The Goddard Story – Suffolk to St Helens, 1700-1955
The period covered by this branch of the family tree starts in the early 1700s in Suffolk where the Goddards were agricultural labourers. From around 1813 they became huntsmen and ‘whippers-in’, moving regularly to different hunting packs mainly in the Midlands.
Our research ends with Margaret Evelyn Goddard who married William Gent in Whittle le Woods, Lancashire on 24 August 1908. They lived in St Helens until 1948 when they retired to live in Egremont, Wirral, Cheshire.
|Direct Ancestors||Place of Birth||Life Dates||Married|
|Thomas Goddard||Waldingfield Magna (Suffolk)||abt1700-?||Elizabeth Smith|
|John Goddard||Great Waldingfield (Suffolk)||abt1715-1797||Susan Ware|
|Thomas Goddard||Great Waldingfield (Suffolk)||1744-1814||Elizabeth Halls|
|Zachariah Goddard||Great Waldingfield (Suffolk)||1784-1855||Hannah Parmenter|
|John Goddard||Stratford upon Avon (Warwickshire)||1817-1880||Mercy Elizabeth Gorrod (nee Gulliver)|
|William Goddard||Heythrop (Oxfordshire)||1850-1936||Margaret Buswell|
|Margaret Evelyn Goddard||Brigstock (Northamptonshire)||1878-1955||William Gent|
Problems of researching the nomadic Goddard huntsmen
Margaret Evelyn Goddard, born 1878 and William Gent, born 1879 were my paternal grandparents. This is the story of Margaret Evelyn’s ancestors. William Gent’s ancestors are documented in the Gent Family.
Before we started this research we had been vaguely aware of the ‘gypsy-like’ existence of the Goddard family. Because they were constantly on the move working as huntsmen or whippers-in with hunts as far ranging as the Kildare Hunt in Ireland, the Pytchley Hunt in Northamptonshire and the Cury Huntin Cornwall the research was quite problematic. They moved because of the fluctuating fortunes of the hunt owners,the squires,lords and earls whose fortunes were gained or lost in the city.
The hunting packs were very expensive to maintain and as the fortunes of the pack owners fluctuated so did their enthusiasm for the sport. An Earl might be obsessed by the sport but on inheriting the title his son would often disband the pack. Also a sudden contagious outbreak of disease amongst the hounds could decimate the pack, which may take a season or more to recover. The kennel servants would then need to seek work elsewhere.
Sources for our research were mainly church records, parish poor law books, workhouse records, censuses, 19th century hunting publications in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, Baily’s hunting directories, Hunt Servants Benevolent Society books, Wills, GRO (General Registration Office index after 1837), and IGI (the Morman international genealogical index).
We only know where these people were when they were documented once every ten years in the census, when they were sick in the Hunt Benevolent Society records and when they were found in birth, marriage and death records, so they could be anywhere in the years in between.