My initial interest
When I started researching my family tree in the mid to late 1970s it was in response to my mother clearing out a cupboard; she called me to see if I wanted any wool she had from one of several started-but-never-finished knitting projects, but it was her notes from another started-but-abandoned project that interested me: finding her notes from a slight effort to research her tree a couple of years before. As so often happens my mother’s brief efforts were sparked after a parent’s death (her mother’s in 1974). Aged 11 then, if I knew of her interest it certainly didn’t capture my imagination. Finding those notes around 1976-7 it was captured. And about 40 years later (as I write) it still is.
Of course I was interested in my Dad’s side too, and one of the first thing he told me was that he understood all Goathams were related. Was it true? That set me off on research which over 35 years later has led to me deciding to join GOONS and widen my study to a one-name study with research into Gothams in other parts of the UK and overseas.
My mother had certainly not lost her interest, and my Dad too was interested in learning about his family, and I am grateful to both of them for the support and assistance they gave my early efforts – paying for train fares or taking me to record offices, helping in the search for family gravestones in churchyards, helping find census entries when you had to wind by hand through long microfilms.
So why I have widened my research?
For years I was clear, I was interested in all of the Kent lot, but not the others. I’m not sure when I realised there were Gothams as well as Goathams, not just as a past spelling but living now. I do remember the occasion, sometime in the 1990s, when I first saw a ‘Goatham’ in Devon; I was looking for ancestors on my mother’s side, by looking through images of Dartmouth Parish Registers. That was a shock – who were these other Goathams I knew nothing about? I realised, though, that this was a variant spelling of the Devon lot, who were usually spelt Gotham and continued with my ‘Kent Goathams only’ study.
Having got the Goatham line of my family tree back to the mid 1500s in Kent (after a fashion), probably as far as I can, and with more and more resources online I started looking at London ‘strays’, and at other records such as Court of Chancery proceedings, to see if I could find any that related to my Kent Goathams. Some were obviously from the Devon Gothams, but with some it was less easy to see where they had come from. Of course, it would help if I had a better picture of the Gothams in Devon and elsewhere. And my decision was made.
Also, while by some mysterious process all Goathams / Gothams in Kent ended up by the latter half of the C19th as Goathams, while those in Devon, Staffordshire and elsewhere became consistently Gothams, what about those overseas? Could I be sure that the Gothams were all from non-Kent origins, or could some be from the Kent families – and maybe explain where some of those had gone for whom I have found no burial? It would be interesting to find out.
Although I had been thinking for a while of joining the Guild of One Name Studies, it was watching Kirsty Gray, then Chairman of the GOONS, present a Legacy webinar in January 2014 that finally led to me doing so. I can’t quite remember why, but she inspired me in a way the GOONs I had met at Family History Fairs had failed to – although to be fair to the latter, it probably had something to do with the stage my researches had reached as well. I joined the next day.
The number of Goathams and Gothams in England and Wales is quite small, and I was pretty sure there weren’t many Goathams overseas, so it was a shock to realise how many Gothams there are in the US! That will probably affect the depth of research I am able to do where they are concerned. It nearly put me off doing a one-name study complying with GOONS requirements, nearly, but not quite. And so I am now a GOON, and have created this new section to my website.