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Newsletter #21

Celia J. Dodd

Dear Friends and Relatives

This has been an eventful year, with very little time available for research. My mother’s sister was taken ill in February and died on my birthday at the end of March. As executrix I have been dealing with all the paperwork and clearing out her possessions, some of which were my grandparents’. It’s certainly one aspect of family history, unearthing old letters and photographs. It was not the Godson side of my family, although I did discover two interesting letters written by Austin Godson, my grandfather, in 1954, and a list giving me the precise date in February 1964 when he died.

So I send my apologies if I have failed to reply to a letter or email. I have attempted to collect some new information, for example, the Godsons included in the 1901 census for England and Wales, when the index eventually became available online in August. Karen Hanna in Canada has been a great help with her Godson ancestors in 19th century Ontario – I think the John Godson who emigrated there might have been baptised at Cottingham, near Hull, in 1805 (from the York family [Chart YB2]), although I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to prove it.

The electronic version of last year’s Newsletter was successful, so if you have an email address that I don’t know about, get in touch!

With best wishes for Christmas and 2003

Celia J Dodd
(née Godson)

1881 Surname Distribution Project
I am a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies, an organisation for those engaged in genealogical research for one particular surname. Geoff Riggs, of the GOONS, has worked on a project to produce maps showing the distribution throughout Great Britain (excluding N Ireland) of various surnames being researched, using the data from the 1881 Census. Overleaf is a map showing the number of people with the surname Godson as a proportion of the total population of each county. The map clearly shows that there are two dominating families of Godsons – originating in Warwickshire, and Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire. If you want to know more about the analysis of the figures or would like a coloured map, get in touch with me.

Frederick Hubert Godson Part 1
A character that I have found fascinating is my great-uncle. I have uncovered part of the story of his life, and I still hope to be able to fill in some of the gaps. All I knew to begin with was that Uncle Hubert fought in the Boer War and then went missing. There was an Auntie Peggy who lived in Edinburgh, and she had a little contact with my grandfather. Next I learnt from Dad’s cousin, Connie, in Florida, that Uncle Hubert had settled in Canada and had a daughter who was a nun. Connie passed on a couple of photos of Uncle Hubert, and I gradually managed to find out about his daughter, Jean Mulholland Godson, whom I wrote about in Newsletter No 14.

Frederick Hubert Godson was born in Sheffield (I presume at 252 Moorfields) on 29 March 1875. His father, Frederick Morley Godson, and his uncle, owned a drapery and hosiery shop there. His father had recently become a devout Roman Catholic, and I guess that Frederick Hubert would have been baptised (as my grandfather was in 1879) at St Marie’s, the large Catholic church in the centre of Sheffield. In 1886 Hubert’s mother died and shortly afterwards Frederick Morley took his children Hubert, Austin and Winifred to Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. (Baby Oswald was left behind with a family in Sheffield.)

Hubert’s father was employed as sacristan at the new Roman Catholic cathedral, and Hubert attended the Cathedral School and acquired a Scottish stepmother. According to a form he filled in later, he joined the Royal Navy in 1890 and served with them until 1898 as a Leading Signalman and Torpedo-man, but he was not always entirely honest when it came to filling in forms! One port his ship must have called at was Whitehaven in Cumberland, in the northwest of England, for in 1895 he married Mary Theresa Mulholland there. He was aged 20, and she was aged 29.

When the Boer War came Hubert decided he wanted to go to South Africa, so he purchased his way out of the Navy. Later he stated (falsely?) that he joined the British South African Police Force as a Corporal in 1898. I haven’t traced any documents for this period yet, but I was excited to find recently a website about the Siege of Mafeking. There was a list of the names of the British soldiers known to have defended Mafeking, as on 17 May 1900, when the town was eventually relieved. Confusingly, Corporal F H Godson appears twice – once in the Town Guard (Excluding Railway Division), and once in the Town Guard (Railway Division). (Serving with him was a J Mulholland, who could perhaps have been a relation of his wife’s).

The Siege of Mafeking is a well-known part of the Boer War, partly because the leader of the garrison was Colonel Robert Baden-Powell. It was his experience of using boys as messengers during the siege that led to the formation of the Boy Scout movement. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, wrote one of the best accounts of the siege. Another, by E E Reynolds, available on the web at www.pinetreeweb.com/bp-mafeking.htm, says: ‘The population consisted of some 8,000 natives who lived in their own town, and about 1,800 whites. The garrison was made up of the Protectorate Regiment under Colonel Hore (489 officers and men), with a mixed force of B.S.A. Police, Cape Police and Bechuanaland Rifles (in all, 276 officers and men). The Town Guard numbered 300 men. Others were recruited, such as railwaymen and Cape boys (coloured). Altogether, B.-P. had at his disposal 1,250 armed men, but many of these were untrained and some of them were of doubtful loyalty to Britain.

While the town of Mafeking was suffering with severe food shortages and little news from outside, Hubert’s wife gave birth, on 3 April 1900, to their daughter, Jean. Somehow it seems that the birth never got registered, although Jean was baptised (as Joanna) on 8 April at St Begh’s RC church. Sadly, Mary Theresa died in December 1900 of tuberculosis, and Jean was brought up by her family in Whitehaven. Hubert’s occupation on the death certificate was given as ‘locomotive fireman on railway’, without explaining that this must have been in South Africa. Hubert stated that he remained in Africa, joining the South African Constabulary in 1901, and he is later photographed wearing the Queen’s South Africa Medal, the King’s South Africa Medal and the Africa General Service Medal. (But a professional researcher could not find his name in the Medal Rolls for the British South African Police or South African Constabulary 1898-1901.) The closed collar in the uniform in the photograph here suggests it was taken in the first few years of the 20th century.

By 1905 Hubert was back in England, working as a clerk in Newcastle. He married Margaret Keith Collins (Auntie Peggy) in December and exactly nine months later a second daughter, Martha Winifred, was born. By now Hubert was living at Police Cottages, Hatfield, Hertfordshire and working as a police clerk. The marriage cannot have been a success and in the next few years Hubert abandoned his wife and daughter and headed for Canada. I wonder if he ever knew anything much about this daughter, who died tragically following a road accident in Edinburgh in 1930? There must have been some contact with his elder daughter, Jean, as she also went to Canada and she possessed three photographs of her father.

He recorded that he worked as a farmer or timberman in Lindsay, Ontario, then joined the Canadian Militia in 1910, but his name is not in the Militia Lists! He claimed that in December 1915 he resigned as a Captain and Adjutant in the Lindsay-based 109th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force – I was going to go on to tell you about his adventures in the First World War, but perhaps I will keep that for another newsletter!

Godson News

Ivor Godson has written to tell me that he has two new grandchildren, born to his younger son, Andrew and Andrew’s partner, Suzanne Mary Power. They are twin boys, Finn Power Godson and Rory Power Godson, born on 11 August 2001. Suzanne, from Dunleary near Dublin, is a writer of books and contributes to Irish magazines under the name Siobham de Paor. [Chart VE1 – the Godson family originating in Beverley, E Yorks.]

Suzi Godson (from the Irish family [Chart IE2] has written a bestseller – ‘The Sex Book’. Perhaps you’ve spotted its bright cover in your local bookshop, or seen her weekly column in the Independent on Sunday! Richard Godson from Heckington sent me this article from The Daily Mail (2 May 2002):

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!

Godson Statistics
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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November 2002

19 Godmans Lane
Marks Tey
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