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About the study
Have you ever checked a phone directory for fellow GULVINs when visiting a distant city? Most of us have done this, usually without success. Now and then we find a fellow GULVIN or their name somewhere, or are contacted, and we are left wondering if we are related, and how. My father didn't seem to know much about GULVIN relatives or where the name came from, or meant. Most of us are too busy with jobs and other pursuits to get the answers.
By 1990 I had left behind my career as a park ranger, giving me some spare time. At Christmas in 1992 I discovered my parents had a copy of an autobiography by my late uncle Harold Gulvin. It described several GULVIN uncles and aunts. I drew a tree to show how they were connected. Then I acquired more GULVIN info from various sources. I plotted these GULVINs on a USA map and, in the spring of 1993, drove to Florida, California and Oregon to look them up. This was edifying, as well as a fine adventure.
On my return, I collected more GULVIN data from the Mormons, the National Archives, and various correspondents. This showed that GULVINs came from Kent County in England, so I went there for three summers (1997-1999). I met many of my English cousins and sent out GULVIN newsletters after each summer of research. By 2000, I had assembled nearly all the 800 or so GULVINs (past and present) into one large tree, backed up with detailed family group sheets.
So, is the GULVIN One-Name Study complete? Far from it. Several hundred hours each year are devoted to:
- answering inquiries and sharing the data I've collected
- filling in missing details and updating data sheets
- expanding my understanding of historical context
- tackling the numerous "mystery" GULVINs.
In the next 10-20 years I'd like to condense the GULVIN research into a book or something equivalent, for the benefit of all with an interest in the surname, present and future.
There are none. In the 1500s and1600s, the letters 'v' and 'b' were interchangeable, as were 'i' and 'y'. Hence, GULBIN, GULVYN, and GULBYN all appear in the early records. I regard these spellings as GULVIN.
By far the most common misspelling is GALVIN. This is an Irish name with no connection to GULVIN that I have yet found.
The earliest GULVIN record I've yet found is the 1561 burial of Robert GOWLBEN in Rotherfield, Sussex. Most of the early records for GULVIN are from Sussex. By the mid-1600s the GULVINs appear in nearby parts of Kent. They work their way to north central Kent by the mid to late 1800s.
Prior to Sussex, GULVINs may have come from the Brittany coast of France, where a small village named Gulvinec is located. Several clues support a theory of French origin.
According to a few websites, in Newfoundland the word gulvin means the stomach of a codfish.
History of the name
No GULVINs achieved fame or historical significance. None were anything even close to royalty. The earliest known occupation was that of Thomas Gulvin, a papermaker who died about 1690 in Marden, Kent. Most subsequent GULVINs in Kent were agricultural laborers.
George Gulvin (1733-1796) of High Halstow, Kent, was notable. His will indicates he had achieved the status of Yeoman. This meant he had to be rich enough to hire others. Yeoman was not a formal title but did recognize his standing in the local community. Sort of a gentleman farmer. He left a lot of money in his will, leading to a lot of Chancery Court records. The source of this money is not clear, but George may have married well and/or was involved with smuggling.
Reuben Gulvin (1868-1937) of Geneva, New York, was also notable. He operated a jewelry business, became fire chief, then mayor, sheriff, postmaster, and parks commissioner. A park is named in his honor.
Distribution of the name
There are 295 GULVINs living in the world. The totals are as follows: 148 (50%) in England, 107 (36%) in the United States, 26 (9%) in Australia, 8 (2.7%) in Scotland, two in Canada, two in France, and one each in Spain and South Africa. This tally counts as GULVIN those who used the name from birth or adoption, including women who now have different married names.
In England, most GULVINs are in the Kent and London area. In the USA, most are near Rochester, New York, with others widely dispersed. In the mid to late 1800s, many were in Wisconsin but none are there now. In Australia, all but one of the GULVINs are in West Australia, near Perth.