by Phillip G. Goff, GGFA Director of Genetic Genealogy
A longstanding misidentification of the parents of Edward Goff (c1803 VA) of Pike County, KY, US has hampered the research into his true lineage.
Online family trees offer valuable clues in building one’s lineage. The downside is that errant conclusions can be copied repeatedly:
- On Ancestry.com, Edward Goff appears in 54 trees. Only 37 have publicly available results. In eight of the 37, Edward’s parents are identified as some variation of George Gray Goff (1782 – 1867) and Joanna Goff (1782 – 1861). The other 29 trees have no parents listed for Edward.
- At MyHeritage, of the first 50 trees for Edward Goff, 25 tag his parents as some variation of George Gray Goff (1782 – 1867) and Joanna Goff (1782 – 1861). The other half list no parents.
- The singular Edward Goff tree at FamilySearch identifies his father as Goff, born 1780.
- GENi includes a tree for “Edward T. Goff” and identifies his parents as George Gray Goff and Joanna Goff.
- Wikitree forum gets it right. A poster wrote, “I need proof of Edward’s parents. I thought it was George Gray Goff . . . and [Joanna Goff]. But that may not be the case.” The response: “. . . it has been proven through a Goff DNA study that George Gray Goff and Joanna Goff are not the parent[s] of Edward Goff.”
The married couple, George and Joanna (Goff) Goff were paternal first cousins to each other, being children of Salathiel Goff and John Turton Goff, respectively. Salathiel and John Turton Goff are part of the Goff family in Y-chromosome haplogroup I-Y6902. Edward Goff is in haplogroup G-Z39590. Haplogroups I and G last shared a paternal ancestor about 50,000 years ago. Hereditary surnames were adopted in England in the 14th century. It is impossible for George Gray Goff to be the father of Edward Goff.
While genetics rule out Edward Goff being a son of George and Joanna, geography is a further obstacle. George and Joanna lived in what is now Gilmer Co., WV. Edward Goff was likely born in the far western corner of present-day VA and lived his entire adult life in Pike Co., KY. Gilmer and Pike are separated by about 200 miles. There is no evidence that either family was ever in the other place.
The genesis of the myth that Edward Goff was a son of George and Joanna (Goff) Goff is uncertain. Edward Goff named his third son George Washington Goff (b. 1833 KY), possibly sparking a theory that Edward’s father was named George. It seems more likely that this child was named in honor of the first President of the United States. The earliest known reference to Edward being a son of the Gilmer Co., VA Goff couple dates to 1979.1
So, who were the parents of Edward Goff? Over the last year, Carol Goff Tanner, Veronica Matejko and I have conducted a reasonably exhaustive search of records in the border counties of southwestern VA and eastern KY for clues. While it is likely that no record exists that names Edward’s parents, a cohesive set of documents embracing five counties and spanning the years 1789 through 1816 point to a couple that meets the Genealogical Proof Standard to be the parents of Edward Goff.
A call to action. With the parents of the Edward Goff now proven according to the Genealogical Proof Standard, please check all of your online family trees. If you have George Gray Goff and Joanna Goff as the parents of Edward Goff of Pike Co., KY, please delete these parents.
1 Goffs/Goughs: Their Ancestors & Descendants newsletter, Summer 2004, p. 89 includes a query that notes that this assertion is in Betty Jean Phillips Hughey’s book, Reliving the Goff Generations (1979), p. 9.
Phillip Goff is the co-author, along with Roy L. Lockhart, of The Four Goff Brothers of Western Virginia. Since 2004, he has run the Goff/Gough Surname DNA Study, which today has about 400 participants.