The names Goatham and Gotham seem to have originated in England, although there are probably now more Gothams in the US than in England or elsewhere. Many in the US are descended from English Gothams or Goathams, though there are also many with other origins.
The name Gotham seens to have arisen in two main ways – as a locative surname and from evolution from other surnames.
As a locative surname, i.e. from a location named Gotham, its has arisen from more than one place. Although most well known is the village of Gotham in Nottinghamshire, there are a number of smaller Gothams to be found in different parts of the country. It seems that the forebears of those of us in England with the surname today (and of course those who can trace their Gotham ancestors back to England) came from one or more of these smaller locations.
There seem to be 3, possibly 4, distinct groups of Goathams / Gothams / Gottams who may or may not share a common ancestor.
At one time the family(ies) were most numerous in Devon, where all three of the above surname variants occurred, as well as a range of other spellings, although Gotham was most common and it is that spelling that all descendants of the Devon group seem to have ended up with. All Gothams in Devon in the last century or so are descended from one William George GOTHAM ancestor, born about 1818 in Teignmouth; other lines died or daughtered out, and/or left Devon.
In Kent as would be expected a variety of spellings have been used in the past; both Gotham and Goatham were commonly used and the name has finished up as Goatham. After centuries of stuggling to survive, probably due at least in part to living in unhealthy areas where malaria was rife, the Goathams multiplied quite rapidly in the nineteenth century.
Shropshire / Staffordshire
A small number of Gottams / Gothams lived in parishes along or close to the northern half of the Shropshire / Staffordshire border, at least from 1616/7 when the marriage of a John Gottam took place in Gnosall. In the rapid expansion of Stoke-on-Trent as an urban area some moved the short distance to that area, but so did a Devon Gotham. Descendants of both the group native to the area and from a Devon Gotham are well established in the area today. When referring to the Shropshire / Staffordshire group I mean those from the group long established in the area, not those from Devon.
It is clear that there has been some confusion with the name Cottam / Cotham and to a lesser extent Cotton, names common in this part of the country. At present there are several unlinked groups of Gothams who may or may not share a common origin. It is not yet clear whether all or any started with the name Cottam (or other ‘C’ variant).
The East Midlands
A few Gothams can be found in historic records from the north of Leicestershire, up to South Yorkshire and into Derbyshire, who may well have had the name from Gotham in Nottinghamshire. The name here seems to have died out by about 1600.
Two families with Irish origins using the name Gotham (or similar) can be found in England in the C19th, one in the Clitheroe area in Lancashire, the other in Stockton in Co. Durham. In both casese the name seems to have evolved from the Irish name Gaughan. The Clitheroe family persisted well into the C20th but has now daughtered out. The Stockton family seems to have died out quickly, except the fate of one Mary Gothan is unknown, so there could just be Gotham descendants outside of England.
Most Gothams in Lancashire are not part of the family from Ireland, but from an emigrant from Devon in the early C19th. There were actually a number of Gothams who emigrated from Devon to Liverpool, but only one has Gotham descendants living today.
Inevitably over the centuries there have been a few strays, some of whose origins are clear, some can be guessed and some are unknown.Last updated: 24 May, 2020