A grand panorama

Sometimes small coincidences tantalize. For example, in 1657 Quaker John Wilkinson of Cumberland undertook a significant travel in ministry to Ireland, only months after he finally joined Friends after encountering George Fox at Pardshaw Crag, where John and Eliner Hodgson were members. John and Eliner’s two sons both wind up in Ireland, likely with other Hodgson kin. Wilkerson had been a pastor simultaneously serving three churches when the Quaker movement began eroding his congregations, and had stiffly resisted Friends until the day he was among several hundred people at the outdoor event. Did Wilkinson somehow encourage their moves, spiritually and physically? We’ll never know.

However the Hodgson lineage ultimately plays out, I had originally hoped to find an intricate web of related households involved in the early Quaker movement – with roots going back to a common source. What I expected to turn up was an immediate connection between the Cumberland and Durham Hodgsons, and then older bridges elsewhere. What I’ve assembled is not nearly that streamlined. The 1642 Durham Protestation lists roughly 120 Hodgson males over the age of 18 in that shire/county alone, and the summarized Cumbria parish records for the late 1500s and the 1600s run on for pages.

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While Chris Dickinson has placed my Hodgson origins at Murton in Lamplugh, Cumberland, a map of Border Clans in David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed places the Hodgson family center slightly northwest of Carlisle, to the west of Eden River – about the same location as Moorhouse Preparative Meeting, where the first meetinghouse was erected in 1681 “at a place called Calf Close.”

I have subsequently uncovered other Hodgson centers to the east in Cumberland (especially around Ainstable, Castle Carrock, and Lazonby), as well as in Newcastle-on-Tyne in Northumberland, Aukland and Darlington in Durham, and other locales – a span of perhaps seventy-five miles.

One other curious twist I would like to mention at this point involves the occasional glimpse of a Cuthbert Hodgson. As a given name, Cuthbert has a direct local application to Durham, where the Roman Catholic saint is buried inside the cathedral he established. We find, for instance, a Cuthbert Hodgson Senior being buried in 1683 at Penriddocke, Carlisle Meeting; Cuthbert Junior is buried there in 1686. Cuthbert’s children, recorded at Carlisle, include Shadrack, 1656; Mary, 1658; Elizabeth, 1661; and John, 1665. I assume the residence is identical to the Penruddock situated about ten miles southwest of Lazonby. Besse’s Sufferings records a Cuthbert Hodgson as one of seven individuals who had goods valued at ninety-two pounds seized in 1682 for meeting at Darlington, in Durham – home to a major nexus of Quaker Hodgsons (after all, Robert the Missioner came from Durham). Another appears once at the parish church in Lancaster, for the baptism of daughter Jenet, June 16, 1605. Could this be the same one who witnesses the 1569 will of Roland Hodgson at Ainstable or Bascodyke, Cumberland? An index of Durham wills, 1540-99, refers twice to Janet Hodgson and three times to Jenet.

Other Cumberland Hodgsons aggregate along the Solway shore and at Lazonby and Castle Carrock, with John, Thomas, and William being common first names. Through Cuthbert, I had hoped to establish a direct linkage between the Cumberland Quaker Hodgsons and those of Durham.

*   *   *

I am left wondering, too, just how much mobility would have existed in England for our ancestry or how much the surname may have been spared during the predations of plague.

At this point I have no way of knowing whether the various clusters of Hodgson families in antiquity arise in a single source, as Lester Hodgins contends (Hodgins .. Kindred Forever), or in independent sires – something that has become the focus of DNA testing.

According to the generally accepted definition, the Hodgson root-name arises in “son of Roger” or “Hrodgar.” Roger itself combines hrod, “fame,” and gar, “spear.”

One thing is apparent: despite the winnowing effect of the Black Death, 1307-27, 1349-50, and 1377-1399, which reduced the population of England from an estimated four to five million in the 13th century to 2½ to three million by the 1480s, Hodgsons were prolific and widespread across northern England. The plague’s 1349-50 outbreak includes a 39 percent mortality rates in the diocese of York -which also embraced Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Westmorland, and Cumberland. Even so, the City of York reported a 50 percent population increase between 1348 and 1377 – many of them Hodgsons.

In addition, by the 1350s this region already demonstrates great population mobility.

A Dictionary of British Surnames by P.H. Reaney presents a survey of early citations. The primary heading is “Hodgson, Hodgshon, Hodgens, Hodgin, Hodgins, Hodgeon, Hodson.” A separate heading, Hodson, “v. also Hodgson.” The same goes for Hodgeon, Hodgens, Hodgins. This source finds in the guild records, “Hogeson is common before 1582 and Hodson and Hodgeon are clearly the same name.” Name meanings here include “son of Hodge,” likely a nickname for Rodge/Rodger, and “son of Odo.”

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