My maternal grandmother's father, William Goff, was the son of Irish immigrants Thomas Goff and Annie Cleary Goff. I know that Thomas came from Duncormack, County Wexford, Ireland. I never knew much about my grandmother's father; and I always believed it was because he was an orphan.
I knew that he was born in Cleveland, Ohio on March 24 sometime between 1872-1874. His tombstone says 1873, his death certificate says 1874. The 1880 Census would indicate that maybe he was born in 1872. I wonder how they decided on 1873 for the tombstone? And as long as we're throwing around possible years, my grandmother told me he was born in 1871.
When contacting other family members as I started gathering information about my Goff history, I was told that William's mother Annie died when William was a boy, in 1882. Our family thought that his father had put the children in an orphanage at that time. The family was living in Dallas, Texas then. I felt sad about this and wondered if it was just such a different time or were things really so bad that he couldn't have figured out how to keep them together? This is the last record I have found that places all of William's childhood family in one place.
Then when I began researching more about this family I discovered that Thomas, William Goff's father, married again, and had another large family. What's more, it appeared that the woman he married had been a resident at the orphanage! It just didn't make sense to me how my great great grandfather could have left his children at the orphanage and while he was at it found himself a new wife there!
As I was considering this dilemma, I got in touch with another Goff descendant through ancestry.com His family is descended from Thomas Goff and his second wife. Their story was that Thomas never abandoned his children, but that he WORKED at the orphanage as a carpenter. They said they remembered older relatives talking about "Willie," my great grandfather, as an older sibling. They told me that Thomas had hired the young woman who later became his second wife to look after his baby. Apparently my great grandmother Annie Cleary Goff had died in childbirth with a little baby John. Thomas, who worked at the orphanage, found a young woman to watch his baby and she fell in love with the baby, and I guess Thomas too. They married and had several more children. This descendant of Thomas felt sure that if the older children ever lived at the orphanage it was only because their father was there as well; not because they were abandoned.
The new version of my family history brought renewed interest in my research into the Goff family. But I wanted to know beyond a doubt that it could be true. So I sent an email to Buckner International, asking about their historical records at the children's home in Dallas. I promptly sent back the form that they emailed me....and I waited.
I got a call today from a lady at Buckner's. She said, "I found no records of anyone with that last name ever being a resident at Buckner's." I think deep down I thought she would find something after all. BUT SHE DIDN'T.
It seems that the family story needs to be rewritten. My great grandfather did lose his mother as a child, but he wasn't abandoned by his father. If he wanted to follow the cattle drive to Kansas where he met my great grandmother, Elizabeth, then I can only guess it was because of the sense of adventure that any young man would feel to be off on a great journey.