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2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

My one-name study began way back in 1976 when I was a university student. Tracing my own family tree, I could not discover where my Godson ancestors lived before they appeared in Nottinghamshire. Collecting data for all Godsons led me in 1982 through the will of Robert Godson, a butcher in the Shambles in York, to discover that my family originated in and around that city. By then I had made many friends and become so interested in the family history of the other unrelated Godsons - from Brailes in Warwickshire, Heckington in Lincolnshire, Stafford, Beverley, London, Ireland etc - that the study of Godson genealogy continued and I began distributing a newsletter in January 1984. I joined the Guild later that year. Computers and the internet have revolutionised the research!

Variant names

I have not found any present day variants of the surname Godson although in medieval times there was a variety of spellings such as Goddessone.

Records show that in certain areas the name Godson has become confused with similar names.

* In south Lincolnshire Godsons became Godsaws and Godshaws in the 17th century then reverted to using Godson.
* In County Cork, Ireland there has been confusion with Godsil, Godsell etc.
* In Birmingham the Godso family has been recorded as Godson.
* In Suffolk there is confusion with Gotson and Goatson.
* The frequency of the surname Goodson is highest in Norfolk so Godsons found in Norfolk records are probably mis-spelt Goodsons. The earliest records for the Godsons from around Brailes in Warwickshire get mixed up with Goodsons, nearby Oxfordshire being another county where Goodsons are found.
* DNA testing has suggested a possible link with the surname Godsey.
* Many black Gadsons live in the southern states of the USA. This may be a variant of the African name translated as Godson or, perhaps more likely, a variant of Gadsden, an eminent white family of Charleston, South Carolina.

See Newsletter No 29.1 for more information, using the link below.

The religious connotations of the name may explain why there is a higher proportion of Goodsons to Godsons in the USA. See Newsletter No 31.7, again, see the link below

Name origin

Not a simple subject. Have a look at Newsletter No 20.3 (see below for a link) The most likely origin is the patronymic 'son of Gode' or 'son of Goda'. Another possibility could be as a nickname meaning 'a male godchild'. The confusion between 'God' and 'good' is illustrated by our use of 'Goodbye' derived from 'God be with you'. Thus an origin from 'good son' is a possibility and the present day surnames of Goodson and Goodison etc may share the same origins as Godson. The Norman French Fitz Dieu (nowadays Fiddy or Fidou) has a similar root to Godson.

Early Godsons are found throughout England but some may not have had hereditary surnames, the surnames of others may have evolved into different names and some families have died out or moved away. For example, Lancashire Godsons did not survive into the 17th century, Hampshire Godsons into the 18th century nor Coventry or London Godsons into the 21st century.

The surname has been used by Jewish families from Eastern Europe who have anglicised their names either from Goldstein which is similar or from something completely different.

Godson is used as a forename and surname throughout Africa as a translation of a native name. In the Nigerian Ibo language the original is Nwachuku or Nwachukwu. Creating family trees for these Godsons is almost impossible and I should like to know more about whether African surnames are inherited.

Historical occurrences of the name

A list of renowned Godsons from the past would include:
* Sir Richard Godson, vicar choral and sub-treasurer of York Minster, buried there in 1516 (York family)
* Brian Godson, the last prior of Blackfriars Monastery in York at the time of the Reformation, died in 1541 (York family)
* James Godson (c1563-1634), Sheriff of York in 1609 (York family)
* Richard Godson (1797-1849), QC and MP for St Albans and Kidderminster (Brailes family)
* Sir Augustus Frederick Godson (1835-1906), also MP for Kidderminster (Brailes family)
* Dr Clement Godson (1845-1913), an eminent Victorian gynaecologist (Heckington family)
* John Barclay Godson (1882-1957), artist and creator of bookplates (Beverley family)

Name frequency

Ancestry shows 570 Godsons living in the UK and 45 in Canada in the 1881 census, with 118 recorded in the 1880 US census. Publicprofiler reckons there were 545 Godsons in Gt Britain in 1881 (20 out of every million people) and 641 in 1998 (17 per million). Slightly different statistics are given at with the number of present day Godsons in the USA as 229 and Australia as 109.

Distribution of the name

The distribution maps available online at Publicprofiler show the greatest concentrations of Godsons in Gt Britain in 1881 to be around the West Midlands and Yorkshire/Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire. Or see Newsletter 21.1 (link below).


Over many years I have collected most of the birth, marriage, death and census records that are easily available for UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and Australia as well as much other data from parish registers, wills, directories, passenger lists, newspaper articles and so on. I have a database of around 10,000 individuals and family tree charts as Excel spreadsheets. These are not available online as some contain facts about living people but I am very happy to share my information.


A Godson DNA project was set up with DNA Heritage in 2008. DNA Heritage was taken over by Family Tree DNA and the Godson project transferred there in 2011. I have written about the results of tests in the Godson Family History Newsletters. New male participants are welcomed, with financial help for those whose results would be significant. We use 37 marker tests.