfully.  Then a cousin suggested horseradish.

Horseradish is a staple of the Passover Seder because it has come to represent maror, the bitter herbs which symbolize the suffering of the Jewish slaves in Egypt. The Golds were gambling on one thing: that the predominantly Jewish families in the area would prefer for someone else to do the crying over making their horseradish sauce for the Seder.

In the 1930’s, with the Great Depression starting, they began peeling its pungent roots at their kitchen table, filling bottles of prepared horseradish by hand, and labeling them with homemade labels and paste made from flour and water.  As word of Gold’s Horseradish spread, Hyman employed his three sons – Morris, Manny, and Herbert – to deliver the bottles on their bicycles around Brooklyn and via the train. 

Their bet paid off.  Four generations of Golds would end up working for the business.  Gold’s remained family-run until 2015 when it was sold to LaSalle Capital, a Chicago-based investment firm.  Gold’s Horseradish continues to be produced, but no longer in Brooklyn. 

David Gold and his London East End Father Goldy.  David Gold was born in Stepney in 1936 and brought up in East London near the football ground of West Ham United (where he was later to become the part owner of the club). 

His father Godfrey was an East End petty criminal, known locally as Goldy, who spent time in prison during David Gold’s early years. 

He has told the story of how Goldy was once the getaway driver for a gang that had hauled a barge off the Thames and up the Greenwich Creek.  There they intended to unload £75,000 worth of copper ingots, in the days when £75,000 could buy a whole streetful of houses. 

Unfortunately for him and the gang but happily for the police, Goldy got a little too cosy sitting in the cab of his lorry and fell asleep. He was caught not so much red-handed as bleary-eyed.

Gold Names

  • John Golde from Somerset who was granted the manor of Seaborough in 1229 is thought to have been the progenitor of many of the Gold and Gould families in the west country.  
  • Bill Gold from Brooklyn became famous for his film poster designs over a 70 year career which began in the 1940’s.
  • Joe Gold, the founder of Gold’s Gym and World Gym, is considered by many as the father of the bodybuilding and fitness craze.
  • David Gold from London’s East End ran a publishing business which introduced sex magazines to the British high street.  His daughter Jacqueline Gold expanded the Ann Summers retail chain of lingerie and sexy clothes into a multi-million pound business.

Gold Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 13,000 in America (most numerous in New York).
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Gold and Like Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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