Godson Family History
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Stuart Waiton, formerly Godson, wrote a book published in 2001, called ‘Scared of the Kids’, based on his experiences as a youth worker [Chart YE21], and Dean Godson, left, [Chart JE1] is writing a biography of David Trimble entitled ‘Himself Alone’. John Godson of Lichfield, who sent me this article about Dean from the Mail on Sunday, 6 Oct 2002, tells me that his cousin, Adam Barry Godson married Nicole Louise Rendell on 27 April 2002 at St Mary’s RC Church, Middlewich, Cheshire. [Chart YE8]
This year Ian and I celebrated our Silver Wedding (Ian Dodd to Celia Joan Godson, at Rushmere St Andrew, Ipswich, Suffolk on 30 July 1977), and my parents celebrated their Golden Wedding (Harold Frederick Godson to Wendy Joyce Brewer at Old Catton, Norwich, Norfolk on 21 August 1952) [Chart YE16]. We had an enjoyable joint party on 10 August, and it was an occasion when various members of our Godson family could get together.
Gilbert Godson Godson and Alice Maud Knott Burchell
In Newsletter 15, I wrote about Godson Godson and his son, Gilbert Godson Godson [Chart BD5]. Sometimes a hyphen appears and he is recorded as Gilbert Godson-Godson. Gilbert was born in south London in 1872, and, like my great-uncle Frederick Hubert, served in the Boer War (with the Natal Guides) and the First World War. I discovered a photograph of him when surfing the web! The Canadian Military Police Corps web page explains that Colonel Gilbert Godson Godson DSO DCM was appointed as the first Provost Marshal of the Canadian Military Police Corps.
Gilbert married Alice Maud Knott Burchell, and he must have met her when he was in South Africa in the 1890s, before the Boer War began. I have been in touch with Pat Frykberg in New Zealand, who is Alice’s great-niece. She sent me this account of how Alice and her family came to be in South Africa:
‘The William Allerston family left for Natal in the "Henry Tanner" from Yorkshire in 1850. They had to leave behind a daughter, Ann, because the shipping authorities allowed only four children under the age of ten to travel. This was because of the horrendous death toll of young children in these immigrant ships. Ann, born 23 December 1840 and baptised the next day, appeared to be a fragile child, and although 3 others under ten went to Natal, Ann stayed with her grandparents, Ann and Francis Allerston in Bridlington, until at the tender age of 18 she became pregnant to an apprentice baker, Richard Gray Knott. They were married on 24 September 1859 and their son William, my grandfather, was born on 30 November.
They then with this baby followed her parents to Natal in the "Leila" arriving on 14 March 1861, and in Pietermaritzburg Richard set up a very profitable bakery and confectionery shop. The couple had 4 more children but Richard himself died in 1871. This left a young widow and Pietermaritzburg must have been interested when she gave birth to a daughter in 1875, baptised in St Saviour's church as Alice Maud Burchell Knott. Francis George Burchell, who came originally from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, was a well-known racehorse owner and trainer. One record says he was a widower when he married Ann by special licence on 17 September 1878. Another says he was a bachelor. I suspect he had an ailing wife who died in the meantime, but I have no record of that. Ann and George had three more children, Hetty, Fanny and Frank, the last-born in 1882. He became a well-known Professor of Law, as did his son and grandson. The family is still an esteemed one in Pietermaritzburg, and I have been in touch. Ann is buried in the Burchell plot, Commercial Road Cemetery. He died 18 November 1887, aged 47. My granddad, William, a boy of 16 when his mother had Alice, joined the Mounted Police as a trumpeter. I don't wonder he became ever so straight-laced and proper!’
The Office of National Statistics has released some statistics about surnames in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man from data held by the National Health Service. The ONS have supplied a list of the surnames for which they have five or more records, held by 55,918,842 individuals, with surnames ranked down as far as equal 230,412th! There are 850 people registered with the surname Godson, also 7 with Godson-Amamoo, and 5 with Coker-Godson. Godson ranks at 7511 – I presume that Smith is number one! (Incidentally, there are 2166 Goodsons registered in England and Wales; Goodson ranks at 3434.)
Another way of trying to estimate how many Godsons there are nowadays is from the Electoral Roll figures. A member of the Guild of One-Name Studies has kindly extracted all the Godsons (aged 18 and over) for me from UK Info Disk, and, although I haven’t studied the information properly yet, I know that there are 720 Godsons (including a few double-barreled ones).
There are various sources giving lists of adult Godsons in the United States. They can include individuals more than once, and even those who have died, so it is difficult to get a precise figure, but I would guess there could be around 200.
The first article in this newsletter shows that there were 545 Godsons in the 1881 census in England and Wales. This is an approximate number because there are few errors where people are listed with the wrong surname. The 1901 census index has 730 Godsons. Apparently the index was created in India where labour is cheaper, and many mistakes have crept in. I suspect that as many as 90 of them should not be Godsons. Perhaps an equal number of Godsons have been entered with the wrong surname, but it is not easy to work out who is missing from the list!
Susannah Godson, née Courtoy (1807-1895)
This autumn I have been exchanging emails with Judy Jerkins in Australia. Her research is absolutely fascinating, and is linked to the branch of the Brailes Godson family who lived at Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire and 14 Rutland Gate, Hyde Park, London.
The story begins with Nicholas Jacquinet, who was born in France in 1729. Around 1766 he changed his name to John Courtoy, then made a fortune somehow from the aristocracy during the French Revolution, and, coming to London, became a British citizen in 1799. John Courtoy was a merchant, and probably traded with the West Indies. (One of his executors had links with Antigua.) He appears to have had three separate families with three different mistresses!
The first mistress was Marianne, who had a son, William Courtoy, baptised as John Joseph William Masserat Courtoy at St Marylebone, London in 1777, and another son, George Courtoy. William (who is Judy Jerkin’s 3xgreat-grandfather) and George grew up and worked in the Navy offices, George in the Pay Office, and William as an Army and Navy Agent. William emigrated to Australia and changed his name to William Jerkins (an anglicised version of the original Jacquinet).
Next John Courtoy met Mary Ann Woolley, and she had two children who were also baptised at St Marylebone. Judy thinks John Jnr, born 1787, must have died young, but John Snr stayed on good terms with Mary Ann and his daughter Louisa Ann, who was born in 1784.
Finally John took another mistress called Hannah Peters. She had a father and brother who were both called John Peters, but Judy hasn’t been able to find out more about her origins.
Hannah lived in Hanover Square, and, as you will see, is as amazing in death as she was in life! Hannah had three daughters called Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Susannah Courtoy. John was now in his 70s, which is perhaps not too old to produce children, but there are rumours that Hannah was a Royal Mistress, so goodness knows who is the real father of each daughter!
It was when wealthy John Courtoy died around 1815 that the troubles started. He died intestate supposedly, but somehow a will was found. Judy reckons it might have been a forgery, and that Hannah paid £300 to the man who wrote her the will. A French woman, who claimed that her mother was John’s half-sister, thought she had a good legal claim to the fortune, as John had never been officially married. But in the will that was produced it was Hannah Peters that got the booty, Mary Ann Woolley got her home and some money to live on, and Judy’s ancestor and his brother received relatively little. Hannah inherited cash, diamonds, plate, china, linen etc, but not her home in Bromley, which, after her death, was sold with the money going towards St George’s Hospital to treat poor Huguenots.
Plague or cholera swept through London from 1848 until 1852, and Hannah died in 1848. A very special crypt was built for her in Brompton Cemetery, and her daughters Elizabeth and Mary Ann are buried there also. The 150-year-old mausoleum is a strange imposing structure, carved with elaborate Egyptian figures. Strangely it is the only mausoleum for which plans do not exist, and writer Howard Webster has been investigating it. He has a theory that it was created by a Samuel Warner (who also invented the torpedo and died in suspicious circumstances). Warner and his likely collaborator, Joseph Bonomi, an eminent architect and Egyptologist, are buried nearby. Hannah Peters’ mausoleum is of dark polished granite, decorated with narrow bands of hieroglyphics, with a huge bronze door. There is no surviving key, so it has not been opened for 120 years.
The belief that ancient Egyptians had uncovered the secret of time travel was widespread in Victorian times. A spokesman for Brompton Cemetery suggests that Warner was an ingenious hoaxer, who managed to dupe Hannah and her daughters into believing he could build them a time machine!
In Newsletter No 11, I wrote about Richard Godson QC MP, who found his way into a popular historical novel called ‘The Weaver’s Dream’. He defended carpet weavers following the strike and riots in Kidderminster around 1830. His father was William Godson, a solicitor, who had moved from Brailes in Warwickshire to Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire. [Chart BC3].
Judy believes it was Richard Godson’s chambers that dealt with John Courtoy’s will in the 1820s, and that Richard realised that Hannah’s daughters were going to become very rich. Whether this was due to a conspiracy or not remains to be seen! Richard himself was married, but his younger brother, Septimus Holmes Godson, was still a bachelor! So in 1830 Septimus married Susannah Courtoy, and became wealthy. Susannah’s two sisters never married, so Susannah may have gained their share of John Courtoy’s fortune when they died. There was a million pounds in the trust fund when it was divided between the surviving children of Septimus and Susannah Godson.
I have been able to put Judy in touch with the present-day Godson descendants. Raymond Godson is a trustee of a fund set up to maintain the mausoleum in Brompton Cemetery. The family has papers going back to the time of John Courtoy, so more of the story may yet be uncovered. Raymond’s uncle, Capt Edwin Alfred Godson, a barrister, was interested in Godson family history – I visited him in 1976 (when I was still Celia Godson), and copied much of his research.
A few weeks ago Judy arranged for two Courtoy descendants (one of whom was American) to visit Hannah Peters’ mausoleum in Brompton Cemetery. Raymond Godson was able to join them, and this photograph was taken there. Judy would have loved to be there too! Raymond has since been able to supply me with this splendid photograph of Susannah.
Last year I discovered that, on the website www.keynshamlighthorse.com, there is a photograph of the obelisk marking the grave in Brompton Cemetery of Captain Robert Grosso Godson of the 1st Kings Dragoon Guards. Capt R G Godson (1848-1899) fought in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 – yet another Godson serving in South Africa! He was also a Major in the 3rd Hussars, and in the 1881 census was stationed at the barracks in Colchester (just a few miles from where I live). Raymond tells me this is also the resting place of Robert Grosso Godson’s parents, Septimus Holmes and Susannah Godson and other members of the family. Next time I go to London I will search for it and copy the inscriptions. Judy looked up the definition of an obelisk and found it was the ancient Egyptian symbol for life and health, so it ties in with Susannah’s mother’s grand tomb.
Phyllis Roberta Markley (née Godson) (b1903)
One letter that I received during the summer (which I am ashamed to say hasn’t been answered yet) was from Phyllis Roberta Markley in Louisiana. [Chart YE28] Her son, Bill Barnes, visited me in Marks Tey back in 1982. Here she is on her 98th birthday a year ago, looking very sprightly and elegant! The records of passengers travelling into the United States through Ellis Island are freely available online, and I learnt that in 1924 Mrs Markley’s mother went to visit her, on board the Olympic. The records show that, aged 65, Mrs Jane Ann Godson was 5’4” tall, with a fair complexion, grey hair and brown eyes. She had a ticket to her final destination (1229 Russell Ave, Bethlehem, PA), which she had paid for herself, and she had not visited the States before. 38 other Godsons are in the Ellis Island list, including my great-uncle Oswald and his family.
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