Hodgson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hodgson Surname Meaning

Hodge, Hodgson and its diminutive Hodgkinson are generally considered as being all pet forms of Roger, a name introduced to England by the Normans after the Conquest. It was said that some of the native English could not get their mouth around the Norman “R” and “R” became “H” or “D” instead.

However, an alternative theory of Hodgson origins and perhaps a more persuasive one ties Hodgson to the Norse name Oddgeir or Hodgeir. Historically the Hodgson name was most common in the north of England in Cumbria, an area settled by Norse Vikings in the 10th century. The Hodgson DNA project does seem to confirm an Irish-Norse origin.

Both Hodgson and Hodson exist as surnames. Hodson as a name was mainly to be found south of Hodgson, in Lancashire, the West Midlands, and Lincolnshire.

Hodgson Surname Resources on The Internet

Hodgson Surname Ancestry

  • from NW England
  • to America, Caribs (Jamaica), Canada and Australia

England.  The first record of a Hodgson in England was that of John Hodgson, bailiff in Newcastle in 1276, who later served as its mayor. However, beyond his son Richard there was no further trace of these Hodgsons. It is thought that the Hodgsons of Hebburn in county Durham, a mine-owning Catholic family who date from the 16th century, were descended from this line. This family shared a Hodgson coat of arms with other Hodgson families in northern England.

NW England.  Hodgson as a surname was mainly to be found in NW England. It ranked fifth in the most common surnames in Cumberland in 1847 and tenth in the most common in Westmoreland in 1851. The area around St. Bees in Cumbria – along the coast from Workington to Ravenglass – accounts for more Hodgsons than anywhere else in England.

Many early Hodgsons in the area may have been Border reivers, perhaps organized on clan lines like their Scottish counterparts:

  • there were the Hodgsons of Bascodyke and the Hodgsons of Burgh by Sands and Moorhouse (whose numbers included the Quaker David Hodgson).
  • Christopher Hodgson the Catholic priest may have come from Kendal.
  • Joseph Hodgson, the 19th century physician, came from a Penrith family.
  • the Rev. John Hodgson lived at Shap in Westmoreland in the early 1800’s before crossing the Pennines to Northumberland.
  • while Thomas Hodgson, born on the Isle of Man in 1805, had Cumbrian origins. Many of his descendants emigrated to America in the 1840’s.

Hodgsons were to be found as farmers at Caton near Lancaster from the early 1600’s.  Thomas Hodgson emerged from this setting to become, with his brother John, a prominent Liverpool merchant and slave trader in the late 18th century.  He built cotton mills at Caton to profit from this trade. His son Adam, however, played a leading role in the campaign to abolish slavery.

Geoffrey Hodgson’s 2005 book The Hodgson Saga gives a full account of the Hodgson name and its history.

America. Robert Hodgson was a Quaker from Yorkshire who arrived in New York in 1657 while it was still Dutch and antagonized the local authorities. After having been beaten there and imprisoned, he moved first to Rhode Island and then found a haven in William Penn’s Pennsylvania. George Hodson and Robert Hodgson of the family in Chester county, Pennsylvania migrated to the Quaker settlement in North Carolina. Hodgsons from here were later found in Ohio.

Ralph and Elizabeth Hodgson were Quakers who had grown up in the Albany, New York area. Their son John crossed the border into Canada after the Revolutionary War.

Caribbean. Edward Hodgson came out to Jamaica from Liverpool in 1837 and started a coffee plantation at Southfield in the years following the abolition of slavery. That plantation stayed with the family until 2004.

Canada. Edward Hodgson, a seaman, was an early settler in Nova Scotia, arriving there in the 1790’s. He lived for many years as a lifeguard on Sable Island (the title on his tombstone read “Governor of the Isle of Sable”). Christopher Hodgson came to Nova Scotia sometime in the 1840’s. His descendants later moved across the border to Maine. John and Rachel Hodgson from Cumberland headed for Quebec (then Lower Canada) in 1819.

Australia.  Early Hodgsons in Australia were convicts. There were 41 of them in total, starting with John Hodgson, tried in Lincoln and transported to New South Wales for life on the Royal Admiral in 1792.  

John Hodgson arrived with his family in 1837 from the small village of Wadworth in Yorkshire. He did well as a merchant and land speculator in Melbourne and was mayor of that city in 1853. Robert Hodgson from Durham came out to the Victoria goldfields in the 1850’s and later settled in New Zealand.

New Zealand.  The interestingly named Twentyman Hodgson from Lincolnshire was an early arrival in Christchurch, SI in 1851. George and Mary Hodgson arrived there from Penrith in Cumberland in 1865.

Hodgson Surname Miscellany

Hodgson Origins.  The surname authority P. H. Reaney has stated that Hodgson is derived from “son of Hodge” and that Hodge, in turn, is a “pet-form of Roger.” This view has been repeated by several others as well.

By contrast the Hodgsons are most numerous in Cumbria in England, which was settled by the Norse Vikings in the tenth century.  Hodgson could thus be derived from the Norse name Oddgeir, as suggested by earlier surname authorities.

It was Henry Barber, in two editions of his major work on British surnames in 1894, who in fact first advanced the idea Hodgson may have derived from the Old Norse Oddgeir-son.  Charles Bardsley in 1901 took a similar line, offering multiple explanations including “son of Roger” but also giving due prominence to the possibility of Old Norse origins.

The Victorian theory that Hodgson is of Scandinavian origin is endorsed by recent research. The early geographical distribution of the Hodgson surname, as well as recent DNA analysis of a number of Hodgsons, support the theory of Norse origins.

Hodgson Y-DNA is roughly one-third Norse and 5-10 per cent Danish, most of the remainder being similar to indigenous British or Irish.  The proportion of Norse blood among Hodgsons is much higher than in the British population as a whole.  Stephen Oppenheimer has estimated that about 6 per cent of Y-DNA in the British Isles is of Norwegian origin.  The proportion of Hodgsons with Norse paternal ancestry is in fact closer to that found on Shetland and Orkney, known areas for Norse settlement.

The Hodgson Coat of Arms.  In heraldic language this coat of arms is “per chevron, embattled or and azure, three martlets counterchanged.”  According to one authority, these arms were displayed by members of the family at the Battle of Towton in Yorkshire in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses.

Heraldic records confirm this coat of arms was displayed by the Hodgsons of Hebburn, a mine-owning Catholic family living in NE England in the 16th and 17th centuries.  This same coat of arms is associated with other Hodgson families, including the Hodgsons of West Keal in Lincolnshire, the Hodgsons of Bascodyke in Cumberland, the Hodshons of Amsterdam, and with Thomas Hodgson, a Liverpool merchant and slave trader, and the owner of a mill in Caton, Lancashire.

Christopher Hodgson the Catholic Priest.  Christopher Hodgson was a Catholic priest who played a role in the Babington Plot during Elizabethan times. The plot was a failure and eighteen of the main conspirators were hung, drawn, and quartered in London in 1586.

The records concerning his ordination suggest that Christopher Hodgson was born in 1561.  Surviving letters in the English State Papers confirm that his father was also called Christopher.  Christopher the elder was a tenant farmer in Altham in Lancashire where he died in 1590. Parish records show the baptism of a Christopher Hodgson, son of Christopher Hodgson, in Kendal in Westmorland in 1561.  If this record applies to the future priest, then Christopher would have moved from Kendal to Altham when he was a young boy.

Hodgson was a committed Roman Catholic, in defiance of the Elizabethan authorities.  But he clashed with the Jesuits and like several other English Catholics he opposed a Spanish invasion.  He was a close friend of Gilbert Gifford and an acquaintance of Charles Neville, the 6th Earl of Westmoreland, in exile.

George Hodson and Robert Hodgson, Quakers in Pennsylvania.  George Hodson was thought to have been eldest son of the Rev. Robert Hodgson and the grandson of Quaker immigrant Robert Hodgson (although other lines have been suggested as well).  He was left with no inheritance when he eloped with Mary Thatcher, also a Quaker, in 1729 without the approval of either his father or that of the Chester Meeting House. Both were disowned.

George and his wife Mary lived in Chester county, Pennsylvania for many years before, in 1750, moving with their seven children and settling in the Quaker stronghold of Guilford (later Rowan) county in North Carolina.  His brother Robert Hodgson joined them in 1756.  Cousins of Mary had previously scouted the Piedmont area and returned with glowing reports of the region.  This encouraged George and Mary, perhaps feeling the effects of a lack of inheritance, to move there.

Adam Hodgson – Social Reformer and Social Conservative.  Adam Hodgson was the second son of the Liverpool slave trader Thomas Hodgson.  He formed the cotton broking partnership of Hodgson and Ryley in Liverpool in 1824 which continued throughout his life.  Despite his involvement in brokering slave grown cotton he became a founder member of the Liverpool Anti-slavery Society in 1822.  He was also a founding member of the board of the Liverpool to Manchester Railroad and of the Bank of Liverpool.

He resigned from the railway board over the issue of Sunday working and this evangelical piety was reflected in the many philanthropic organizations in which he was involved.  He was appointed a magistrate for the county and became involved, alongside the son of the blind Liverpool poet Edward Rushton, in many of the leading issues of the day – including the re-organization of the Liverpool workhouse which had briefly become notorious as the biggest brothel in England. He also committed himself to the health of towns movement.

Liverpool experienced a huge influx of Irish poor during the Irish Famine and this brought out the right wing social conservative side of Hodgson.  Hodgson and Rushton were active in suppressing the Chartist rebellion of the time.  The prominence of the Irish Question then and the attempts to disestablish the Anglican Church led Hodgson to become increasingly associated with the Rev Hugh McNeile’s ultra-Tory anti-catholicism. Following the liberation of the Empire slaves in 1838 both he and McNeile ceased to attend anti-slavery meetings.

Hodgson Convicts in Australia.  There were 41 convicts, including four women, recorded as being transported to Australia – starting with John Hodgson in 1792 and ending with another John Hodgson in 1864.  They came mostly from the north of England.

Convict Origin in England Numbers
Durham and Northumberland    3
Cumberland and Westmoreland    4
Yorkshire   12
Lancashire    9
Lincolnshire    5
London    5
Elsewhere    3

Herbert Hodgson and Impressions of War.  Born in South London in 1893, Herbert Hodgson served from 1915 to 1918 in France and Belgium in the First World War.  His account of life and death in the trenches, Impressions of War, is moving and forceful.  It is one of the few memoirs of the First World War that was not written by an officer and it provides a unique point of view from the other ranks. The opening chapter of this book also gives a vivid account of life a century ago in the poorer areas of the capital.

In a battle in April 1918 he found a mud-encrusted Bible in a shell hole. Amazingly, 92 years later, the original owner of this Bible was traced back to Private Richard Cook from New Zealand.

Hodgson was by trade a printer.  From 1923 to 1926 he printed the extremely rare subscribers’ edition of T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Copies of this work now attract prices of up to US$80,000 each.

Hodgson Names

  • Adam Hodgson, the son of a slave trader, campaigned against slavery and was a prominent civic leader in Liverpool in the first half of the 19th century.
  • Joseph Hodgson was a 19th century physician, best remembered today by his name from Hodgson’s disease.
  • Frances Hodgson was the late Victorian writer of children’s stories such as Little Lord Faunteroy and The Secret Garden.

Hodgson Numbers Today

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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Written by Colin Shelley

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