Gould came from gold and was a nickname for someone with fair or golden hair. Shakespeare wrote:
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.
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. This occurred both in Britain and America. For instance, it was the Jewish Tommy Gould who received the Victoria Cross for gallantry in 1942.
Select Gould Resources on
- Dorchester and Goulds. Search - genealogy/books, Fire From Heaven.
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.
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.
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; 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). And Lyme Regis produced that distinguished Victorian ornithologist, John Gould.
One 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.
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 is 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. There were a number
of Goulds who arrived in New England 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.
Zaccheus Gould and his wife Phebe from Hertfordshire came in 1638 and
were the first settlers in
Topsfield. He followed his brother Jeremy and his wife who had
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 from this line were sea captains.
Three Gould brothers - Robert, Thomas, and John - arrived in Hull,
Massachusetts from Devon in 1664.
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
Goulds from New England headed westward. 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. And Edward Gould was homesteading in
Colorado in 1887 (the township of Gould is named after him).
However, it was
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.
New York today
has the largest number of Goulds in America. Nineteenth 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; 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.
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.
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 twentieth century.
Select Goulds Today
- 16,000 in the UK (most numerous in Wiltshire)
- 13,000 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 500 surnames.
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