By Roy C. Rayment

My obsession with research of the surname Gooderson (and its variants) has led me to discover a number of interesting and sometimes quite unusual Christian names. Often reflecting the interests or aspirations of one or both parents, such names frequently offer some very tantalising clues to those of their descendants who later find themselves trying to piece together an overall picture of the way of life of their forebears.

Biblical names, especially those from the Old Testament, were quite common in the early years and are a good indication of the importance attached to the Christian religion by almost the entire population.

In the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, children were often named after the reigning monarch, especially if their parents were committed royalists. Periodical outbreaks of patriotism at times of adversity, such as during wars, often thus resulted in a multiplicity of birth registrations with such names as "Albert" and "Victoria".

Many families carried on the tradition of handing down the Christian name of the father to the first born son and that of the mother to the first born daughter. Indeed there are several Gooderson, Goodinson and Goodison families that can trace this tradition back through as many as four or five generations. After it became normal practice for parents to give a child more than just one Christian name, it also became a fairly common practice to reverse the order of the Christian names for subsequent children. In other words, the first born son of Robert Gooderson might be given the names Robert James Gooderson, whereas the second son might well be called James Robert Gooderson.

When I first started my research, one aspect that puzzled me was the incidence of records for the birth and christening of siblings bearing the same Christian names. In each case I was later to discover that the first of these children had died an infant and that the parents had simply "re-cycled" the Christian name for use by a child born subsequently. Since this practise was so widespread, one can only assume that it could not have occurred to them that they might have been "tempting fate".

In order to preserve the motherís maiden surname after marriage, many parents simply gave it to their offspring in the form of a second Christian name. This practice has proved to be a boon to many genealogists trying to trace the marriage of such parents when the maiden surname of the mother was unknown. In addition, it has often been instrumental in enabling researchers to readily identify the siblings of such children in the early years of the index compiled by the General Register Office of England and Wales!

One of the more unusual Christian names to be found in the Civil Registration records for England and Wales is that of Rheumatism. Rheumatismís birth was registered in the West Ham district of Essex during the second quarter of the year 1900 and a corresponding entry appears in the death index for the same quarter. Whilst nobody has been able to provide a definite reason that such a name was given to the child, it is assumed that the child was either premature or seriously ill at birth and so was not expected to survive. A possible explanation would then be that the parents registered both the birth and the death of the child at the same time, with the registrar insisting upon some sort of name being given to the child in order that the records might be completed satisfactorily.

The latter half of the twentieth century saw many parents abandon family tradition by registering their newly born children with the names of film-stars, pop-stars, cars, towns and cities, planets, flowers, and even science fiction characters. The Gooderson, Goodison and Goodson families were certainly no exception to this trend, as reference to the various birth index entries will confirm.

Fortunately I was born before the trend began in earnest and so Iím the bearer of the quite mundane Christian name of Roy. As a matter of interest, this particular name had never been used by any of my own ancestors but was given to me because it did not readily lend itself to being abbreviated in any way. It appears that my late father had frequently to endure the shortening of his name to "Fred" and so, despite a family tradition to the contrary, was determined that I should have a name that could not easily be shortened.

Sadly, I am told that use of the expression "Christian name" can be deeply offensive to some people and that the term "Forename" or the awful Americanism "Given Name" should now be used instead. A cursory examination of the entries listed in the GRO birth index soon reveals that Britain has indeed become a multicultural society, forenames such as Affrica, Chyna, Ishaq, Ishmael, Jahmari, Kadeem, Kaream, Kian, Nikita, Nyha, Oluwaseyi, Oskar, Ottilie, Rakeem, Rashid, Ricardo, Tshai and Wang being among those recently registered by various families resident in England and Wales.

An absolutely astounding variety of forenames are evident in the records of the names and addresses of families living in the U.S.A. Some of the more unusual of these include: Aj, Alcime, Alden, Buford, Burce, Cahly, Carrile, Darlyne, Doice, Drean, Ehrin, Eual, Faulk, Fortin, Galen, Gallant, Geneva, Howat, Illa, Irby, Janna, Kimble, Kubrat, Lamarr, Lathangelique, Laurier, Lavon, Lefty, Licia, Luann, Ludan, Mamrg, Mila, Miracle, Much, Myrtis, Nonie, Octave, Ole, Orley, Ovila, Pik, Qutrelia, Real, Rg, Ryle, Star, Sydreces, Themia, Trong, Ud, Verda, Vernell, Vida, Yovette, Waltraut, Wilny, Wisler, Wyle, Yahel, Yi, Yvose, Zackey and Zina.

It is by no means unusual for the names Gooderson, Goodison and Goodson to be employed as forenames but the Archive has yet to discover the existence of someone named Gooderson Gooderson. However, it must surely be only a matter of time before such a combination of names is actually used by some proud parent.

Roy C. Rayment
22nd September 2002

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