This unusual name is a variant form, almost exclusively peculiar to the northern counties of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, of the more familiar surname Gifford or Giffard. The surname is of Old French origin, introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and is a good example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These were bestowed in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, and frequently, as in this case, to a person's physical attributes or peculiarities. The name derives from the Old French term "giffard", meaning "chubby-cheeked", and is recorded as a byname in the Domesday Book of 1086 in the Latinized form "Gifardus"; the first recording of the surname is also from Domesday, in the form of one Walter Gifhard. The modern surname forms range from Giffard, Gifford, Jefferd and Jefford, to Gof(f)ord, Gof(f)orth and Gayforth. The forms with "th" are the result of mistaken etymology from the Olde English "ford", ford, often found in Middle English as "forth". Recordings of the name from Church Registers include: the marriage of William Goforth and Agnes Smithson, in Howden, Yorkshire, on April 24th 1581, and the marriage of Richard Goforth and Alice Johnson on January 24th 1635, at Spalding in Lincolnshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Gofforth, which was dated April 4th 1550, christened at Howden, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward V1, known as "The Boy King", 1547 - 1553. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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