Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thomas Thorne of Yardley-Hastings, Grandfather of Thomas Dudley, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony

Thomas Dudley is one of those perfect ancestors. He is well researched and most of his family are traceable at least a few generations back, especially on his mother's side. In this post I want to tackle the Thorne ancestry of Thomas' mother Susanna Thorne. Susanna was most likely born in Yardley-Hastings; she was baptized on 5 March 1559/60. Her surname was recorded as 'Dorne.' This family, as did many families of that era, had an alias. Today, we think of an alias as a bad thing, something criminals do. But the word alias actually means, "at another time." So, the family name is Thorne, but at another time they went by Dorne.

The Thorne/Dorne family can be traced back to Edmund Dorne, Esq. of Northamptonshire. He was born about 1420. [1] We don't really know much about his ancestors. Edmund was never knighted but he was quite successful in life. His name is found in the records of the time, on land deeds and in court cases. Edmund made a very advantageous marriage to the Widow Margaret Billings Lovatt. [2] The marriage was most likely arranged by parents or family members, love had little to do with medieval marriage. If you've never read The Paston Letters, I highly recommend it. The letters, written by members of the Paston family in the 15th century, open a window into their world and daily life. This would be the same time period as Edmund and Margaret. Margaret Billings' father was actually mentioned in one of their letters.[3]

Margaret was the daughter of Sir. Thomas Billings of Northamptonshire. The ancestry of Sir Thomas is unknown, it is believed that his beginnings were modest. [4] He trained as a lawyer and was a member of Gray's Inn. His career was centered mostly in London and where he fulfilled many important civic duties.  including common Sergeant and Under Sheriff. He served as a member of parliament for both Northamptonshire in 1445 and for London in 1449.

As the century progressed the country was convulsed by the tumultuous events now known as the "War of the Roses." The 'war' was the protracted fight for the throne between the House of York and the House of Lancaster and it   forced many to choose sides. In the early 1450's Thomas Billing was retained as a lawyer for the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou. In the parliament of 1459 he was one of the crowns legal adviser who drew up the bill of attainder against the rebellious Duke of York. In 1460 a decisive battle was fought at Northampton. The victorious Yorkist had taken up a defensive position at the Delapre Abbey. It is possible that Thomas Billing switched allegiance as he was reappointed King's Sergeant by the new King.

Thomas was, at the height of his career in 1469, the Chief Justice of The King's Bench.   It is thought that he participated in the trial of the Duke of Clarence, brother of King Edward. He, Clarence, was found guilty and supposedly executed by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. Thomas was finally knighted in 1475. He remained Chief Justice until his death in 1481. Of course, by 1485, Henry Tudor had captured the throne and set the stage for the glorious Tudor period in England. [5]

Thomas was married twice; his first wife was Katherine Gifford. Their daughter Margaret was born about 1430. Margaret was also married twice. She was first married to Nicholas Lovatt, the son and heir of Thomas Lovatt I. They had one child, a son, who was his grandfather's heir. Thomas Lovatt I was quite wealthy and his grandson became a substantial landowner in Northamptonshire.

edmund and margaret
Edmund and Margaret were married some time before 1455 when they were both named in a land deed from her father in Law, Thomas Lovatt. The land was given to Edmund and Margaret, but would revert to Margaret's son Thomas Lovatt on her death. Margaret and Edmund had at least four children, sons Roger, Thomas, John and William. Thomas and John were mentioned in their half brother's will in 1491.

land deals
In 1471 Margaret Lovatt, named for her grandmother Margaret Dorne, was contracted to marry John Brooks of Great Oakley. Prior to the marriage a complicated land deal was worked out with John's father William and his wife Dowce Billing Lovatt, a cousin of Margaret Dorne. William Brooks exchanged manors and land at Astwell, Falcote, and land in Wappenham, amounting to about 2170 acres and the Dornes and Lovatts gave him land in Ruston, Great Oakley and other land once belonging to Thomas Lovatt I. Margaret Dorne and her heir were given the Manor of Astwell which became the family seat of the Lovatt Family whose descendants eventually became the Earls of Ferrers. [6]

St. James, Syresham by James Thacker
Edmund Dorne of Syresham wrote his will on 30 March 1473, no probate record has been found but his land was transferred to his eldest son Roger on 4 October 1477. He made the usual requests to be buried before the alter of St. Thomas in the church of St. James in Syresham. He left land, tenements, rents, meadows, etc. in three counties. [7] It is not known when Margaret his wife died, she was named in his will so she was still alive in 1473 and she and Edmund executed a deed in 1474, this is the last record they are found in.

thomas and alice
Edmund's second son Thomas, b. abt. 1455 married Alice Arden of Cottesford and Kirtlington, Oxfordshire. Thomas died before 7 October 1502. He was called Thomas of Syresham in 1501 and Thomas of Myxbury in 1502 when a writ called a 'diem clausit extremum' was written. The term means 'he closed his last day' and is written after a inventory of his estate was done. His widow Alice remarried by 1512 to William Woodward.

william and alice
William was born about 1485, probably at Syresham. He married Alice, possibly Alice Stotesbury before 1515. He wrote his will in 1529 but it was not proved before 1537. The first mention of him in the records is when he was noted to owned suit at the manorial court of Syresham, previously held by his father in 1508. On 22 May 1537 he again owed suit at the manorial court of Syresham whose overload was Magdalen College at Oxford University. But, by then he also owned land in Yardley-Hastings. He seems to be the first of the Thornes with land in that area. In 1531 it was recorded that he was patron of the living at Yardley-Hastings, meaning it was his right to appoint the vicar at the church.

In his will, William named his wife Alys, leaving her 'certain lands'. All his Copyhold lands in Yardley and in Syresham he left to his son Thomas.

thomas and mary purefoy
Thomas was born about 1521 based on the birth of his children. When he wrote his will in 1588 he made his home in Yardley-Hastings. He married Mary Purefoy by about 1550. He and Mary were the parents of Susanna Thorne, wife to Roger Dudley and mother to Thomas Dudley.

[1] Brandon, Fradd, "Ancestry of Thomas Thorne, Granfather of Thomas Dudley," The Genealogist vol 19 no 1 (Spring 2005).

[2] Robert Edmund Chester Waters, Genealogical Memoirs of the Extinct Family of Chester of Chicheley: Their Ancestors and Descendants, Volume 1, (London: Robson and Sons, 1878)

[3] Nigel Ramsey, "Sir Thomas Billing," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ( : accessed 28 April 2016).

[4] Ramsey, "Sir Thomas Billing."

[5] Ramsey, "Sir Thomas Billing."

[6] Waters, Genealogical Memoirs.

[7] Fradd, "Ancestry of Thomas Thorne".

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Governor Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts: The English Ancestry of His Father; Roger Dudley

photo by Mr. Biz, St. Margarets Lidlington
I have finally decided to undertake writing about my most famous ancestor, Thomas Dudley. He held many roles in the fledgling colony of Massachusetts including that of Governor. According to Robert Charles Anderson his paternal ancestry cannot be proven past that of his father Roger Dudley. It is known that Roger married Susanna Thorne on 8 June 1575 at Lidlington, Bedford [1] and that he was a soldier who held the rank of Captain; that seems to be the extent of documented information on Thomas' father. [2]

The well known Puritan Minister Cotton Mather, wrote that Roger was killed "in the wars" when his two children were small. [3] I know that may writers have tried to pin down exactly what battle he was killed in, but as far as I know that has not be determined. He may have died at the Battle of Zutphen, in the Netherlands. This battle was led by the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, and in which Sir Philip Sidney was killed. Philip Sidney was related to the Dudleys by birth, his mother the sister of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and favorite of Queen Elizabeth.

Sir Philip Sidney
In 1650 a book of poems written by Thomas Dudley's daughter Ann Bradstreet was published in London. One of the poems was an Elegy to Sir Philip Sidney. In this poem she writes that she has the "self-same blood" as Philip. It appears that she was implying that she was related by blood to Philip Sidney and through him his Dudley ancestors. In 1678 the poem was republished in Boston and the wording was changed to "English blood."  Why the change? Was she saying they shared the same blood as in family or had she really meant the same English blood as in we are both of strong English stock?

When Thomas Dudley died in 1653 he used his seal on his will.  The seal on his will, "shows the coat of arms which formed the basis for the arms of Dudley House (or, a lion rampant vert, clawed and langued gules and with teeth and eye argent, surrounded by a bordure gules)". [4] The use of this seal is seen as a confirmation that Thomas somehow descended from this family. The question remains, who was Roger's father?

what does RCA say?
If you read my blog you know that Robert Charles Anderson is my genealogy hero. He writes in his 2012 Winthrop Fleet, "many attempts have been made to place Roger Dudley, father of the immigrant, into the large and prominent Dudley family of Northern England, but without success. [5]
Boy, if RCA says there's no proof, i'm going to have a hard time trusting other researchers who say they know otherwise.

what do others say?
All sorts of ancestry has been drawn up for Roger Dudley over the years, including Drapers, Sergeants of Pastry and illegitimate children.  The latest version of his ancestry was complied by H. Allen Curtis. He contends, through a process of elimination, that the parents of Roger Dudley were Henry Dudley and his wife ____Ashton. This is based solely on Thomas Dudley's use of heraldry of the Sutton Dudleys. [6] I am guessing that this is why RCA doesn't see it as proof as there is no actual documentation involved. Here is a link to the H. Allen Curtis Article on the ancestry of Roger Dudley. I know next to nothing about Heraldry, so I cannot pass judgment on his case. The website The Peerage traces the family through Henry Dudley and his wife, the daughter of Sir Christopher Ashton. Unfortunately, there are no documented children.


[1] "England Select Marriages, 1538-1973," database, Ancestry (https// : accessed 24 April 2016) entry for the marriage of Roger Dudley and Susan Thorn on 8 June 1575 at Lidlington, Bedford.

[2] Cotton Mather, The Life of Mr. Thomas Dudley, several times governor of the colony of Massachusetts, (Cambridge: Press of J. Wilson and Son, 1870), 5.

[3] Mather, The Life of Thomas Dudley, 5

[4] Author Unknown "Thomas Dudley and Dudley Family," The Harvard Computer Society ( : accessed 24 April 2016).

[5] Robert Charles Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet, (Sabine, Michigan : McNaughton and Gunn, 2012) 285.

[6] H. Allen Curtis, "Roger Dudley's Father Proved to be Captain Henry Dudley," Roger Covalt's Web Site ( : accessed 24 April 2016).

Have a great day!