Hudson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hudson Surname Meaning

Hudde was an English medieval personal name and Hudson, son of Hudde, the patronym. Hudde is seen as a pet-form for either Hugh or Richard.

The older Anglo-Saxon words huda and hud may also have contributed a root in some places. Huda underlies place names such as Huddington in Worcestershire. Hud translates as mill and Hudson may then have meant “son of miller.”

Hudson Surname Resources on The Internet

Hudson Surname Ancestry

  • from England
  • to Ireland, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

England.  Early records of the name appear in Yorkshire; John Hudesone in Wakefield in 1323 and Johannes Hudson in the Yorkshire tax records of 1379.

Yorkshire.  The name can be seen in Yorkshire parish records from the early 1600’s, in York and in villages near Doncaster and Bridlington:

  • John Hudson acquired the manor at Nunkeeling in 1707 and his family was later to be found at Bessingby Hall near Bridlington.
  • another John Hudson, the son of a farmer in Beetham, made his mark in the early 1800’s as a mathematician and tutor to George Peacock.
  • and there has been a family line of Hudsons in Wakefield since the early 1800’s. They were butchers and publicans primarily and one Hudson, Albert Hudson, became mayor of the town in the early 1900’s.

Leicestershire.  We find Hudsons in Melton Mowbray and Lutterworth in Leicestershire from Elizabethan times.

Thomas Hudson’s son, Robert, set off for London where he made his money in haberdashery. In later life, he returned to Melton Mowbray and founded a hospital and almshouse there in 1640. His son Sir Henry, who lived in The Limes on Sherrard Street, was an avid Roundhead supporter during the Civil War.

Hudsons were as well millers and bakers in the village of Lutterworth. They too made good. Charles Grave Hudson rose to be high sheriff of Leicestershire in 1780 and, through family connections, inherited Wanlip Hall near Leicester.

From this family came two brothers who emigrated in the 1850’s, one to America and the other to Australia. The elder, John Hudson, had many adventures in the American West and left behind a fascinating collection of sketches, journals, and letters.

London.  In the Church of the Grey Friar in London there is a tomb to Rudolph Hudson, a “citizen and alderman of London” who died in 1530. There follows Gentleman Henry Hudson, a well-to-do London alderman and merchant, and his sons Henry and Thomas who were active with Elizabethan merchants and explorers in setting up the Muscovy Company (with the mission of finding a northern passage to Asia).

They recruited Henry Hudson (possibly related) to find this passage. For a man who failed in his mission in four attempts between 1607 and 1610, he achieved everlasting renown on his third voyage by disobeying his Dutch paymasters and heading for the New World. He discovered whaling grounds and Hudson Bay in northern Canada and the Hudson river (which he navigated to Albany) in New York state.

Ireland. The Hudson name also crops up in Ireland, brought probably from England during the time of Cromwell. Edward Hudson from county Cork made his name in Dublin in the late 18th century as an eminent dentist, at a time when dentistry was still very much a fledgling practice. His son William was a composer, collector of ancient Irish music, and an Irish patriot.

America.  William Hudson from Kent came with his family in Winthrop’s fleet in 1630. His family was to be found in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Michigan:

  • David Hudson was a pioneer Connecticut settler in Ohio. The town of Hudson was named after him and the house that he built there in 1806 still stands.
  • Hudsonville in Michigan was named after Homer Hudson who had moved there from Ohio in the 1850’s to grow fruit trees.

Daniel Hudson was an early arrival in Watertown, Massachusetts. A descendant. Frederic Hudson, was the distinguished 19th century journalist and editor for many years of The New York Herald.

Thomas  Hudson settled in Lynn along the Saugus river in 1637. An iron forge was established on this property and its first casting, an iron pot, was handed down as a family heirloom. John E. Hudson from this family became President of AT&T in 1887.

Virginia.  Other Hudsons came to Virginia. The Virginia passenger lists shows several Hudson arrivals in the 1630’s, including probably some London Muscovy Hudsons.

A Richard Hudson arrived in 1635 as an indentured servant. A later Richard Hudson settled along the southern branch of the James river. He and his wife Mary had three sons who moved onto Chesterfield, Amelia, and Hanover Counties in Virginia. Descendants can be traced to North and South Carolina. Elizabeth Hudson from the Hanover line was the mother of the statesman Henry Clay. A subsequent Virginia Hudson family included the splendidly named Cicero Demosthenes Hudson who moved with his family to Alabama.

Hudsons in the South.  Just how the Hudson name came to be associated with the Choctaw tribe in Mississippi is unclear. The earliest reference is to a “widow” Hudson who was born in 1768 and died in 1831 during the Choctaw resettlement. She was the mother of George Hudson who became the principal chief of the Choctaw Nation in 1860, but lost his position when he refused to come out in favor of the Confederacy.

Frederick Hudson had come from Virginia in the 1830’s and started a plantation at Shuqualak in Noxabee county, near the land which the Choctaws had vacated. Clement Hudson’s plantation was in Carroll county. And Franklin Hudson ran the Blythewood plantation in Iberia county, Louisiana. Many of these Hudsons later moved onto Texas.

In recent years, several African American Hudsons have risen to prominence in Mississippi. Winsom and Dovie Hudson were fearless sisters who fought the early battles of civil rights. Heather McTeer Hudson became the first woman black mayor of Greenville, Mississippi in 2006.

Canada.  Hudson was among the first names of Canada because Henry Hudson, the explorer, had left his name to Hudson Bay. Hudson’s Bay Company was formed to profit from the fur trade. Its vast network of trading posts formed the nucleus for later political authority in many parts of western Canada and the United States. Today the company is best known for its department stores throughout Canada.

Australia.  In 1788 the First Fleet left London with the first consignment of convicts to the new settlement of Australia. Among the 1,500 onboard was John Hudson, a nine year old chimney sweep who had stolen some clothes and a pistol. The judge commented: “One would wish to snatch such a boy from destruction for he will only return to the same kind of life which he had led before.”

So little John Hudson, an orphan, was sent to Australia for seven years. He ended up on Norfolk Island. The last official record of him was that he was punished “fifty lashes for being outside his hut after nine o’clock.”

A later arrival was William Hudson from a small farming village in the Lake District. He came on the Star of India in 1862 and headed for the gold fields. He and his wife Mary Jane settled in a farm they named Sunny Brow where they brought up seventeen children.

New Zealand. Hudsons from Oxfordshire and Worcestershire came to New Zealand in the 1870’s under an emigration program sponsored for farm laborers.

George Hudson came with his family from London in 1881. He had an abiding interest in natural history and devoted his life to writing and illustrating books on New Zealand’s moths, butterflies, and beetles. A proper English gentleman, he did all his fieldwork in a three-piece suit, complete with a watch chain.

Hudson Surname Miscellany

Henry Hudson, Buried at St. Dunstan’s.  Alderman of London, Henry Hudson, a member of the Guild of Tanners, one of the twelve men from which the Lord Mayor of London may be chosen, a gentleman of great wealth, and lord of half a dozen ancient manors; noted for his public spirit and benevolence; died of malignant fever in December 1555 and was buried in the Church of St. Dunstan’s where his monument is still to be seen.

The Voyages of Henry Hudson

The First Voyage

  • Henry Hudson was selected by the Muscovy Company in 1607 to command an expedition “to discover a passage by the North Pole to Japan and China.”
  • In May Hudson set sail on the Hopewell from Gravesend.
  • Hudson reached Greenland, discovered whaling grounds, and went north.  But the conditions were terrible and the weather freezing.  The bad weather prompted their return.
  • The reports that Hudson provided resulted in fleets of whaling ships being sent into the area.

The Second Voyage

  • In 1608 Henry Hudson was ready to command his second expedition to discover a northeast passage through the Arctic waters north of Russia.
  • Hudson travelled past Norway and towards Russia.  But conditions onboard and the freezing weather and ice led to a near mutiny by the crew and Hudson was forced to return. 

The Third Voyage

  • Lacking backers in England for another voyage, Hudson approached the Dutch and in 1609 signed a contract with the Dutch United East India Company.
  • In April Hudson set sail on the Half Moon from Holland under the Dutch flag.  Hudson travelled past the cold waters of Norway and towards Russia.  The conditions once again led to near mutiny by the crew.
  • Hudson decided to completely change direction and head West towards warmer waters and the New World.
  • In July the Half Moon passed Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and reached Maine.  He then passed Jamestown and ventured into Delaware Bay which proved too shallow to explore fully.  By September he reached the mouth of the Hudson river and made the decision to explore the river, hoping to find a passage to the Indies.
  • He reached Albany up the Hudson river and, after various explorations, decided that it was time to return home, reaching Dartmouth in England in November.
  • The Dutch ordered Hudson to return to Amsterdam.  But he never went.

The Fourth Voyage

  • In 1610 Hudson was backed again by the Muscovy Company to command an expedition to search for the NW passage.
  • In April Hudson left London on the Discovery
  • By July he reached the Hudson Strait and tried to enter the “Furious Overfall.”
  • The Discovery became frozen in the ice and Hudson and his crew found themselves the first Europeans to winter in the Canadian Arctic.  It was freezing cold, there was limited food, there were savage native Indians.  The terrible conditions led the crew to mutiny.
  • Hudson was cast adrift in a small boat with his son John and eight loyal crew members.  They were never heard of again.
  • The mutineers returned home.  Only eight made it back to England.

Family note: Henry Hudson had married Katherine who died in 1624.  They had three sons: Oliver; John, who died with his father on his final voyage; and Richard, who became the chief representative of the East India Company in the Bay of Bengal and had several children (some of whom emigrated to America).  Many have sought to connect the explorer with Alderman Henry Hudson or with Thomas Hudson of the Muscovy Company, but the connection is unproven.

Richard Hudson in Virginia.  Richard Hudson came to Virginia in 1635 as an indentured servant to Obedience Robbins.  Court records indicate a dispute over payment to Obedience which suggests a servitude.

This Richard was a litigous soul, as these court records would indicate:

  • Richard sued a Mrs. Savage for payment of some services that were rendered.  The court ordered her to pay Richard 600 pounds of tobacco and five barrels of corn.
  • Richard brought Goodwife Robbins to court for slandering his wife Mary.  Alice Goodwife Robbins received twenty lashes for this offence.  It appears that Alice was a disagreeable person evidenced by the fact that she was often in court.  For another slanderous offence she was “lashed to the end of a canoe and towed over the creek.”
  • Richard then appears in court over a disputed hog.  Richard claimed that it was stolen and that he could identify it by the markings in the ear.  The defendants claimed that the markings were destroyed when the sow was attacked by dogs.  Richard then claimed that the thieves cut it out.  The outcome was not recorded.
  • Family court records show that Richard snuck upon “his girle” and her boyfriend in a compromising position in the woods.  It is not known if “his girle” was his daughter or a servant.

Thomas Hudson in Twickenham.  Thomas Hudson the portrait painter was a son-in-law of Jonathan Richardson and the master of Joshua Reynolds.  He came to live in Twickenham in 1753 in a house in Cross Deep, a little upstream from Pope’s villa.

By that time his style of portraiture was going out of fashion and he gave up painting a little later.  When Sir Joshua Reynolds moved into Wick House on Richmond Hill in 1772, Hudson was said to have remarked:

“Little did I think we should ever have country houses opposite to each other.”

On hearing this, Reynolds retorted:

“Little did I think, when I was a young man, that I should look down upon Mr. Hudson.”

John Hudson in the West.  John Hudson left Liverpool on the Cambridge in August 1849 for New York.   But he soon discovered that his poor economic conditions portended only failure and he wondered if he could survive in the high-priced atmosphere of Gotham.  The news of the discovery of gold in California therefore provided a possible escape from penury.

Attached to the Colony Guard Company of high-minded gentlemen, he set out across the mountains, down the Ohio, and up the Missouri to Kansas where he and his companions prepared for the dash across the plains to the treasure awaiting them.  His illness from cholera or “mountain fever” forced a disappointing stop at the Mormon City of the Saints where he decided to spend the winter before proceeding across the desert to California.

He never made it to California.  He joined the Mormon church and spent the winter as a teacher in the frontier settlement of Fort Utah.  He then spent three months as a draughtsman in a survey of the Great Salt Lake before being assigned by the Mormon church to a new frontier settlement at Manti in Sampete valley.  On arrival there, however, he succumbed to an attack of pneumonia brought on by his mountain sickness and died.

The Hudsons of Wakefield.  James Hudson in a bowler hat is pictured outside his shop on Westmoreland Street in Wakefield during the Christmas fair of 1906.  At the time the picture was taken, James was not the only Hudson working in the town.  He was the eldest in the family and inherited the shop from his father, also named James, in 1867. His brother Ernest had a butcher’s shop on Brooke Street and another brother, Alfred, was a fishmonger in Wakefield market.

The first Hudson that the family knew of was Thomas who had been born in Woolley in 1802.  He had various shops and went on to become the landlord of the Cock and Bottle Inn on what is now Marygates Lane.  His father James had been landlord of the Spangled Bull.  Thomas and the pub featured in Kate Taylor’s book Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Wakefield.  He helped identify three men involved in a murder.  While they were drinking in his father’s pub, they bought pies from Thomas with money stolen from the man they had robbed and murdered.

Hudson Names

  • Henry Hudson, the explorer, sought the NW passage to Asia but discovered instead Hudson Bay in Canada and the Hudson river in New York state.
  • Robert Spear Hudson from Staffordshire was the Victorian entrepreneur who popularized dry soap powder and built up a family soap business.
  • W.H Hudson, born in Argentina from an English immigrant family, became one of the most popular and widely read naturalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Rock Hudson, the Hollywood actor, was born Roy Harold Scherer.

Hudson Numbers Today

  • 66,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 27,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Hudson and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “son” suffix is more common in northern England than in the south and in lowland Scotland.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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