Origins of Goyen Family Name

Origins of “Goyen”:

Just a few generations back, the name was spelled in a variety of ways – Going was most common, but also seen are Goyen, Goyne, Goin, Gowen, Gowing, Goen, Goine, Guyne and any other variation that sounding like “Go” – “In”, or “Go”  – “Wing”.  Add an “s” to the end of each variation and you have all the different spellings of our last name.

If the family came from the Virginia/Maryland area (near present-day Washington DC) in the early 1700s, southern Virginia along the North Carolina border in the mid 1700s, North Carolina in the mid to late 1700s to early 1800s, or South Carolina in the late 1700s to early 1800s they have a good chance of being related (maybe 33%-40% chance – this is a guess based on looking back at the names and where they came from).

Usually, the assumption is that the spelling of your name exactly as your direct ancestors (parents and grandparents) spelled it is important, and that it was a way of differentiating your family from other families with similar sounding names.  This is true by modern standards, but does not appear true prior to some time during 1800-1850.

In our line, if you go back to  William W. Goyen b. 1825 – d. 1864, you see that William W. was spelling his name “Going”, and “Goyne” early in his life (1850-60).  He was a teacher at a local school in Mississippi.  Obviously he wasn’t illiterate.    In the last 5 years of his life (during the Civil War) he settled on Goyen as the spelling of his name.  He died during the Civil War, and his wife Sarah Martha Bell Goyen continued for the remainder of her life using the spelling of Goyen.  All her children continued using Goyen (Martha Elizabeth Goyen, John Bell Goyen, William Smith Goyen, and Anna Mae Goyen).   My family line goes through John Bell Goyen, who’s son was William Leslie Goyen.  The author William Goyen’s line goes through William Smith Goyen.

(William W. Goyen is a clearly documented ancestor of our Goyen line.  Documented with both public records and family letters and photos.  William W.’s line come out of Mississippi and settled East Texas and then Houston, Texas).

Prior to William W. Goyen b. 1825, the first spellings of “Goyen” in our line appears shortly after the Revolutionary War.  Several members of the family started using the spelling “Goyen” or “Goyne” in the 1780s and 1790s.  Some continued using the spelling, but several went back to using Going, Goin, Gowen, or other variations.

William W. Goyen’s great grandfather Drury Goyen b. 1749 was the first known person to use the spelling in our direct line.  From 1783-1789 he appears to be using the spelling of Goyen fairly regularly.

1784 Drury Goyen survey 200a Fairfield SC marked

From 1783 to 1789 the South Carolina archives show Drury using the last name of “Goyen” in several of his land transactions:

1783 – 1789 South Carolina deeds for Drury Goyen in 1783-1789

After Drury’s death in 1796, his wife and son Job, use the spelling in the 1810 US Census, and Job uses the spelling again in the 1820 US Census.  After 1820, Job’s family goes back to using Going.

1810 US Census Chester SC with Job Goyen and Sarah Goyen 1820 US Census Chester SC with Job Goyen

Drury Goyen’s (b. 1749) oldest son Elijah died in 1807.  He appears to have used the spelling of Going in most of his documents, but he must have started using “Goyen” as well prior to his death.  Elijah’s son Drury B. Goyen (b. 1800) was named after his grand father, Drury Goyen (b. 1749).  In 1820 Elijah Goyen’s mother, Sarah Goyen, died.  A guardian was appointed for Drury B. Goyen as he was a minor (under 21) to protect his legal interest in Elijah’s estate (as he stood to inherit his father’s estate, both as oldest children of their fathers).  The court’s guardian papers list Drury b. 1800 as “Drury Goyen”.

1820 Goyen, Drury in York SC as minor having John Plaxco appt as guardian 2

1820 Plaxco, John court mnts he is appointed guardian of Drury Goyen March 27 1820 York SC

Scots-Irish or Scotland:

Several sources list Goyen, Goyne, Gowing, Gowen, Going, type names to be from Scotland or Scots-Irish out of the Ulster region of Northern Ireland.   The English Crown in the early 1600s imported Protestants from Scotland, England, France, Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany to populate the Ulster region of Northern Ireland area and help “keep the peace” over the Catholics in Ireland.   This population mixed with eachother, and with the local Irish.

The meaning of Gowen in Gaellic is “metalsmith” or “smith”.

Reasons for changes in spelling:

Spelling in English was not standardized or considered very important other than to get it phonetically correct in the 1700s and earlier.  Standardization of spelling in the United States did not really begin until 1847 when Noah Webster’s dictionary was published by Mirriam.

Additionally, if your family is from a country that does not speak English, or speaks English that uses different symbols or letter combinations (like in Scotland or Ireland in the 1700s), and they move to an American English speaking area, you are often forced to change spellings to conform to local standards.

1.  Spelling in the early 1800s and before was not standardized.  Compared to our standards today, spelling each word or name exactly the same each time was not as important to our ancestors:

Words and names were often spelled differently before the mid 1800s.  Spelling was not standardized, and spelling every word and name exactly as you spelled it previously was not considered that important.

Mark Twain supposedly said: “I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.

In Twain’s autobiography, he explains how different ways of spelling used to show a person’s “shades of expression”, and he appears to have felt that the standardization of spelling might not have been a good thing for writers:

“I never had any large respect for good spelling. That is my feeling yet. Before the spelling-book came with its arbitrary forms, men unconsciously revealed shades of their characters and also added enlightening shades of expression to what they wrote by their spelling, and so it is possible that the spelling-book has been a doubtful benevolence to us.”

Edmund Weiner at The Oxford English Dictionary gives a good discription of the changes in spelling and pronunciation of words in English during the 17th century:

In the 18th century, spelling still was not standardized.  People would spell the same word differently within the same document, including the spelling of names.  See:

With the name Goyen, I only need to go back to William W. Goyen (1825-1864) – father of John Bell Goyen, to see that he spelled his name several different ways throughout his life.   His letters he wrote in 1851 he spells his name Going and Goings.   Tax and census documents show his name as Goen, Going, Goyen, Goyne, etc.  Later, during the Civil War, he begins to settle in for Goyen, even though some of his documents still occasionally spell his name Goin, or Going. (See documents below):

W W Goyen 8th Miss Cav Jan 19, 1864 to June 10, 1864 killed Brice's Crossroads_Page_1  W W Goyen 8th Miss Cav Jan 19, 1864 to June 10, 1864 killed Brice's Crossroads_Page_3  W W Goyen 8th Miss Cav Jan 19, 1864 to June 10, 1864 killed Brice's Crossroads_Page_5 W W Goyen 8th Miss Cav Jan 19, 1864 to June 10, 1864 killed Brice's Crossroads_Page_6  W W Goyen Capt T P Montgomery's Co Miss May 9, 1863_Page_1 W W Goyen Capt T P Montgomery's Co Miss May 9, 1863_Page_2   W W Goyen Civ War Perrin's Battalion Miss Cav July - Oct 1863_Page_3 W W Goyen Civ War Perrin's Battalion Miss Cav July - Oct 1863_Page_4

It appears that during the late 1780s-1790s there were several in the family in South Carolina who began spelling their name “Goyen” or “Goyne”.  Prior to this time the same people had used the spelling of Going, Goin, Gowen, Gowing, etc. that appeared to phoenetically be pronounced “Go”-“In” or “Go”-“Wing”.

Prior to the 1860s with William W. Goyen, it was more common to see the name spelled Going, Goin, Goen, Gowen, Gowin, or Gowing.  Only rarely would you see a “y” used to spell the name in any of the wills, probate paperwork, deeds, tax reports, census, tithes, quitrents, or other documentation.

Those who used the spelling “Goyen” or “Goyne” all seemed to be out of the same family line.   John Gowen b. 1710 who married Mary Keith and his brother Alexander Gowen b. 1715 who married Sophia, both appear to have children who used the spelling of “Goyen” or “Goyne”.

Out of John Gowen b. 1710’s line:

Amos Goyen b. 1744, son of John Gowen b. 1710 used the spelling Goyen (he was also married to a Mary Ann “Baxter” – same maiden name as Drury Goyen b. 1749’s wife – Sarah “Baxter”).

James Goyne b. 1755, son of John Gowen b. 1710 used the spelling Goyne.

William Goyne b. 1733, son of John Gowen b. 1710 used the spelling Goyne.

Drury Goyen b. 1749, son of John Gowen b. 1710 used the spelling Goyen.

Out of Alexander Gowen b. 1715’s line:

Daniel Goyen b. 1735:   “Daniel Goyen” was listed as a purchaser at the estate sale of Nottley Hollis about June 1782, according to “Camden District, South Carolina Wills and Administrations, 1781-1787”

Alexander Goyen, Jr. b. 1744:  1786 August 17, Alexander Goyen appeared in a Fairfield County, South Carolina court record, according to “Fairfield County, South Carolina Minutes of the County Court. 1785-1799.”

Court: paternity, 19 Aug 1786, , Fairfield, South Carolina, USA. 6 “On August 17, 1786, in “State vs. Daniel Goyen,” “Danyel Goyen, principal and [his uncle] Alexander Goyen, his security forfeited their recognizance. Sc: Fa: to issue,” according to Fairfield County Court Minute Book A, page 32. “S. Bradley appeared in court and swore that she has been delivered of Female Child, and that Daniel Goyan was the Father of it.”  On Saturday, August 19, 1786 “Daniel Goyen” was convicted in the paternity suit and was fined “£5 in proclamation money and ordered to give bond in the amount of £50 for the maintenance of the child, payable to the justice,” according to Fairfield County Court Minute Book A, page 34.”

Daniel Goyen b. 1761 (son of Daniel Goyen b. 1735) in a land transaction in 1790 used the spelling “Goyen”:

1790 Goyen, Daniel plat survey in Fairfield SC snipped

Jesse Goyen b. 1751, son of Alexander Gowen b. 1715, used the spelling in a 1791 land transaction:

1791 Goyen, Jesse plat survey for 196 acres in Fairfield SC snipped

John Goyen b. 1748, son of Alexander Gowen b. 1715 in a land transaction in 1791 in South Carolina:

John Goyen 1791 land trans snipped SC

Levi Goyen, John Goyen, and David (or Daniel) Goyen in an affidavit filed in Fairfield County, South Carolina giving John Goyen power of attorney to represent Levi Goyen in a land transaction in Davidson County, Tennessee regarding a 640 acre land grant in that county (notice on page 2 of the same document the change in spelling to “Gowen” for several of those listed in the affidavit):

Levi David and John Goyen in affidavit in SC markedLevi David and John Goyen in affidavit in SC 2 marked

Another possibility for the use of the “y” in the family name is that it was always there, just not translated into documents.

Its also possible that the reason we suddenly see several different people from the same family (cousins and brothers – children of two brothers who all live within a few counties of eachother) is that they wanted to differentiate themselves from the “other” Gowen/Going families.

There is a story of the Lockhart family in South Carolina (some who married Goyen/Going family members) Patriots during the Revolution who changed their name to Lockert – in order to spell their name differently from their Loyalist relatives who supported England during the Revolution.  Its possible that the Goyen/Goyne’s wanted to spell their name differently from Gowen/Going’s who may have sided with England – so they wouldn’t be mistaken for “those” Gowen/Going family members.   There are many who continued using the spelling of Going or Gowen, etc, who fought for the Patriots though, so if this was a reason, it was not uniform throughout the family.  The timing of the appearance of the “y” in the family name of those who did use it, does seem to coincide with the timing of the Revolution and immediately after.

2.  Spelling did not translate easily into English:

It is also possible that if the Goyen (Gowing, Going, Gowen) family came from a country that used letters or symbols that did not translate into English very well, that could cause an issue or change in how to spell the name.  An example is the use of the “yogh” (it looks like a 3 half way down the line – kindof similar to a Z in appearance).   The letter yogh (Ȝ ȝ; Middle English: yoȝ) was used in Middle English and Older Scots, representing y (/j/) and various velar phonemes. It was derived from the Old English form of the letter g.

Scottish words that use the Yogh:

  • Bunzion — pronounced bunion, Lower and Upper Bunzion are farms in the Parish of Cults, Fife;
  • Cadzow, the former name of the town of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; the word Cadzow continues in modern use in many street names and other names, e.g. Cadzow Castle, Kilncadzow.
  • Capercailzie (from capall-coille, now normally spelt capercaillie in English);
  • Culzeanculain (IPA /kʌˈleɪn/)’
  • Dalziel — pronounced deeyel (IPA /diːˈɛl/), from Gaelic Dail-gheal; also spelled Dalyell and Dalzell;
  • Drumelzier — pronounced “drumellier” (IPA /drʌˈmɛljɛr/);
  • Finzean — pronounced fingen (IPA /ˈfɪŋən/);
  • Funzie Girt (IPA /ˈfɪnji ɡɪrt/);
  • Gaberlunzie, a licensed beggar;
  • Gilzean – pronounced gilain, a variant of Maclean
  • Glenzier — pronounced glinger (IPA /ˈɡlɪŋər/);
  • Lenzie — now pronounced /ˈlɛnzɪ/, but previously /lɛnjɪ/ – a village near Glasgow;
  • MacKenzie — originally pronounced makenyie (IPA /məˈkɛŋji/), from Gaelic MacCoinnich; now usually pronounced with /z/, though as late as 1946 George Black recorded the form with /j/ as standard;[11]
  • Menzies — most correctly pronounced mingis (IPA /ˈmɪŋɪs/), a variant of Manners,[12] now controversially also pronounced with /z/;
  • Monzie – location in Perthshire near Crieff, pronounced “money”;
  • Queenzieburn – location in North Lanarkshire, pronounced “queenieburn”;
  • Ruchazie — a district of Glasgow;
  • Tuilzie — a fight;
  • Winzet — pronounced winyet (IPA /ˈwɪnjət/);
  • Zell — Archaic spelling of “Isle of Yell“‘
  • Zetland — the name for Shetland until the 1970s. Shetland postcodes begin with the letters ZE.

In the name MacKenzie, the z was a “yogh”.  It was pronounced MacKenyee.  As the Scots adopted use of English spellings, some adopted the “z” in place of the “yogh” and began pronouncing it as it is today.  Others dropped the “yogh” and the name became McKinney.

The name Gowan/Gowin in Scotland was originally spelled Ghobhainn – which means “Blacksmith” or “Smith”.  Mac o Ghobhainn was Son of the Smith.   The “bh” was pronounced like a “w”.  So it was pronounced “Gowen”.   As the Scots adopted English spelling, the name Ghobhainn was replaced with the Gowan, Gowin, Gowen families in the 17th century.

(Origins of name Gowen with the Scots):

(Meaning of Ghobhainn):

(Pronounciation of Ghobhainn):

The Scots use of Gaelic began to decline in the beginning of the 1600’s.  Several Acts were passed by England to encourage the use of “English”, and discourage the use of “Gaelic”.   (See: ).

It is possible that the Goyen/Gowing/Going/Gowen family we descend from was here in the Americas by the 1630s.  I have traced back our line to Thomas Gowing born about 1655 – there are court records involving him in Virginia in the 1690s.

There are several “Gowen” sounding names that came to the Americas in the 1620s-1630s.   Even though it is possible that Thomas Gowing was the first immigrant in our family line, my guess is that his parents or grandparents were likely the first immigrant, and he was born here.   If this is so, then the family arrived here within 10-15 years of the time England began discouraging Gaelic spelling, this also coincides with immigration of English and Scottish protestants to the Americas.

This could be why there are so many different “English” spellings of the Gowen/Goyen/Gowing/Going name.   If there was not a standard English way to spell the name when the family arived in the Americas, then it would take time before family members would decide on a particular way to spell the name.  Additionally, family might not agree on how the spelling should be.

Regardless of why the spellings appear to have changed over the last 300 plus years, the fact is that when you research your family name, you need to look at all spellings that sound like your surname once you get beyond the 1870s-1880s.  Don’t discard documents because the spelling is not “correct” by today’s standards.

From Gowen Manuscript:

The Scottish name “Gowen” is probably derived from the Gaelic word of the same spelling which is interpreted “metalsmith.” Very likely the early bearers of the Gowen name in Scotland and Ireland were followers of that trade. The word was also used to describe other metal workers– goldsmiths, silversmiths, coppersmiths, tinsmiths and even blacksmiths.  It is synonymous with “Smith” in English, “Schmidt” in German and “Kovaks” in Polish.

The name was interchangeably spelled Gowen, Gowan, Gowin, Gowing, Gowine, Goan, Goen, Goin, Goyn, Goyne, Goyen, Gouwen and other even more remote renderings– sometimes among members of the same family. Clerks frequently added an “s” to the end of the name to give it even more variations.

The names”Gowin” and “Gouwen” are said to be of German and Dutch origin. The word “gow,” from the Gaelic “gobha” signified a smith. The smith was a craftsman of importance in all of the clans, so the name has no particular connection with any one of the Scottish clans. The Gows are usually included in Clan Chattan though there are many of the name in Perthshire, and 11 of the name appeared in the “Commissariot Record of Dunblane” in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, according to George F. Black who wrote “Surnames of Scotland.”

Since a “V” was used interchangeable with a “W” in old English spelling, the name “Gowen” was often rendered “Goven.” The name “Govan” was of territorial origin from the old lands of Govan in Lanarkshire, logical location for the beginning of the Gowen family, according to Black. Some credence can be given to this theory because “Gowen” was a very common name at Wigtown, a hamlet in the southern-most extremity of the country, some 30 miles south of Govan. Even closer was Ayr, birthplace of the poet Robert Burns who is claimed as a kinsman by many in the Gowen family.

The word “Gowan” has a separate meaning in the language of the Scots–being also used to refer to a meadow daisy, accord- ing to Rev. Peter I. Gowan, Jr, a Presbyterian minister who was born March 13, 1843 and died December 2, 1912 in Wesson, Mississippi.

Brendan Gowen wrote October 24, 1997: “The Irish Gaelic for “Gowen” is “McGabhann” correctly linked to the name “Smith.”

“McGabhann, pronounced ma-gow-an is derived from the word “gabha” pronounced gow-a, meaning “Smith” and “mc” meaning “son of.” The Irish Gaelic for “Gowan” is also “McGabhann,” suggesting that the names Gowen and Gowan both derived from the one name. The name “Gowen” is perhaps a later derivative of “Gowan.” It is possible name “McGabhann” is Scottish or derived from a Scottish name. It is possible that the Gowen name derived from another source, eg: “Goune” which is pronounced similiarily. It is then possible that that during the retranslation of Anglicised Irish names back to Gaelic that “Gowen”, spelt very similiar to “Gowan” was then catagorized as a derivative of “Gowan” and translates back to “McGab0hann,” hence the link to Scotland. Most Scottish-derived names in Ireland are located in the north of the country as are many of the Gowans, however the largest gathering of Gowens is in the south of the country, There are also significantly less Gowens to Gowans in Ireland. Most Gowens in Ireland are related suggesting the name is a recent migrant family or the name is a recent derivative. It was recently suggested to me that “Gowen” derives from the French name “Goune” who were originally French Protestants who fled religious persecution from Catholic France.”

4 Responses to Origins of Goyen Family Name

  1. Vivien Goyen says:

    Hello, There!
    Im a goyen by marriage, to Michael Goyen decedent from Husband Francis and Wife Frances Goyen. I LOVE your site! I did a similar thing although not online and nowhere close to your elegance. I would love to share with you what I found sometime.

  2. douggoyen says:

    Thanks Vivien. Its a work in progress, and it will change as I’m working on it. Any info you have is welcome. You can email the info to, or post it here if you want, either way. Thanks again.

  3. Janet M Blubaugh says:


    I think we are distantly related. I have a ton of Hollis people in my tree over on Ancestry. This research is fun!

  4. Peter Goyen says:

    Came upon this site today quite by accident. There is a growing Goyen clan in Australia who are directly descended from my great, great grandfather, Peter Goyen, who emigrated in the late 1800’s. I have lots of detail if you are interested.
    Peter Goyen – Queensland Australia

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