- Gooing Family -


Jedediah Gooing and Vivian Leigh Cox

Personal Histories

Vivian Leigh Cox Gooing

For many years I have wondered about the origin of the name Gooing. Throughout the ages there have been many variations, including Gowen, Guyen, Gowring, Goen, Goin, Going, etc. Scotland seemed to be a logical place of origin, but to my great surprise this Gooing line originates in Angola, Africa, with the first documented freed slave/servant in the American colonies: John Geaween/Gowen.

This line has been researched extensively, especially in light of the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in Virginia in 1619. Of the names listed below, some of the wives' names are speculative, but the men are well documented, with some variations in middle names and surname spellings.


Note: I try to help keep things orderly in Family Search, but there are several interesting trees in Ancestry that deviate broadly from the facts. Unless further research upends current knowledge, what you find here should be fairly accurate. I present it with trepidation, however, knowing that there is always room for error. 

My maternal grandfather's line (Jedediah Gooing) goes directly back to John Geaween/Gowen, from son to father, through 11 generations. 

1 - John Geaween/Gowen Born in Angola, 1616-1715 & Margaret Cornish 1610- 


  2 - Mihill/Michael Gowen 1655-1717 & Prossa 1630-1730 approx.


    3 - Thomas Christopher? Gowen 1655-1726 & Catherine Winona? (likely Cherokee)

      4 - William Gowen Sr. 1680-1726 & Catherine Patterson 1675-1739

        5 - John Frederick Goins 1709-1761 & Mary W. Keife 1704-1791

          6 - Thomas Going 1729-1797 & Elizabeth Hardister 1731-

            7 - Thomas Goin Jr. 1750-1838 & Jemima Sinnes 1759- (Cherokee)

              8 - Pleasant Goin 1784-1863 & Temperance Cooper 1801-

                9 - Andrew Martin Gooing 1823-1867 & Ameminta Barnett1826-1902

                  10 - Pleasant Thomas Fillmore Gooing 1854-1932 & Alice McCoy 1865-1938


                      11 - Jedediah Gooing 1891-1973 & Vivian Leigh Cox 1896-1977
                               My Maternal Grandfather

John Geaween/Gowen -- Brought to America in 1619


In January of 1620, John Rolfe (widower of Pocahontas) reported to the treasurer of the Virginia Company of London that a ship brought "but 20 and odd Negroes" to Point Comfort, Virginia in August of 1619. These Angolans, the first brought from Africa, were quietly sold to the inhabitants of the colony. (John Rolfe, January 1620, The Records of the Virginia Company of London - Susan Myra Kingsbury.)

This brought a great advantage to the colonists because they needed able-bodied workers. And equally as important, for every 'indenture' contract that could be proved, the owner was awarded a 50-acre tract of land from the Virginia Company. By purchasing these unfortunate Africans and treating them as indentured servants, the colonists could acquire free land.


It should also be noted that Rolfe was purposefully vague in his mention of the "20 and odd" to the owners of the Virginia Company. Any dealings with pirates or engaging in slave trade could have cost the colonists their exclusive Virginia Charter to colonize America.

Based on credible evidence from Spanish archives and ship registries, John Geaween/Gowen (or Graweere) would have been one of the slaves who arrived in 1619. In 1625, he appears on Virginia land records as an African male working on the Jamestown plantation of William Evans, who was a neighbor of John Rolfe. 

Those who came from Angola had specialized knowledge of agriculture and other skills that made a significant contribution to colonial development. At this time, some were allowed to raise animals and crops of their own to earn money to purchase their freedom from indenture. They were then allowed to buy land and live freely, often intermarrying with their colonial neighbors or Native Americans.

In 1640 there were fifty Africans in the Jamestown colony. On March 31, 1641, John Geaween/Gowen, servant to William Evans, became the first on record to be granted his freedom by the Virginia Court. This happened in what we might now call surprising circumstances:

"Whereas it appeareth to the court that John Gowen, being a negro servant unto William Evans, was permitted by his said master to keep hogs and make the best benefit thereof to himself provided that the said Evans might have half the increase which was accordingly rendered unto him by the said negro and the other half reserved for his own benefit: And whereas the said negro having a young child of a negro woman belonging to Lt. Robert Sheppard which he desired should be made a Christian and be taught and exercised in the church of England, by reason whereof he, the said negro did for his said child purchase its freedom of Lt. Sheppard with the good liking and consent of Tho: Gooman's overseer as by the deposition of the said Sheppard and Evans appeareth, the court hath therefore ordered that the said child shell be free from the said Evans or his assigns and to be and remain at the disposing and education of the said Gowen and the child's godfather who undertaketh to see it brought up in the Christian religion as aforesaid." - Council and Jamestown General Court Records, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

When the James City courts freed five-year-old Mihill/Michael Gowen, they also freed his father John Gowen, making them the first Africans recorded as being freed in America.

John had a wife, Margaret Cornish, who was a Negro servant on a neighboring plantation belonging to Lt. Robert Shepherd. She was the mother of Mihill. When her second child was born, she was found guilty of adultery with a prominent Englishman, Robert Sweat/Sweet. This is why John didn't also seek to gain her freedom.


There is plenty more to this story, and we are lucky to have documentation that brings it to light. Until I can compile a more concise history of the rest of the story, I'm providing a PDF document of notes gathered mostly from the books listed below.


Learn more! Click: Notes on John Gowen and Family



These sources include many references to historical documents:

Ric Murphy – Freedom Road: An American Family Saga from Jamestown to World War

Tim Hashaw – The Birth of Black America, the First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

Paul Heinegg – Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia

The 20 and Odd Negroes Project: https://20andodd.weebly.com/african-origins-of-american-melungeons.html

Tim Hashaw MALUNGU: The African Origin of the American Melungeons: https://www.eclectica.org/v5n3/hashaw.html 

Videos on YouTube

Several videos were created in commemorations of the 400th year anniversary of the landing of the "20 and Odd" Africans. In addition to the two videos linked below, you will find many others on YouTube. These focus on the two or three Africans (out of 350) whose names were actually listed on a ship roster, but little else is known of them. John Gowen's name was not on a ship roster, but we learn of him and his family through historical documents that do include them.

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The 13News Now documentary "20 and Odd: Africans' Arrival in 1619" looks at the extraordinary story of the first Africans who arrived in English North America.



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The first Africans arrived in English North America on a ship called the White Lion. The journey brought them to Point Comfort where the city of Hampton now sits.