The Goodenoughs are one of the oldest families in England. Our oldest known ancestor, Godinot, whose name was of Saxon origin, came to settle in England in the middle to late 10th century A.D. when England was still under Saxon rule. His name literally means “first settler”, when translated into modern day English.

 The family parish church at Broughton Pogis.

Godinot was a farmer. Upon the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 and with the ultimate establishment of Norman rule, Godinot’s descendants changed their surname to Goodinhough, Goodinhaugh and Goodinhow, depending on the different districts in which they lived and the varying dialects used in those districts. They did this to avoid persecution from their Norman overlords, which was all too common at this particular period in time. (The Robin Hood legend of a Saxon Lord being outlawed by the Normans always springs to mind). It is from this that we see the emergence of our present surname.

The Goodenough name is very unique and one would expect, very easy to trace. However, it was a rather long and drawn out process, because of the many red herrings and obstacles that lay in my path. One example was trying to find out who the father of my great great grandfather, Robert Budden Goodenough, was. I was told that he was born in Dysart, Fife. Years of searching along that vein led to dead ends, until I finally stumbled upon information that led me to believe that he was actually born in England. The St. Catherine’s Birth Register proved that he was in fact born in St. Pancras in 1839, however, he was christened by his own father, Robert Henry, in the town of Dysart. So, how did our surname evolve to its present form? Well, the main reason for this is geographical. A prime example of this is shown in the later variance of the name Godinot, which end in Hough, Haugh or How. In old English, all these mean hill or mound.

In the marriage records of Kent in 1379, Radulphus Godynogh wed P.T. Yorks and in attendance were his two brothers, Johannes Godynogh from Saxony and Robertus Gudynegh, from France. Three brothers, but all with varying surnames. The simple explanation for this is the fact that they settled in different parts of Europe and the way their surname was spelt depended heavily upon the dialect, accent of the area and the spelling capabilities of the town clerks and registrars. Also, it must be noted that until the middle 1600’s, names were written down as they were pronounced, not how they should have been spelled.

Spelling errors also played an important part in how our name evolved. In the 1212 Curio, we see the same name appear twice, but spelt differently each time, as Godinogh & Goodinowe respectively.


“Godknaf: New English Dictionary, (Oxford 1888- 1933) gives the forms Knaf cl1375, Knaffe 1481 and Knawe. With the loss of the ‘K’, Godknaf would be easily transformed into which could be easily confused with Goodenough; and Goodknave with God(e)nowe, Goodnow and Goodanew, which preserves the now dialectal ‘enow’ for ‘enough’.”

(Reaney, 1977,pg.39)

The Goodenough family have very strong links with royalty, in particular, the British royal family. Our family has served the kings and queens of England with fierce loyalty and with great honour. Even today, a member the Goodenough family, Sir William McLernon Goodenough serves as the 3rd Baronet of Broadwell and Filkins, in the county of Oxfordshire, the title, he inherited from his father, the late Sir Richard Edmund Goodenough who inherited it from his father, Sir William McNamara Goodenough. Sir William, however, was not the first person in the Goodenough family to have a royal investiture bestowed upon him. Lord Richard Goodenough (c.1667) was the Under Sheriff of London, before he turned traitor and had to flee to Ireland. 

Perhaps the most spectacular of Goodenoughs, by way of titles, were Lieutenant General Sir William Howley Goodenough, who was in some way responsible for establishing the American branch of the Goodenough family and Admiral Sir William Edmund Goodenough. General Sir William Howley Goodenough married Countess Anna Kinsky, daughter of the famous Count, Eugene Kinsky, of Moravia (Now known as Croatia). After retiring from the military, General Sir William migrated to the United States with his family, where his descendants still reside today. Admiral Sir William, his nephew and namesake, was honoured with the Croix de Guerre, Order of the Rising Sun and the Imperial Star of Russia for his acts of courage throughout his illustrious military career, which saw him reach the position of 2nd Sea Lord of the Admiralty and Aide de campe to King George V. Admiral Sir William was in charge of the fourth Battle group and his flagship, the HMS Southampton was involved in some of the bloodiest naval battles of the first World War, including Dogger Bank, Jutland and Heligoland Bight.

Samuel Goodenough, the grandfather of the aforementioned Lt. General Sir William, was a scholarly man who was intimate with the British royal family. In 1808, he was elevated to the position of the Bishop of Carlisle, a position he held until his death in 1827. The bishop was an expert botanist. So well known in England for his botanical knowledge in fact, that he has a plant species named after him, the Genus Goodenia. Bishop Goodenough established a school in Earling, where he had the charge of the sons of noblemen and gentlemen of position. Of his many sermons, three were published and it was the sermon that he preached before the House of Lords in 1809 that gave birth to the well know epigram of the time:


'Tis well enough that Goodenough
Before the Lords should preach;
But, sure enough, full bad enough
Are those he had to teach.'

Bishop Samuel Goodenough is eulogised in Mathias' Pursuits of Literature. His portrait hangs in the hall at Christ Church and he is responsible for the family motto, Ad Sanguinem and the family coat of arms.
Bishop Goodenough's sons, Edmund Goodenough and Samuel James Goodenough, followed their father into the clergy. Edmund was appointed the Dean of Wells and also the Almoner (personal chaplain) to the king, while Samuel James, my great, great, great great grandfather, was appointed the Canon of Carlisle, carrying on the family involvement in the religious sector of Carlisle. Samuel James' son, Robert Henry, later became the Pleb. of Carlisle.

Swindon Parish Church Roll. Edmund Goodenough was Vicar there in 1790.

The 'Big Four' as I affectionately call them, are four very important figures in the Goodenough family genealogy. Each of them helped to create the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our family.

Frederick Addington Goodenough (b. 1827) was a merchant in Calcutta and London. Being the eldest son, the family fortune was left to him when their father, Edmund Goodenough, the Dean of Wells, died in 1845. Frederick's eldest son, Sir Frederick Craufurd, founded Barclays Bank and is the great- grandfather to Sir William McLernon (current Baronet of Oxfordshire).

James Graham Goodenough (1830 - 1875) or 'Holy Joe' as he was known, was famous for having Goodenough Island, in the D'Entrecasteaux group of islands, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, named after him. James was a Commodore in the Royal Navy and he married Lady Victoria Hamilton, the daughter of the 9th Baron of Belhaven and Stenton. 'Holy Joe' was the first head of the Australian Naval Station and the South Pacific Fleet; in effect, the founder of the Royal Australian Navy. He was at the pinnacle of his career when he suffered a similar fate to Captain James Cook. Commodore James Goodenough was speared by natives while on the island of Santa Cruz, preaching the Christian faith. True to his faith, he ordered that no native be harmed and ordered his ships to return to Sydney. His ship's doctor tried to remove the spear head to save his life, but ironically used the instrument that would end it.... an unsterilised scalpel. Commodore Goodenough died 2 days out of Sydney from blood poisoning.

William Howley Goodenough (b.1833) Lieutenant General Sir William Howley Goodenough married Countess Anna Kinsky and settled in the United States, adding to our truly global family. See the previous section.

Robert Budden Goodenough (b 1839) was a merchant was responsible for the founding of the Singapore branch of our family. He married Louisa De Rosa, settled and died in Singapore. What may seem surprising to some family members is the fact that he was married before he left England, to a lady by the name of Emma Wylie. There are also unsubstantiated rumours that he did father children in Japan after he was shipwrecked off the island. I do find it rather curious though, that there is a large Japanese clothing chain called 'GoodEnough' ;)

The infamous Lord Richard Goodenough is one of the more colourful characters of the Goodenough family. 
Thomas Sprat, in his book, Macaulay's History of England, calls our dear ancestor, a 'conspirator' and 'an attorney of bad repute'. 

- July 1682- fined 100/. because he altered a selection of jurymen for a trial.
- Sept. 1682- Gaoled after a complaint was filed against him.
- Feb 1683- He was tried and fined 500 marks for a pretended riot and an assault on the Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Moore.
- June 1683- He was implicated in the Rye House plot.
- July 1683- A reward of 100/. was offered for his capture after he fled the city.
- July 1683- He was found guilty of treason and outlawed.
- 1685- . He was one of the major conspirators in Monmouth's rebellion against King James II.
- July 1685- he was caught, but his life was spared because he had useful information for the King.
- May 1689- He was again charged, and convicted of High Treason and sentenced to death. He escaped to Ireland, where he settled  and died, under the name of Francis Goodenough.

An interesting footnote to all this is that While he was conspiring against the King, Samuel Pepys was the king's Secretary of the Navy. Generations later, Samuel's great-granddaughter Frances, married a descendant of Lord Richard.

In addition to Lord Richard's activities, there was a well kept secret which would have certainly tarnished the image of a family of such high standing as the Goodenoughs. The secret lay with the birth of twin illegitimate daughters, Emily Jane Goodenough and Emma Goodenough in March 1839, to Edmund Goodenough. On the surface, it does not seem like something that would have shocked the society of the time, until you consider the fact that Edmund was the Dean of Wells at the time and married to Francis Cockerell, Samuel Pepys' great-granddaughter (see above note). Add to this the fact that he already had three children by his wife and the mother of the illegitimate girls was a servant girl from his household, it could have meant disaster for him. She was sent away for confinement and was given strict orders to tell no one. However, she ran away and delivered her twins in an orphanage and, against the wishes of the mighty Dean of Wells, she gave them his last name, GOODENOUGH.