A Brief History of the Ghomara Family


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Origin of the Surnames



The Ghomara (Gomera) are a Berber tribe who have lived in northern Morocco from antiquity. The name Berber derives from the Latin word "Barbarian" and was given to them by the Romans in the 3rd century AD. The Ghomara live in the Moroccan Rif region in northeastern Morocco, north of the town of Fez, near the Mediterranean coast. They speak a unique dialect known as Ghomara.

In ancient times northern Morocco and eastern Algeria on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa formed the independent Berber kingdom of Mauretania. Mauretania was named after the Maure tribe (Moors as these people became known), who lived in the region long before the Arabs invaded. Mauretania eventually became a province of the Roman Empire and was divided into Mauretania Caesariensis (western and central Algeria), and Mauretania Tingitana (northern Morocco) named after the capital city Tingis (Tangier).

North Africa showing the Rif Mountain region

As mentioned, the home territory of the Ghomara is in the Rif Mountains, down to the Mediterranean Sea. To distinguish between each other, Ghomara families upon meeting will ask: "Are you from the mountains (Rif) or from near the sea (Tetouan – formerly known as Titawin)?" Those from the mountains say, we are from the mountain, i.e. from the Mountain of Ghomara (Gomera). This is why today we find the name: Montgomera, Montgomery, Montgumery, Montgomary, Montgomeree, Montgomree.

There is a theory that the Ghomara tribe could be of Celtic or Caucasian origin. Many of them were light-skinned with freckles, and had blue, green or hazel eyes, as do their descendents today. Given the proximity of the Rif Mountain region to the Iberian Peninsula this is a possibility. These peoples were living in this region long before the Arab invasion in the 7th century.

In April 711 a Berber Muslim army, under the leadership of Tariq ibn-Ziyad, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar onto the Iberian peninsula and King Rodrigo, last of the Visigothic kings of Spain, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Guadalete. The Visigoths lost their will to resist the invading force with the death of their king, and many Moors migrated into Spain in the wake of the invasion: Masmuda, Hoara, Zenata, Zanhaga, Quetama and Ghomara - the same families who had fought against the Arab invasion of their territory in 698 together with the Barbarian Queen Kahena (Cahena). By 719 the Berber army had conquered an area from the coast to the Pyrenees.

Between 717 and 725 there were various Moorish invasions across the Pyrenees to gain territory and settle disputes. In 720 Narbonnes was captured by the Moors, Toulouse in 721, followed by Carcassonne and Nîmes in 724. Philippe Senac, a French historian, in his book "Les Carolingiens et Al-Andalous - VIII au IX Siècle" talks about this 8th century Moorish migration. He stated that the Moors arrived at Sens, south east of Paris on the Yonne River on 22 August 725. Other historians mention they had migrated as far as Troyes, a few kilometres further east of Sens. It can be said, that by 725 the Moors had migrated into France as far as the area around Sens and Troyes. Their progress north into France was brought to a halt in 732 when they fought in the battle of Tours-Poitiers, against the Frankish ruler Charles Martel (Charles "the Hammer"). William E. Watson's page on the Battle of Tours-Poitiers makes interesting reading.

The Ghomara (Gomera) tribe were part of this migration. This is why today we find this family name as a placename in both France and Belgium. 

  • Gumery is situated 40 kms north of Sens and 60 kms north west of Troyes. In French, Gumery is pronounced "Gouméry", the same as the Arab pronunciation of Gomery.

The French historian Gustave Lebon in his 1883 book "La Civilisation des Arabes" mentioned that the Moors had migrated as far north as Metz in Belgium. There we find:-

  • Gomery village situated 80 kms north of Metz in Belgium.

Some other articles mention the following 8th century migration routes:-

  • Orange, Mâcon, Chalon-sur-saône, Beaune, and finally to Autun in the region of Bourgogne (Gumery village is 40 km north of the region of Bourgogne.
  • Luxeuil-les-bains, Langres, Sens (near Gumery in France), Troyes (also near Gumery in France) and Metz (near Gomery in Belgium).

In 933 Hungary invaded France and at this time some of the Ghomara (Gomera) descendents moved into Hungary - hence the surnames Gomory and Gomori in Hungary. Some moved from France into Belgium, hence Gomeree and Gomree. Some continued north west to England giving us Gomery, Gumery and Gummery. 

The origin of this name is "Gomeri" - the "i" is singular.

The plural of Gomeri, Gomery is "Gomera", the "a" is for the plural.

The Ancestor of the Gomera is called "Gomer", this was explained by a 14th century historian called "Ibn Khaldun" or "Ibn Jaldun".

The origin of this name is Gomeri and in Spain it is written Gomere ("e" at the end of a name is pronounced in Spain like "i" or "y" in English, which gives Gomery).

The Spanish is Gomere, in Belgium the "e" of Gomere is doubled and it gives Gomeree. The "e" of the middle of Gomeree, is not pronounced in Belgium which gives Gomree.

The Spanish is Gomere, in England the "m" of Gomere is doubled and it gives Gommery.

In Spanish the plural is "z", this is why Gomere in plural, gives Gomerez, in Spain and also in South America. Some migrated to the Canary Islands, hence the name Gomera Island. Archaeological and ethnographic studies have led most scholars to accept the view that the pre-colonial population of the Canaries were descendants of north African Berber tribes who came to the Canaries by sea about 1000 BC. Against this theory is the lack of archaelogical evidence that the Berbers had any knowledge of navigation, but some of their people lived on the coast so must have had some sea-faring experience. Then there is the theory that the Berbers were Celtic in origin - Celtic peoples have always been good at navigation.

The Gomerez went to South America with Christopher Columbus. According to some history books members of the Gomera tribe assisted Christopher Columbus in his discovery of America. On his way to America, Christopher Columbus sailed by the Canary Islands, where he re-provisioned and made repairs on the island of Gomera. André Petit, in his book “Iles du Soleil, Iles du Printemps: les Canaries, les Açores” said, It is probably thanks to the Canary Islands that the famous navigator realised his voyages to America. When he passed the Canary Islands he took with him to America, animals, fruits......  Claude Dervenn in his book “Les Canaries” wrote: During the second trip Christopher Columbus had taken with him men, many fruits and animals for the new world. Hence Gomera Island had an impact in the discovery of America.

The “e” of Gomerez is not pronounced in some regions, this is why you find the name "Gomerz" in England.

The Gomera family came to France in the 8th century under the rule of the Arab governor of Al-Andalus called "Ansaba Ibn Souhaym Al-Kalbi". This is why they were named with Arabic pronunciation: Gumera for the tribe and Gumery for an individual, instead of Gomera and Gomery, because in the Arabic language the "o" of Gomery is pronounced "ou", thus giving a "u" in Spanish.

Gumery and Gumera are the Arabic pronunciation of Gomery and Gomera.

Gomeri is the original spelling, but to make it Spanish it became Gomero: this is the surname of the inhabitants of the Gomera Island.

The French pronunciation of Gomera and Gomery, gives Ghomara, Gomara and Ghomari. If we try to pronounce it in Arabic, it gives Ghoumara and Ghoumari or Ghumara and Ghumari. If we try to pronounce it in Spanish or English it gives Gumara and Gumary.

Mourad Ghomari has a webpage explaining the history of the Ghomara tribe at  www.ghommo.fr.gd

Last revised: 30 August 2008
© Content Mourad Ghomari 2006 - 2008
© Layout Linda Hansen 2006 - 2008