Phillip G. Goff, GGFA DNA Project Manager

According the 1850 and 1860 Washington Co., MO federal censuses, William Goff was born ca. 1791/92 in Virginia. A 1950 transcription by Fannie E. Frey of an 1816 letter, asserts that William Goff’s father was not a Goff: “I Robert Heaton of Davidson County, State of Tennessee, have known & raised William Goff from a small boy. . . . [H]is mother was a woman of the Catawba & American & his Father a Colonel Trent of Virginia.” [1]

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The paternity of William Goff can be solved. The Y-chromosome is passed only from father to son, largely unchanged generation after generation, much like surnames. A male Goff descendant of William Goff could resolve this mystery by taking a YDNA test, such as YDNA37, from Family Tree DNA. A match with the Trent surname would confirm Robert Heaton’s assertion of William Goff’s paternity. A match with a Goff family would provide support for a Goff father. The GGFA sponsors YDNA testing for paid members with brick walls in their Goff or Gough lineage.

For more information, please check our DNA Surname Study pages or email me at Each new participant helps to fill in the history of the Goff/Gough families.

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.

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