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.
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.

Resources on

Goodwin/Godwin Ancestry

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
in East Anglia and Derbyshire.

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

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
family from Burlingham counted Daniel Goodwin the emigrant
to America among its later descendants.

At the time of the Civil
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

There were also Goodwins at that time in Suffolk villages such as East
Bergholt, Earl
, 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 1700’s.
In Bradwell in the Hope valley, it appears that the Goodwin name
initially Dudden or Doodin and only became Goodwin in the 18th century.  George Goodwinwho
married an
aristocratic young lady but with an unhappy outcome – was born there

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

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
, 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
, 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
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
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.

Goodwin Miscellany

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

Select Goodwin/Godwin Names

Godwin, 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
Oliver Cromwell.
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

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Manchester)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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