For explanations, click on the title of the box: for short cuts, click on the button.

 The Website

The Biographies

  The Documents

 The Name and Early History

 The Loose Ends

The Future Plans

 The Articles

 The Portraits

 The Glossary

The Search Facility

 The Newsletter (August 2007)

 The Gowlland Gatherings

 The Index to all Letters

 The Gladys Gowlland Letters

 The Other Letters

 The Family Tree

 The Contacts and Family Worldwide

 Gowllands Limited

 The Marriages Table

 Media Interest in the Gowlland Films








The Early History

The Gowlland family has so far been traced back to Joseph (signature on the opening page) and Susanna, née Maple, who were married at St Andrew's Church, Buckland by Dover, Kent, England, illustrated below, in 1735 MC [for explanation of "MC", click here]. 


St Andrew's Church, Buckland by Dover, Kent

For the moment, very little is known about Joseph - neither his birth date nor occupation, and whether he was born a Gowlland or a Gowland. 

Susanna was one of twins born to Stephen and Sylvester Maple on 28th October 1709 in Ickham, a village between Dover and Canterbury.

Excitingly, in June 2005 it was established that Joseph died in 1788, and Susanna in 1782; and that they were both buried at Hougham, a village near Dover.

They had eight children, all born in Buckland by Dover, of whom seven survived, four sons and three daughters.  Our family tree records the known descendants of Stephen Gowlland, the third of the sons, who was born on 1st February 1747 MC.  Stephen married Sarah Symons, the daughter of Richard and Susannah (or Hannah) Symons, on 11th June 1770

The Gowlland Name

All of the children of Joseph and Susanna Gowlland, and most of the grandchildren, have now been traced.  The evidence,  based principally on signatures in marriage records, demonstrates conclusively that GOWLLAND has been the correct spelling of the family name since Joseph's time at the latest.  Stephen's descendants comprise just one of the Gowlland family lines, though it is not yet known for how long the others survived.  The appraisal below, signed by Joseph Gowlland in 1747, is the first known document showing the double-L spelling.





So you think having continually to spell your name is a recent problem?  Joseph's signature above contains two "Ls".  But the birth records of all of his children are in the name of Gowland.  And in the appraisal above his name at the beginning is spelt "GOULDER"!

Until at least 1911, the variants "GOULLAND", "GOWLAND"  and "GOULAND" appear on official documents, such as birth, marriage and death records.  Modern transcriptions of various 19th century English census entries also include the variants "GOWILLANE" and "GOWLLANE".  John's family has a "Wall of Shame" bearing envelopes and letters received during the past fifteen years with, so far, seventeen different variants!

In October 2006 we learnt of three successive generations using "Gowlland" as a second Christian name.  They are the descendants of Susannah Gowlland (b 1773) who married George Pearce (b 1766) in 1798.  Their daughter Susannah Pearce (b 1806) married Edward Davis (b 1808) and in the next three generations appear Julia Gowlland Davis (b 1836), Cecil Gowlland Goodall (b 1862) and Frances Gowlland Goodall (b 1894).   [Information kindly provided by Norman Bishop  -  nabishop@tiscali.co.uk.  For his pedigree, which interestingly has a Huguenot connection, click here].


The Family outside England and Contacts

John Thomas Ewing Gowlland, with his siblings Frederick and Eliza Celia, emigrated to Australia during the last third of the nineteenth century, and all married there. 

James Carter Gowlland emigrated to America during the same period, and remarried there. 

Henry Orford Gowlland finally emigrated to Canada in 1910 with his wife and young family. 

There are living descendants from all these families in those countries.

Additionally, more Gowllands live in other countries - for example, Neil Gowlland and his family in Switzerland.


This is a list of email addresses for those members of the extended Gowlland family who have given permission for their details to be included.   Anyone wishing to be included is asked to notify Rosemary or John, and their details will be added.


Milton-Thompson, Rosemary                                 milton-thompson@greenbee.net

Gowlland, John                                                      gowlland@aol.com

Gowlland, Neil                                                       ngowlland@bluewin.ch





The Gowlland Gathering

For details of the last Gowlland Gathering in August 2007, go to the link entitled "Gowlland Gatherings".




Media Interest in the Gowlland films

For the story of the B.B.C's visits to Rosemary and John, which indirectly lead to the creation of the website, and later (January 2008) visit by Fragment Films on behalf of ITV and (September 2009) by French TV for their programme "Apocalypse", go to the link entitled "Media Interest in Geoff Gowlland's films".




The Gladys Gowlland Letters

The BBC producer saw the letters which Geoffrey Price Gowlland had exchanged during and after the war years with his Canadian cousin Gladys Gowlland, and urged us to consider publishing them, which John has been doing  -  follow the link entitled "Gladys's Letters". 





The Website

Prompted by the BBC's interest in Gladys's letters [see above], Rosemary and John decided to publish them to the internet; and the website evolved from that initial decision.  It is an on-going project, and additions and amendments are being carried out weekly.  The hope is that other members of the Gowlland family will provide articles, biographies, comments etc; and readers are therefore being asked, none too subtly, for their contributions.






The Marriages table

Details have been assembled of marriages into the Gowlland family by members of other families, in the hope that this will enable further contacts to be made and additional genealogical information obtained.  Any such information, for addition to these records, will be very welcome, it goes without saying.







The Other Letters

We are also transcribing and publishing the letters from and to GPG's numerous other correspondents, not only in Canada but also in Australia and England, and also letters exchanged between other members of the extended Gowlland family  -  follow the link entitled "Other Letters".





The Index to all the Letters

For an Index in date order to all the letters, written by GPG and by others, follow the link entitled "Index to Letters"





The Biographies

Over a period of time we are assembling biographical details on as many of the Gowlland family members as possible  -  follow the link entitled "Biographies".  Here contributions will be invaluable, please, and we hope to add to this section in the future.



The Glossary

To amplify some of the editorial notes appended to the letters and for background information on some of the topics discussed in the letters, follow the link entitled "Glossary". For this section, in particular, contributions will be very much welcomed, please.





The Newsletter

A Newsletter is produced regularly: the current version has just been finalised and may be accessed by clicking here.  It is sent as a PDF file: if you have any trouble reading this with Adobe, please contact John by clicking here.

For those without internet access, a copy may be sent by letter post: if you would like to receive such a copy, please inform Rosemary or John




The Loose Ends

In early 2006 it became clear that there were a number of "loose ends" in the family history where, for example, BMD certificates existed for individuals whose parentage was unknown.  It was resolved to summarise these and set out as much information as possible about them, in the hope that some member(s) of the extended Gowlland family could clarify some of the uncertainties.  For this page, click here.





Future plans

More sections will be added in the future covering a variety of topics.

Rosemary will produce a summary of the information needed on specific family members and of the combined effort to try to "link in" those who share the surname but are not yet slotted into place.  She also hopes to contribute an article on the Royal Navy and the Gowllands, incorporating some information on smugglers.   

John is responsible for a section which has been started, but is still 85% incomplete, of a history of Gowllands Limited, the family business in Croydon run by three generations of Gowlland - the link is entitled Gowllands Limited.  He is also planning an article on Optical and Mechanical Instrument Makers.

Neil is working on a comprehensive review of the 18th century origins of our name and family in the area of Dover, and he will also be contributing further articles on other aspects of early family history.

Finally, we hope that other members of the family will follow suit.  We shall be delighted to publish any "Gowllandiana" which is appropriate.







The intention is to have a comprehensive Portrait Gallery to supplement those included with the biographies and letters: for the initial selection, click here.









The Gowlland Family Tree


The earliest Family Tree in recent years comprises two sheets prepared by Geoffrey Gowlland some time in 1941 (graced by his inimitable handwriting and, unfortunately, in a very dilapidated condition).  The first (below) starts with a Joseph Gowland or Cowland, the father of the Joseph who, married to Susannah, we take as the beginning of our current tree.  We do not know from what source Geoff learnt that Joseph's father was also called Joseph, nor, of course, have we to date found any trace of the father.

The second sheet (below) comprises Geoff's 1941 transcription of the tree provided to him by Richard Gowlland (click here for their correspondence), concentrating on the descendants of Richard Sankey Gowlland.

The third Tree (see below) with entries back to the early 16th Century: this did not come from Geoff: we had always thought that it had come from Richard Gowlland, but it was only in August 2013 that we had confirmation of this, via a descendant of Joseph Honey Gowlland.  The pencilled annotation concerning a possible mistake clearly refers to the substitution of Edward for Richard in the 1771 birth.  Nowhere else have we any positive trace of the Robert Gowland line in Godmersham down to Thomas b 1638, unfortunately.  However, there is a Robert Gowland in Crowhurst (for his marriage allegation click here), in the outskirts of Hastings (East Sussex) and thus very close to the Brede/Udimore area where we are sure the 18th century Gowlands recorded are of interest to us.

In December 2012 we were given a fourth Tree (below)  It was clearly based very largely on Geoff's tree, and concentrated on the descendants of Alfred Gowlland (1839 - 1922), the third and youngest of the three sons of George Castle Gowlland (1804 - 1890): the writing is legible and consistent, and so it certainly could not have been written by Geoff(!)



The most interesting feature of this is the heading at the beginning,  It reads "Name of Scandinavian origin - record traced back to 1570 - additional L introduced (?) about 1670 after a family quarrel".   Where did this information come from?

The Tree probably dates to about 1942.  Geoff's third child, George Mark, born in 1943, does not appear.  Added, presumably at a later date, is a note in blue regarding additional issue, probably added around 1982.

Particularly unexpected is the birth date of 1710 shown for Joseph. We have never traced his birth, although we have made some wild guesses; but 1710 does not match up with an apprenticeship starting in 1728.

Of course, later research has necessitated modifications of much of the data, but they are included here for historical interest.


Another version, from Australia, was given to us in 2017.  It is very large; but the most interesting portion is the oldest section, partly as below:-



The current version, as a PDF file, may be accessed by clicking here  So far it has always been produced as a single (and therefore enormous!) sheet.  It comprises eighteen pages and nearly one thousand names.

One warning  -  a peculiarity of Family Tree Maker is that FTM files will accept approximate dates (i.e. prefaced with the word "about" or "abt"), but when they are converted into GEDCOM files, and thence into PDF files, the words "about" or "abt" disappears.  We have used the best estimates available for our dating; but, where you can provide a more accurate date, your assistance will be tremendously helpful.

The intention is to update the Tree at regular intervals; and, in particular, to incorporate any corrections or additions that readers of this website can suggest.

Should you wish to receive a current GEDCOM file, please notify John Gowlland and it can be emailed to you or posted on a CD.






Search Facility

This should enable you to locate anything specific in the website, by clicking here.  As explained in the link, if you don't find what you are seeking in the initial search, follow the additional link you will find there to go to a second search.  This is necessary because the website has grown too large to fit on a single server and is now spread over two.







Message Board

The intention is that members of the extended Gowlland family can use this to communicate with others.  All you have to do is to click here and then click on "New Topic".










Unfortunately hackers have been entering the message board.  Deleting their messages with the links attached simply invites new messages to be posted.  Consequently, for the moment, the message board is suspended.  Sorry about this.








Gowllands Limited

The history of the family business in Croydon, featuring largely in Geoff's wartime correspondence with Gladys, is under way.  Additional illustrations and documents will be added during 2006.  For this, click here.




Here is a summary of the Hyperlinks mentioned above:-

Gowlland Gatherings   -   Past and future Gowlland Gatherings

BBC Programmes  -  The two BBC Programmes transmitted in May 2005

Gladys's Letters  -    Letters between GPG and Gladys Gowlland of Canada (100% done)

Other Letters  -  Letters between GPG and numerous other correspondents, and between other correspondents (95% done)

Index to Letters  -  Index in date order to all the letters above

Glossary  -  Explanatory note and background information on above  (80% done)

Biographies  -  Biographical notes on members of the Gowlland family  (95% done)

Family Tree  -  Complete Family Tree  (Only available as a PDF file at present)

Gowllands Limited  -  History of Gowllands Limited from 1895 to 1998 (25% done)

Search Facility  -  Searching on the website

Message Forum  -  Leaving a message on the website

If you would like any further information regarding anything to do with the Gowlland Family, please contact by e-mail Mrs Rosemary Milton-Thompson (née Gowlland).

If you are seeking magnifiers or inspection mirrors, please e-mail to Gowlland Optical Limited, or visit their website; and if you need medical and surgical instruments, please e-mail to Gowllands Limited, or visit their website.

And for those of you seeking glamour, here is a picture from the 1940s of the daughter and daughter-in-law of Henry Orford Gowlland (1865 - 1928), namely Gladys Mary Orford Gowlland (19th June 1896  -  22nd January 1984) and Muriel Gowlland (15th May 1898  -  14th November 1985), both of whose correspondence with Geoffrey Gowlland is included in this website.  The picture was taken by a street photographer on 8th Avenue, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in front of the Hudson's Bay Company Store.



The Gowlland Family, and in particular the direct descendants of the correspondents included herein, assert their rights to the copyright of this web site and all its contents: unauthorised reproduction by any media is specifically forbidden without the written permission of

Rosemary Milton-Thompson (milton-thompson@greenbee.net)


John Gowlland (gowlland@aol.com)




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