Monday, 28 April 2008

Red hair amongst the Goughs?

Friend, and highly respected Toronto genealogist, Brenda Dougall Merriman has a posting on her experience as a redhead on her blog.

Several surnames are supposedly derived from the founder(s) having red hair or a ruddy complexion. Reid and its variants are amongst them. Other surnames are Gough, Rogan and Rufus.

Statistics are that the frequency of red hair in Britain is only about 4%. There don't appear to be any statistics for ruddy complexion, defined as "inclined to a healthy reddish color often associated with outdoor life." It doesn't take much sun exposure for me to fall into that category.

I did a quick survey of soldiers with last name Gough with attestation papers at Library and Archives Canada. There are 127 of them. Only 110 have information on complexion and hair colour.

Three soldiers were described as having red (actually reddish or auburn) hair. All three also had blue eyes and two of the three a ruddy complexion. Three of 110 is less than 4%, so there is no evidence of excessive red hair in this sample of Goughs.

In total seven Goughs had a ruddy complexion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ruddy as "Of the face, complexion, etc.: Naturally suffused with a fresh or healthy redness" so it would seem reasonable to count in with ruddy at least some of the nine Goughs described as having a "fresh" complexion. In one case there were two attestation papers on file for the same person -- in one his complexion was described as fresh and in the other ruddy.

Certainly a ruddy or fresh complexion is several times more common amongst the Goughs than red hair.

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