Gore Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Gore Surname Meaning

The place-name Gore, found at an early date in Kent and Wiltshire, was the origin of the surname Gore. The word itself derived from the Old English gara meaning a “triangular piece of land,” itself a derivative of gar meaning “spear” and describing the triangular shape of the spearhead.

Gore Surname Resources on The Internet

Gore Surname Ancestry

  • from England
  • to Ireland (Ulster), America, Canada and Australia

England.  Early records of the surname were Alan atte Gore in Essex in 1273 and William de Gora in Wiltshire in 1274.  The surname was particularly well recorded in the church registers of Wiltshire and Kent from the mid-16th century onwards.

Wiltshire.  The Gare place-name was to be found in Wiltshire in the Domesday Book and Gore Cross near West Lavington dates from early times.

The Gores of Alderton in northern Wiltshire first made their appearance with William Gore around the year 1330, with a later William Gore acquiring the manor of Alderton in 1382.  The antiquarian Thomas Gore, a descendant of this line, wrote their family history in 1666.

Gores in the Wiltshire village of Broughton Gifford can be traced back to the clothier Nicholas Gore who died in 1623 and they were probably there at an even earlier date.  Gores were bakers and mattress-makers in Victorian times and the line there continued into the 20th century.

The Gore family of London and Ireland has been traced back to Wiltshire.  It was John Gore who made the move from Wiltshire to London in the mid-1500’s.  His son Gerard prospered as a merchant and was made an alderman of the city. His grandson John prospered even more, was knighted, and was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1624:

  • he was the forebear in England through his son William of the Gore-Langtons in Somerset.  They became in 1890 through maternal connections the Earls Temple of Stowe.
  • he was also the forebear through his son Paul of the mighty Anglo-Irish Gore family.  In 1602 Paul Gore, forsaking commerce for arms, had departed for Ireland as a captain of a troop of horse.

Kent.  The place-name Gore Court near Maidstone dates from the 1500’s or possibly earlier.

But the Gores in Kent were mainly to be found around Thanet in the northeast of the county.  David Gore’s 2006 book On Kentish Chalk: A Farming Family of the North Downs recounted the history of one Gore family, beginning with Thomas Gore and Ann Jeffrey who were married in Canterbury in 1641.  Another family line in Kent began with the marriage of John and Mary Gore at St. Nicholas-at-Wade on the Isle of Thanet in 1675.

Lancashire.  The largest number of Gores in the 1881 census was surprisingly in Lancashire, and here clustered around the port of Liverpool.

The early spelling in Liverpool and the surrounding area may well have been Goore. The first sighting of the name was at Lydiate near Ormskirk:

  • Gore House Farm in Lydiate was a brick built house with low mullioned windows and a plaque stating that it was built in 1596.
  • John Goore of Lydiate, on his death in 1669, left a charity for the poor people of the town. The charity has continued to this day.

Charles Goore was a Liverpool merchant who was active in the Virginia tobacco trades from the 1740’s onwards. His Letter Book at the time of the Revolutionary War (which ruined his business) has been published.

The Gore name became well-known in Liverpool through Gore’s Directory of LiverpoolThis had been begun by John Gore in 1766 and continued under his authorship until 1803 and that of his son Johnson Gore until 1832.  In that year Johnson Gore retired from business, heart-broken at the loss of his only son, and soon died.

Ireland.  In 1602 Paul Gore had arrived in Ireland as captain of a troop of horse.  There he married a niece of the Strafford family and in 1622 was made a baronet at Manor Gore in Donegal.  The main lines from him went as follows:

  • the senior line, that at Manor Gore, passed to his eldest son Ralph.  A later Sir Ralph Gore served as Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer in 1733.  They were ennobled as the Earls of Ross in 1770.  However, the direct male line died out in 1802.
  • the next in line, Arthur, in 1662 became a baronet at Newtown in Mayo.  His great grandson and namesake was elevated to the peerage as the Earl of Arran in 1762.  They built Belleek castle in 1830 and were large landowners in county Mayo during the 19th century.  Another line, the Ormsby-Gores in the early 1800’s, became Baron Harlech.

A younger son Francis did not become a baronet in his lifetime; but his descendant, Booth Gore of Artarman in Sligo, did in 1760.  This line became known as the Gore-Booth baronets.  They made their home at Lissadell House.  This was a house of much splendor before its decline after World War One. Two books – Dermot James’s 2004 book The Gore-Booths of Lissadell and Sonja Tiernan’s 2012 book Eva Gore-Booth – traced this family’s history.  

America.  There was a Thomas Gore, gentleman, reported among the early Jamestown settlers in 1607.  But he probably died the same year.  The three early Gore arrivals with lines of descents were:

  • John Gore and his family who came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1638
  • another John Gore who came to Middlesex county, Virginia in 1653.
  • and James Gore who came to Frederick county, Maryland around 1677.

Massachusetts.  John Gore arrived with his family in Roxbury, Massachusetts, from Southampton it is thought, in 1638. He was the town clerk for many years, as was his son John.  Their homestead in Roxbury was inhabited by Gores until 1876.  His descendants have been covered in two books:

  • in 1943 The John Gore Family by Mary Ferris
  • and in 1975 A Brief Genealogy of the Gore Family by William Whitmore.

One line of these Gores became Boston merchants.  They were divided by the Revolutionary War.  John Gore was a Loyalist who departed Boston in 1776; while his son Christopher remained.  He prospered in business and was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1809 and later became its Senator.  He died in 1834, leaving no children.  But his palatial Gore Place estate at Waltham survives and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

A line from John Gore went through Pennsylvania and Illinois in the 19th century to Meridian, Idaho where Wilbert (Bill) Gore was born in 1912.  He worked for DuPont before founding the Gore-Tex clothing company in 1958.

Virginia.   John Goare or Gore came to Middlesex county, Virginia in 1653.  His descendant Henry Gore, a farmer, moved to Shenandoah county in the 1770’s.  One line via his first wife Margaret led through John Gore to Tennessee where, after the Revolutionary War, he was granted land in Overton county. His line led to the later Gore politicians of Tennessee:

  • Albert Gore Sr, born in rural Tennessee, who became its Senator in 1952 and held the post until 1971.
  • and his son Al Gore, who followed in his father’s footsteps as Senator in 1984 and was US Vice President under Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

Other lines via his second wife Anna were to be found primarily in Missouri, Iowa, and Oklahoma.  

Maryland.  Another early Gore line began with James Gore, possibly from Ireland, who married Mary Burke in Frederick county, Maryland in 1695.  Later Gores from this line were to be found in South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi.  Notable among them were:

  • Thomas Gore, born in Mississippi, who was the US Senator for Oklahoma from 1907 to 1921 and from 1931 to 1937, despite the disability of being blind.
  • and his grandson the writer Gore Vidal through his daughter Nina Gore.

Canada.  Gores in Canada had an Irish taint to them.  Francis Gore, descended from the Gore baronets in Ireland, was a rather incompetent Governor of Upper Canada (Ontario) in the 1810’s, more interested in balls than governing.

Later, Thomas Gore from the same ancestry arrived in Gore’s Landing (as it became called) in Rice Lake, Ontario in 1844.  He died there fourteen years later at the age of thirty-eight.  His son William, a land surveyor, moved west to British Columbia in 1875; while his grandson Thomas was an architect who designed, built and owned the renowned Hotel Geneve in Mexico City.

Australia and New Zealand.  William Gore arrived from Ireland in 1806 to fill the post of Provost Marshal of New South Wales.  But he was subject to ongoing problems of debt and penal confinement throughout most of his forty years in the colony.

Other Gores from Ireland departed for Australia after the death of their father, an Anglican clergyman, in 1841.  These Gores had a more successful time.  One son William became the rector of All Saints church in Parramatta; while other Gores of the family travelled to the Darling Downs in Queensland and established a sheep ranch in an area that became known as Yandilla.  In 1988 a cairn was unveiled there in commemoration of this family.

An English Gore family came to Melbourne from Liverpool in late 1852. After trying the life of a Victorian gold-miner for a few months, James joined his father Hugh in Melbourne where they prospered in the building trade.  However, news of a gold strike in New Zealand drew them to Dunedin on South Island in 1861.  James had some gold success.  But it was the building trade that again supported the family.

Gore Surname Miscellany

Thomas Gore of Alderton in Wiltshire.  Thomas Gore was an amateur herald and genealogist of the 17th century, well-known to his readers in Wiltshire then and in later years. He was great friends for many years with the writer John Aubrey, although they fell out later.  He wrote Family Register, a pedigree of his Wiltshire Alderton family, in 1666.

He was by nature a very precise and accurate person.  However, he could carry his accuracy to such an extent as to become ludicrously formal in trifling matters.  The original name of his parish was Aldrington, corrupted into Alderton. So tenacious was he in the old spelling that he would always use Aldrington in his correspondence, or sometimes Aldrington alias Alderton.

The highlight of his life was his appointment to the office of High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1680.  He wrote an elaborate account of his setting forth from his own door at Aldrington alias Alderton, his ride to Salisbury Assizes, and the journey back. He died at Alderton in 1684 and was buried at the church there.  His monument can be found against the north wall of the chancel.

Reader Feedback – Gores at Broughton Gifford in Wiltshire.  My maiden surname was Gore.  I am from the Gores of Newbury in Berkshire. I understand that we are descended from Oliver Gore who was born in 1650 at Broughton Gifford in Wiltshire. I cannot find out who his father was. Does anyone out there have a connection for me?

Beryl Rau (berylrau@yahoo.com)

Gores in Kent.  The 1881 census for the Gore name in Kent showed a heavy preponderance of the name in the northeast of the county and particularly in the Isle of Thanet, where for centuries the name has been common, and westward along the coast.

Location Numbers Percent
Thanet (Margate, Ramsgate)    88    32
Blean (Herne Bay, Whitstable)    49    18
Elsewhere   141    50
Total   278   100

Paul Gore’s Subterfuge.  In 1603 Paul Gore was chosen to escort two defeated Irish chieftains to their place of surrender at Athlone.  Having successfully delivered the chieftains there, he was granted lands in the northwest of Ireland by the new King James I.

Five years later he was asked to occupy Tory Island, then controlled by Irish forces. His plan was a sinister one.  He orchestrated a quarrel amongst the two main Irish forces on the island.   When the battle was over Gore slaughtered the victors.

Gore was created a baronet in 1622.  He resided in Ireland and built the castle of Ardtermon on the shores of Drumcliff Bay in Sligo, just two miles from where Lissadell House (built in the 1830’s) now stands.

John Gore’s Directory of Liverpool.  John Gore, born in 1734, was an ambitious young bookseller from his store near the Exchange in Liverpool. With the help of his friend Joseph Johnson, a Liverpool man working in the publishing business in London, he started up a newspaper Gore’s Advertiser in late 1765.  Known later as Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser, it continued in publication until 1871.

The year 1766 saw the publication of the first ever directory of Liverpool by Gore. Gore’s Directory contained an alphabetical list of the merchants, tradesmen and principal inhabitants of the town of Liverpool, with their respective addresses. This directory spread to 48 pages, gave 1,134 names, and cost sixpence.

It was interesting that the 1766 directory contained two Goores and four Gores:

  • Charles Goore, merchant, Old Churchyard
  • Richard Goore, landwaiter, Covent Garden
  • John Gore, bookseller and stationer, Dale Street
  • John Gore, cooper, Prince’s Street
  • Silvester Gore, staymaker, Bixteth Street
  • William Gore, barber and peruke maker, Water Street.

Charles Goore was the Liverpool merchant active in the Virginia tobacco trades.

Gore’s Directory was published on a somewhat irregular schedule during John Gore’s lifetime.  After John died in 1803 his son Johnson Gore took over the directory and it began to appear biennially.  The last Gore’s Directory was published in 1921.

John Gore is remembered today in Liverpool by Gore Street.

Reader Feedback – Gores from Westminster/Kensington in London.  I have been tracing my family who originate in London. I noticed how many Gores there are in Lancashire in the old censuses, including the 1841 census.  I think I have found my family in Westminster/Kensington in London, but I have noticed a lot of the Lancashire ones are individual men (I have been looking for a James Gore), about 20 or 25 years old.  I am wondering if they were the products of the John Goore of Lydiate legacy in Lancashire you mentioned.

Samantha Gore (samanthagore@greenbee.net)

The Travails of William Gore.  William Gore was born in Ireland in 1765 but spent most of life in Australia.  He lived to the good old age of eighty.  But his life was a struggle the whole way through.

His home in Ireland had been Ardthelmon castle near Raghly harbor in county Sligo.  During the Irish uprising in 1798 both he and his wife were imprisoned by rebels. Perhaps tired of this life he accepted, upon the recommendation of the Earl of Harrington, the post of Provost Marshal in New South Wales in 1805.

He arrived at the colony with Governor Bligh the following year.  He actively supported Bligh during the Rum Rebellion and was with Bligh when he was arrested.  In 1808 Gore was charged with perjury by the rebel court and sentenced to transportation at the penal colony of Newcastle.

He was restored to office by Macquarie in 1810.  However, eight years later he was imprisoned for debt and suspended from his office.  Macquarie reported that Gore was not only in jail and thus unable to attend to his duties, but also that there had been continuous complaints to the courts of the tardy, oppressive, inefficient and dishonest manner in which his official business had for some time been conducted.

In 1824 Gore was charged in Sydney with willfully shooting at and wounding a soldier of the 48th Regiment. His defense that he had shot at the soldier to prevent him from stealing had not been believed and he was found guilty and sentenced to transportation to Newcastle for life.   He was, however, pardoned the following year.

Thereafter he lived quietly at his home at Artarmon (named after his family home in Ireland) in the Sydney outskirts. However, money troubles pursued him and he was declared insolvent in 1843.  He died two years later.  For some years his body, together with those of his wife and daughter, remained unburied.  Their coffins lay under palings at his Artarmon property.

Thomas Gore the Blind Senator.  Thomas Gore, born in Mississippi, was elected as one of the first two US Senators for Oklahoma in 1907.  He was to hold that office until 1921 and then was to return as the Senator from 1931 to 1937.

He managed this long tenure of office despite the disability of being blind.  This had come about through a childhood accident with a cross-bow which had resulted in the loss of his right eye.  His left eye had been impaired through a prior injury and he became totally blind by the age of twenty.

His blindness could create problems at times during his political life. For instance, once during a filibuster Gore did not realize that the Senator who was to take over speaking for him had left the room; and the filibuster failed because he did not continue to speak.

Some of Gore’s colleagues in the Senate would attempt to take advantage of Gore’s blindness by tricking him into signing documents that it was not in his party’s interest for him to sign.  He was famous for turning the tables on these sharp dealers and tricking them into signing documents that they did not intend to sign. These exploits made him popular with the press, who dubbed him “the Blind Cowboy.”

The National Cyclopedia of American Biography laid out his lineage as follows:

“Senator Thomas Gore was a son of Thomas Madison Gore and Caroline Elizabeth Wingo, a grandson of Ezekiel Fletcher Gore and Mary Green, a great-grandson of Thomas T. Gore and Nancy Sanders, and a great-great-grandson of James Gore, who came from Ireland about 1775 and settled in Frederick County, Maryland.”

According to his grandson Gore Vidal, Thomas Gore was “the first and, I believe, the last senator from an oil state to die without a fortune.”

Albert Gore and Armand Hammer.  Albert Gore Sr. came from a farm background in rural Tennessee. When he first ran for the US Senate in 1952 it was said that “the twang of Smith County was still in his voice and the steel of hard work was still in his muscles.”

He had little money as a freshman Senator in Washington.  But he soon made the acquaintance of the businessman Armand Hammer, a man with a less than savory habit of buying politicians for influence.

According to Bob Zelnick’s 1999 book Gore: A Political Life, Hammer made Gore a partner in a cattle-breeding business, from which the Senator made a substantial profit.  Thereafter Gore was Hammer’s designated door-opener in Washington. When Gore retired, Hammer made him president of Occidental’s coal division, where he earned more than $500,000 a year.  Through the Hammer connection, Gore got the wealth to enable him to live in splendor in Washington’s Fairfax Hotel.

Reader Feedback – New Zealand Gores.  I am a New Zealand Gore, descended from William James Gore (1872-1934).  William was the son of William James Carpenter Gore and Emma Jane King Gore.  I am not sure if the parents were married though.  Emma died in 1883.

I am not sure who looked after William, but in 1888 his cousins came from New Zealand (having emigrated in 1874) to collect him and bring him back to be raised by his aunt.  Interestingly, at the time of death, Emma’s husband was listed as Thomas, the brother of William’s father and father of the cousins who had collected William.

Denise Gore (DGore@ait.ac.nz)

Gore Names

  • Sir Paul Gore was in the early 1600’s the forefather of the Anglo-Irish Gore family in Ireland.
  • Christopher Gore served as both Governor and Senator for Massachusetts in the early 1800’s. 
  • Thomas Gore was the blind Senator for Oklahoma for twenty of the thirty years between 1907 and 1937.  His grandson was the writer Gore Vidal. 
  • Bill Gore founded in 1958 the company that was to become globally known for its waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex fabrics. 
  • Al Gore was the US Vice President in 1992 and 1996 and Presidential hopeful in 2000 (until the Florida result).

Gore Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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