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).


Unknown said...

Hi Jeanie, I just found your post and thought I would put in my 2 cents worth that Gov. Thomas Dudley is a Gateway Ancestor. I just started working on the Dudley line and I always check the Gateway list when I have another ancestor who is interesting. I have 2 other ones and am currently getting all my records together then I will ask my cousin to sponsor me for the Order of Charlegmagne .
I love finding other "cousins" and hope you have a great day!

Unknown said...

Out of ignorance on my part, but does anyone know if there is proof of Roger being the first name of the Dudley that married Ms Thorne, Other than Cotton Mather. I just wonder if Cotton Mather misread Robert as Roger. It could be the reason for all the troubles. Thank you, Bret Bessac

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