Notes on the Godbey Family
Notes on the Godbey Family

By A. H. Godbey

(Circa 1930)

The name Godbey is well known from early times in England. Originally it was Godsdbye, Godebye, Godesbye, the name of an ancient Danish Settlement in Leicestershire, (Barber, English Family names, p. 152) and meaning the town, village, or community of the Goed or Gode (Danish Gud, Guth) family. The first syllable is a very common element in the Danish names, (e.g. Gudrun, Gythorm, Godbrey, Godair, Godbold, Godsal, Godloe, Godleight, Goddard, Godwin, Godbard, Godall, Goodali, Godkin, Godbed, etc.) The name "Goad" is commonly written "Goode" in modern times. The modernized form Godbey, Goodby, Godbye, Godsby, is found in the earliest parish records which begin in the reign of Henry VIII; yet the older form "Goadby" is still found occasionally, even in modern New York; Godsby is also still in use.

There has been no figure of permanent national note in executive, legislative or administrative work, except Co. Christopher Godbey, for many years an officer in the Bengal Army. Some of the family attained genteel rank very early and have been in minor official positions and the Godby coat of arms and crest are well known in English Heraldry. (Fairbairn, Vol. 1, p. 206; II, p. 118, fig. 44) (Book of Family Crests, Vol. II p. 202; I, plate re, fig. 3) The crest is a chevalier in full armor, proper, with visor down. The "Edward Godby" or Godsby is found repeatedly as that of one of genteel rank. Perhaps an Edward Godbey was first to bear arms.

The Godbey family has been in London for more than 400 years, as shown by the various parish registers. Thomas and John are the prevalent baptismal masculine names. Peter, Robert, Mark, George are known. James Godbey of London attained national distinction as a stipple engraver, 1790-1815; but the Dictionare of National Biography knows nothing of his antecedents. London directories show that the Godbeys are still there; some in courtly circles.

The first Godbey in America was "Thomas Godby of Blunt's Point". The Virginia census of 1624 tells us that he was then 38 years old (hence born in 1587) and that he came over in the ship Deliverance in 1605. The other members of the household are Joane Godby, aged 42, who came over in the Flying Berte in 1621, and John Curtis and Christopher Smith, aged 22 and 24 years. It is not possible to tell from this record if Joan was wife or sister of Thomas Godby; if married to him after she came to America, of if she had married in England waiting for her husband to make his fortune. He had stood by the side of Captain Smith, and had seen all of Jamestown's hardest days; had been a shareholder in the Virginia Company, and received his first dividend of land from Sir Thomas Wyall Dec. 1, 1624. This 100 acres was at Blunt's point, a little below Kecoughtan or Elizabeth City. Hence he is spoken of as "Godby of Blunt's Point" or Kiccaoughtan. In the census of Elizabeth City 1623, the names are given as "Thomas Godby" and Joan Godby.

He probably made two or three trips to England, as the laws of the time allowed a colonist 50 acres of land for each time that he crossed the Atlantic. Hence we consider that the Thomas Godbye who is shown by records as landing in 1637 in the Isle of Wight County, just across the Bay from Blunt's Point, is the same man, while the extant records of Lower Norfolk shows another Thomas Godby who landed in that county more than once a little later and had connections of a business sort in Isle of Wight County.

The will of "Thomas Godbye, Planter" of Elizabeth River in Lower Norfolk was drawn April 18, 1652, proved Feb. 15, 1653, "Anne, my Deere and loving Wife" is the sole executrix. Codicil five days before death, made legacy to wife's sister Elizabeth Beane, (George Bain was witness of the will of "Allexander Rose" proved the same that Thomas Godbye' was. But nothing further has been published relative to the Bain family in Norfolk. The tendency of neighbors to move in groups is illustrated by the Bain family appearing alongside the Godbey family in oth er counties, for a hundred years) signed by Thomas R. Godbey, and sealed, indicating a coat or crest. It is doubtful if the "Ann" of this will is "Joane" of the Elizabeth city census.

Then the Norfolk records show us "Thomas Godbye" among 60 persons brought over by Cornelius Lloyd in 1642 and again one in three in 1647, again by Frances Empercer in 1653. (Fifty acres of land was allowed for each man or woman who crossed to America, as often as he did so). In 1665 this traveling Thomas Godby himself imports several. The will of this Thomas Godby, drawn Sept. 23, 1671, was proved Feb. 21. 1686. And also leaves everything to the disposal of his "wife Ann". It is impossible just now, to tell the relation of the second Thomas Godby to the first; the will of Mr. Bordas, a ship-captain, in 1667 leaves his book and instruments to Ann Godbey, wife of Thomas Godbey; she is executrix. The will of John Jacob, 1681, leaves her his chest, and also makes her executrix. Probably she was the only daughter of Jacob, only granddaughter of Burdas {sic.}.

The Godbeys were closely associated with the Quakers and with leading men of the colony. They got fined for attending a Quaker meeting at a neighbor's. They are warmly attached to an old Quaker school teacher Richard Russell, who in his will in 1667 leaves a bequest for educating the poor, and a number of books to various friends, including Ann Godbey. Ann Godbey talked too much. She charged a neighbor, wife of Nick Robinson, in 1659 with being a witch. The clear headed authorities were not going to have any Salem craze and had passed an ordinance that any one making such a charge should be fined. It cost Tom Godbey a tidy little bunch of tobacco, 300 lbs., and cost.

Of the next generation, we know two.

I. Cary Godbey or Godbee, as the records frequently spell it, and Edward Godby. Cary Godby moved into Chowan Co., North Carolina. Records show he had children by 1700. The Cary Godby who lived in Newbern, Carteret County, and was one of his Majesty's Justices 1749-1758, must have been son of the first Cary; and the Nathaniel Godby, George Godbey, Bliss Godby, John Godby, who are active patriots in Pitt Co., N.C. a few miles from Newbern during the Revolutionary War, are probably sons of this second Cary Godbey; while the John Godbey who is a soldier in the N.C. Colonial Militia in 1754 may be brother of this second Cary. This branch need not be traced.

II. Edward Godby or Godbee, as the old record variously spell it, moved in time from Lower Norfolk to Mikddlesex Co. The old Christ Church parish register reaches back to 1653. But no Godby entries are in it till 1701 when we have "Mary, daughter of Edward Godbee and Frances his wife, born Oct. 13, 1701, bapt. Oct 23, 1701". Rebecca, bapt. June 1, 1703; John bapt. April 1, 1705. Edward dies soon after; and Frances Godby and Thomas Cheedle are married July 26, 1708. There are no Cheedle births; but the family remains there, for we find the marriage of Mary, daughter of Edward Godbee and Frances his wife; born Oct. 13, 1701, bapt. Oct. 23, 1701". Rebecca, bapt. June 1, 1703; John bapt. April 1, 1705. Edward dies soon after; and Frances Godby and Thomas Cheedle are married July 26, 1708. There are no Cheedle births; but the family remains there, for we find the marriage of Mary Godbee and Henry Tugwell, March 30, 1772, and Rebecca Godbee married John Kidd Feb. 21, 1720. Their descendants in the Middlesex Register are many, also George Godbe (Godloe?) married Diana Minor Jan. 13, 1728.

Older children of Edward Godby, William? and George, must have been born before Edward came to Middlesex. These with John, the youngest child, probably settled in Caroline Co., Va. Certain groups moved together; Godby, Cunter, Bain, Farmer, Tomson are neighbors in Middlesex, again in Carolina, late in S.W. Va. The John Godby born in 1705 is probably the one who patented 400 acres of land in Coochland in 1734. Thomas Godby patented 1200 there in 1732. Probably neither resided there long. John Godby appears in the few remnants of the Carolina records, from 1760-64. His children can not be certainly named, but he may be the same John who was born in 1705.

But my great-grandfather William Godbey was born in Carolina County, VA., in 1781 (so sketch of Rev. Josiah Godbey published in Cooper Co., Mo. in 1862 declares). Old family documents show his father's name was John and grandfather's was William and that he was a Revolutionary soldier. The almost total destruction of Carolina records leaves us to conjecture between John, born in Middlesex in 1705 and settling in Carolina, and William born in 1651 son of John. Does this 76 years cover two generations only? or three? All probablities favor the latter. The rough pioneers married early. John, father of William, 1781, is probably the grandson of John, born in 1705, settled in Carolina; William born 1725-30. We do not know the names of wife and other children, at present. But from old family papers we know that the oldest son of this William was also named William, that he was born in 1750, and his wife Zannah was born 1751, (as a specimen of the early marrying habit, notice that Wm. Godbey and Zannah were married in 1768, and their odest son, John, was born in 1769, when his father was 19 years old, and this son John himself married at 16, Naomi Bain). The second son of this first William was also named John, and is our own ancestor.

These two brothers, John and William, came to Southwest Va., probably just after the Revolution, for John, oldest son of William, was married in Montgomery County, in 1783 (the marriage bond to Naomi Bain is still on file). Russell and George Godbey came to Halifax County about the same time. All four were Revolutionary soldiers from Carolina County. Russell and George were pretty certainly brothers of William and John, (although they may have been cousins). We know of three George Godbeys in Revolutionary Army; two Virginians, one N. Carolinian. There was a John Godbey in New York before the Revolution, Probate Judge, and secretary to Sir Henry Clinton. N.Y. records show no descendents. (He may have been a Londoner.)

The descendents of the brothers William and John are now very numerous. William settled near New Berne, in the present Fulask County, then in Montgomery, purchasing land there in 1797. He died in 1833; his will mentions his wife Zannah; sons Benjamin, Gabriel, Francis, (Marion), George, William; daughters of Sarah Cunter, Patsey Farmer, Lucy Redge, Susanna Covey. (The John who married Naomi Bain died in 1803 intestate; personal appraisement $1330.55; equal to $5,000 these days.)

John's oldest son, William, was our Great grandfather. He was born in 1781; records say in Carolina County; though one paper claims his father had come to S.W. Virginia earlier. William married Sarah Smith in Virginia and came when quite young to Pulaski County, Ky. Their children were John, who married Orpha Kelly; Jacob married _________, Fannie married James Reese, Nancy married Edward Deboard, Ibby married Eli Haynes, Matilda married __________ Cascanean; Sarah married __________ Ragan; William Henry Harrison married __________; Josiah L. died in infancy; Josiah and Josephine, twins; Melisea married Miles Wesley.

Three sons were Methodist Preachers. Josiah, our grandfather, was born June 30, 1817. He married Sene Kelley Oct. 27, 1836. He joined the Methodist Church Sept. 7, 1883, was licensed to exhort in 1840, and to preach in 1841. He travelled five years in Kentucky, superannuated moved to Cooper County, Mo, in 1852, reentered Conference in 1853, travelling 23 years, then superannuating; died April 20, 1880.

The Godbey family is now numerous in West Virginia, and Kentucky, and is found in the directories of the larger cities of the West and South, from Florida to Portland. The family clings to the farm, or takes to preaching and teaching. W.H. Godbey of Evansville, Indiana, tells me that a Rev. Alex Godbey, near him, has compiled a list of 87 Methodist preachers of the name. The names in city directories are chiefly those of employes. The recent election return Martin V. Godbey as elected to Congress from West Virginia. A John Godbey was once in Kentucky Legislature, from Nelson County. Andrew Jackson Godbey was long clerk and sheriff of Floyd County, Va. But politics is not a controlling interest of the clan.

[Letter Circa. 1930]