Journey to Brentford

It's the aspiration of any family historian to learn of their origin and trace back as many ancestral generations as possible, and hopefully uncover something more than just names, dates and the odd event along the way. Those fortunate enough to have ancestors who are of nobility, gentry or famous, there's every chance their ancestors have been comprehensively written into the history books. For the rest of us whose ancestors are from the other end of the social ladder, many records are either illegible, contain minimal information, factually wrong or totally nonexistent, making it extremely difficult to trace our roots back further than a couple of centuries.

I know I’m not alone, when as a novice, I was lured to the commercial side of family history and started my family tree with the origin of the family name, then displayed the family coat of arms in one form or another, and took the misdirected path researching families who in the end, had nothing more in common with my known ancestors other than they shared the same name. It took a little while for the penny to drop and for me to realise, that family history is not quite that simple, and the origin of a family name and genetic origin may not be one and the same.

It was then I took the logical approach by starting with my immediate family and began working my way back, hoping to connect my ancestors with their origin at some point. But I eventually hit a stumbling block and was unable to find my three times great-grandfather Samuel Goddard’s (1800 - 1876) birth place, or the name of his parents. In the early days of my research each generation took a lot longer to resolve and involved a lot of leg work visiting numerous record offices. In those days I didn’t have the luxury of online records and the Internet to help me find the answers, and there was also the resistance from some of my most senior relatives to overcome, who kept the closet doors firmly closed, and would only reveal snippets of information in exchange for a progress report of my research. I knew they were only testing the waters to see how close I was to the actual facts, and should I dare touch on sensitive issues such as poverty or the workhouse, it was either met with denial or hostilities. Unlike today's attitudes, we have nothing but admiration for our ancestors with the way they coped in dealing with life’s adversities, they were brought up with very different values, to them it was shameful and should be left well under wraps.   

Fast forward some three decades and I’m still no closer to finding a birth for Samuel, even though there have been vast advances in genealogy research techniques and resources at my disposal,  but I have made progress and unearthed the names of his parents. And as for my family roots, experts will agree that my family name of Goddard is of Germanic origin, yet no research on my part has linked my known ancestors to any specific place. However, with the aid of modern genetic technology, confirms my ancestors are of Teutonic origin from Northern Europe, which rules them out straight away from being indigenous Celts or Roman Britons. This still leaves three other possibilities; firstly my ancestors are of Anglo-Saxon descent, a mixture of people from North Germany, Denmark and Northern Holland who started to settle in the British Isles in AD 410 following the departure of the Romans, a period of colonisation which lasted some 600 years.

Secondly they arrived towards the end of the 8th century with the invasion and settlement of marauding Norsemen from Scandinavia, which lasted for another period of nearly 300 hundred years. Or finally they arrived from Normandy resulting from the their conquest in 1066.

Exactly where from and when my ancestors first arrived in England may have to be left for future generations to solve, but it should be assumed they have been native to these shores for some thousand years or more.

The next part of the journey my ancestors took, began seven centuries later in the parish of Cobham, Surrey, a mere 20 miles from Brentford, Middlesex, as the crow flies. Families of Goddard’s have been living in Cobham from as far back as 1563,  I cannot claim with any confidence they they are my ancestors, so for now the starting year is 1740 and the coldest year recorded by average annual temperature, it was known as the ‘Great Frost’ which devastated Europe from Italy to Iceland causing harvest failures, high prices for staple foods, excess mortality and unemployment. On the 7th February John Goddard married Mary Wilkins (1707 - ) at St Andrew’s church, because John was classified as a sojourner, a person who resides at a place temporarily and his age is unknown, it leaves the trail cold, a little more is known about his wife Mary.

Following the birth of their first child Ann Goddard (1741 – ) the family moved from Cobham to the nearby parish of Ewell, where they had four more children, Mary Goddard (1743 -); John Goddard (1745 - 1819); William Goddard (1747 – bef. 1811) and Thomas Goddard (1748 -).

Throughout Georgian Britain there was an agricultural revolution resulting from advances in farming techniques that yielded more produce per acre and fattened live stock. Turnips and clover, an excellent feed for sheep, which had been previously confined to only a few districts was being grown nationwide, also the potato had been introduced from Ireland into the human food chain. And by the mid 18th century there was so much food available, starvation was looking like a thing of the past, even the poorest were being well fed, so much so, there was an increase of half a million in the population.

From about 1760 the rewards had became so lucrative and to be even more efficient the wealthy land owners began consolidating small tenancies into large holdings, throwing families out of their homes and taking away their livelihoods which eventually put an end to the small rural community.

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ewell

Their son William and my four times great-grandfather married Martha Chapple (1769– 1856) by licence at St Mary, Ewell on the 16th September 1787. This was another historical eventful year for a number of reasons, none more so than the formation of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Also the First Fleet sailed from Portsmouth to establish a penal colony in Australia, consisting of eleven ships carrying around 700 convicts and at least 300 crew and guards, and Captain William Bligh set sail for Tahiti on the infamous HMS Bounty. On a sporting note the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was formed and played its first cricket match on the original Lord's Cricket Ground.

The events probably went unnoticed by my ancestors as every day survival was their foremost priority. In ten years of marriage Martha gave birth to the first four of five children, John Godard (1789 - 1863); James Goddard (1791 – 1862); Frances Godard (1794 - ) and Nicholas Goddard (1797 - ). They were living in very turbulent times, France had declared war on Britain in 1793 and the country was under constant fear of invasion, on top of failed harvests in 1792 and again two years later which saw an increase in wheat prices of 250 percent, which is of little little surprise that unrest had spread throughout the country.

For my ancestors Ewell wasn't the safest place in the country to live. In about 1754 Alexander Bridges and Jonathan Eade were granted a licence for a Gunpowder Mill on the river Hogsmill, and in the following years and decades their powder-mill blew up on a regular basis, causing death, injury and devastation to the local inhabitants. During the years of conflict it would be conceivable that production increased and in one incident on Tuesday 5th July 1793 an explosion was so great, that the houses within a five to ten mile radius shook to such an extent, it was first thought to have been an earth quake. The shock waves were felt in many parts of the metropolis.

From 1793 William was occupying a property owned by John Woodman until 1798 after which there is no more documented evidence of the family living in Ewell and they disappear from the records until 1811 when Martha is living as a widow in Deptford, Kent. It is there she married John Hanack (1756 – 1832) a bachelor at St Paul’s church on the 10th March 1811 and between then and 1820 the Hanack’s made the journey to the Brentford area.

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