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Father And Son From America With Surname Guilford Pay Us A Visit

Published on: 14 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 17 Mar, 2016

By David Rose

A father and son with the surname Guilford whose origins are believed to go back to our town and Surrey, have visited Guildford with a wealth of information about their ancestors.

I was at Guildford Museum on Saturday, March 5, for the launch of Paul Backhouse’s publication on Alan Turing. After most of the visitors had left, into the museum came Thomas Guilford and his son Christopher.

Thomas and Christopher Guilford pictured at Guildford Museum.

Thomas and Christopher Guilford pictured at Guildford Museum.

Carol Brown from the museum welcomed them and after they said who they were she instantly suggested they talk to me.

They told me they live in Swansea, Illinois, and were visiting Guildford while on a visit to the UK. The pair showed me a fascinating book, complied in the 1980s, that traces their family tree right back to some of the early settlers in America.

Details in it record that their Guilford family had a “a number of English country places in the late 1500s and early 1600s in the Surrey area”.

A William, John and a Samuel Guilford “all came to the colonies in about 1623.” William owned ships but was lost at sea in either the winter of 1658 or 1659. Samuel, it is believed was killed by Indians.

These early settlers and their offspring then settled in Massachuttes and Maine. Later a branch of the family linked to our visitors settled in Missouri.

I wonder when the ‘d’ in their name was dropped? Was it while in England or when they went to America? But standardisation of all spelling is a quite a recent thing and various versions of the name “Guildford” can be found in historic documents.

The Guilford coat of arms.

The Guilford coat of arms.

Details in the folder relate to the Guilford family coat of arms that is found in Burke’s General Armoury, with the description: “Gold, a black St Andrew’s cross between four black birds without feet, on a red corner a gold pomegranate. A bit different from our borough coat of arms which features a castle and wool sack within its design.

Christopher Guilford then rolled up his sleeve to show me a rather fine tatoo has had inked of the Guilford coat of arms. I wonder whether anyone has our Guildford coat of arms inked on them?

Christopher Guiford's tattoo of the Guilford coat of arms.

Christopher Guiford’s tattoo of the Guilford coat of arms.

As the conversation progressed it became apparent that Thomas and I had many things in common.

With their family’s Missouri connection, I asked him if he had ever heard of the country rock music band from Springfield, Missouri called the Ozark Mountain Daredevils? “Yes”, he replied, “I have some of their albums.” I replied: “So have I.”

Now, this might be over the heads of some readers, but I am a fan of this band who had a hit single in the UK in the 1970s called Jackie Blue. We then talked about similar bands we enjoy who play the same style of music, such as the Eagles, Poco, and of course the legendary songwriter Bob Dylan.

Thomas then explained that he works in the pharmaceutical industry in marketing. With my interest in collecting old bottles we got talking about 19th-century “quack” medicines before the pharmaceutical industry was regulated (on both sides of the Atlantic) and those unscrupulous travelling salesmen who peddled fradulent “cure-alls” that Thomas calls “snake oils”.

It was fun to describe the different terminology of things between the USA and the “old country”. He then said that he has a collection of old beer cans! “Wow”, I thought, “he’s a collector in the same vein as me!”

Our conversation then turned to the forthcoming US presidential election and the recent primary elections and caucuses. I always enjoy talking to our “American cousins” and this topic I just had to bring up.

A certain Donald Trump was, of course, discussed, and it was fascinating to hear the opinions of someone on the other side of the Atlantic in relation to what we are hearing this side of the “pond”.

Our conversations lasted about an hour and a half and I am sure the others who were still at the museum and listening to our chat were just as fascinated as I was.

But soon it was time for Thomas and Christopher to go. They said they wanted to try some English beer, so I suggested they call in at the Kings Head in Quarry Street and ask for some real ale.

But their thirst was delayed as we then spoke about the growth of the brewing of what are called craft beers, currently sweeping the USA, and the growth of similar micro-breweries here in the UK.

So, cheers to Thomas and Christopher Guilford for a chance meeting that was very enjoyable indeed.

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Responses to Father And Son From America With Surname Guilford Pay Us A Visit

  1. Tom & Chris Guilford Reply

    March 16, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    I wish to say to David Rose that it was such a pleasure meeting him, Carol [Brown] and the others in Guildford Museum. Guildford was not only the highlight of our trip to the UK, it was the impetus that brought us.

    Christopher having “dug up” that old archive on our family history was so enthralled by it he got the tattoo.

    He then told his mother and I that he really wanted to visit the location we immigrated from almost 400 years earlier. We will never forget your generous hospitality and hope to come back again. By the way, we did enjoy those local beers. 🙂

    If ever in the States please look is up. Cheers!

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