HENRY HUDSON

                            1565 - 1610

The following is taken from the handwritten manuscript by William Norton Hudson in 1846 (See Hudson Family Record Book). Although much could be gleaned from history books about Henry Hudson, this account was written by his descendent based on what he had learned from his parents and grandparents, which makes it very special. 

Henry Hudson ( or as he was called by his Dutch friends, Hendrick Hudson) was born in England about the year 1565 of a branch of that family that was registered in the English Heraldry office by the name of Hodgeson, (that is, the son of Roger----). Not finding employment upon his favorite element (the ocean) under the patronage of his nataive country he emigrated to Holland, offered his services on a voyage of discovery to the Dutch government and was so employed. Leaving his wife and two children, Henry and David, (or as the Dutch called them, Hendrick and Daft) in or near the city of Amsterdam, taking with him his oldest son, John, who shared his fate.

He sailed on his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean; his was the first ship that ever entered the Hudson River, which he sailed up as far as he could go with his ship, that is about where the city of Hudson now stands, in Columbia County, state of New York. His great object was to find a western passage between the islands to the East Indies; for at that period no European even dreamed that a continent existed West of Europe and Africa, and the few who at that time had learned that land had been discovered in the great Western waters, supposed it was nothing but islands of greater and smaller size, and that by perserverance a good passage for vessels would be found between them and thus a much shorter way would be found to the Eastern coast of Africa than by the very circuitous one of doubling the  Cape of Good Hope.

Being defeated in his object at this point, he retreated down the river (which he hoped would have proved a sound) to the Atlantic ocean and proceeded east and northeast touching at different places, finding no passage between the supposed islands, at length reaching what is now called Hudson Bay, where his hopes of getting past the islands became very sanguine, but the crew of the vessel became very uneasy in consequence of their protracted voyage and began to fear that their adventurous leader would draw them off into unknown seas from whence they would never be able to find their way to Dutchland. And in consequence mutinied (according to their own statement) and set their Captain with his son John and one or two of his adherents into an open yawlet an unknown distance from land, took charge of the ship and returned to Holland, leaving their adventurous commander (without doubt) to perish in that vast sea or Bay which still retains his name. There died Henry Hudson (Hendrick Hudson ) A.D. 1610.

Fifteen years afterwards, that is in the year 1625, his sons Henry and David, emigrated with the first Dutch Colony from Amsterdam in Holland to the mouth of the Hudson River in North America and established a settlement which they called New Amsterdam, now the city of New York. The family received some grants of land (in consequence of their father's discovery) on Long Island, and on the east and west side of Hudson River, now parts of the states of New York and New Jersey.

This family of course continued the use of the Dutch language for a number of generations and till some time after the Dutch ceded that colony to the English by treaty, and I have learned that till recently and perhaps to this day, there is a small branch of the Hudson family in the township of Fishkill in Dutchess County, state of New York, that still speak in their family language of the people of Holland, and being Lutherans, have their social religious worship in the same. But the greater part (like the branch to which the writer of this sketch belongs) have conformed to the general language of the country (the English) and have spread abroad into every part of the United States, and probably some may be found in almost every part of the world where American ships sail.

There are however, many of the name of Hudson now in the United States who can claim no affinity with Hendrick Hudson since the time further back than when he migrated from England to Amsterdam in Holland not far from the year 1595, those other families or their fathers having emigrated to America directly from England or Ireland.

The following article is included here because it is the most concise that I have found that demonstrates the controversy and differences that researchers have in identifying the sons and family of Henry Hudson. Typically, most researchers have identified sons John and Richard. Some show a son Henry, and in this case a son Oliver. But in no cases that I have found do they include a son David. Only the ancestry written by Wm. Norton Hudson shows David as a son of Henry Hudson.  I have proven that David existed, as I found him in New England records as Wm Norton Hudson says. But to tie him to Henry Hudson as a son is not yet accomplished.

The Life and Times of Henry Hudson

This is a collection of data about, and a chronology of the life and voyages of English explorer, mariner and adventurer, Henry Hudson, as well as some additional notes on his times, contemporaries and his crew. It was compiled from numerous sources by Ian Chadwick, 1997-2001.

Not much is known for certain about Henry Hudson's life or any of his voyages before 1607. He must have learned his craft and skills by traveling with contemporary seafarers, probably British mariners (possibly even sailing with John Davis on one his voyages to the Arctic) because by the time of his first recorded voyage, he was a captain. His contributions to the exploration of the world as it was then known have generally been understated by modern sources, and overshadowed by greater exploits of his contemporaries.

Hudson was the architect of his own fateful tragedy that led to the mutiny in 1611. Obsessed by the vision of a northwest passage, he often ignored everything around him in his quest to find it. That included his crew. Almost every voyage indicated some form of crew uprising or mutiny. Hudson appeared weak and vacillated between appeasement and force when dealing with crew, seldom disciplining them when or as required, often showing favouritism to some members at the expense of the others (and of his own authority). When he did attempt to exercise his authority, it came out in petty, small ways and created a greater divide between himself and his crew. His attempt to show leniency to mutinous crew in Ungava Bay only led to further abuses and ultimately his demise. He appeared unable to manage his men in times of stress.

Hudson proved a competent navigator, but his personal ambition and goals often overrode his judgement. Although courageous at times, he was headstrong and given to ignore the directions of his sponsors. His contributions to the geographical knowledge of his day were great.

Hudson today is mostly known for a few place names in the atlas which indicate where he traveled. But his voyage of 1607 cast him in the role of the father of the whaling industry in the 17th century. His reports led to the wholesale slaughter of these gentle mammals over the next four centuries. The same fate was in store for the walrus he reported on journeys north. A more enlightened present may look on whaling and hunting walrus as ignoble and savage, but in Hudson's day they were important industries.

Hudson's Life

He was born in the 1570s, possibly September 12, 1570. Some sources put his birth date as early as 1550, but this is probably too soon. One source says he was 26 in 1588, others guess at a birthdate of 1575. Some biographers place his family in Hoddersdon, in Hertfordshire, about 17 miles northwest of London.

He may have sailed with John Davis in 1587 on his voyage to discover a northwest passage. On that voyage, Davis named the raging waters now known as Hudson Strait the 'Furious Overfall.' This has been suggested because Davis planned his 1585 attempt to find a Northwest passage in the home of Thomas Hudson, in Limehouse (now in the docks area of London's east end). This may have been Henry's brother.

 As a young man, he probably served in the offices of the Muscovy Company in London because his family had shares in the company.  His family owned a narrow, three-storey brick house near the Tower of London.

Little else is known about his life before 1607. However, some authors have placed him on an English ship fighting the Spanish Armada in 1588, and on trading missions to the Mediterranean, North Sea and Africa, trading steel axes for  gold, ivory and spices. He was old enough to be an experienced mariner in 1588 when the Armada attacked.


Katherine Hudson, his wife, (her unmarried name is unknown) was left very poor when Henry and John failed to return from their last voyage. She tried to get the East India Co., which sponsored the trip, to send out a rescue mission. Three years after Henry Hudson's disappearance, she applied to directors of EIC. They recognized their obligation to the "man who lost his life in the service of the Commonwealth" and sent a ship to look for Hudson. It never found any trace of the abandoned crew. Katherine also sought compensation for her husband's death, for which she was called "that troublesome and impatient woman" in company records. But she was persistent and eventually succeeded. Under the company's approval and with their funding, she went to Ahmadabad, India to purchase indigo. She demanded special privileges there, at the company's expense. According to company manifests, she got five churles of indigo, quilts, 37 chuckeryes, 46 pieces of simianes. She started suit to get East India Co. to pay the freight back to England and after much effort got a settlement, which the company described as "the end of Mrs Hudson's tiresome suit."  Katherine returned from that trip in 1622, a wealthy woman, and retired to her home in London. In her last two years, she was received at court at least twice.  She was by all accounts a strong, willful woman. One source says she was married at age 30 in 1592, but that would mean her son Oliver probably probably couldn't have fathered his child Alice by 1608 (possible: he could have been 16 at the time).  Katherine tried unsuccesfully to have a monument erected to her husband in the last years before she died, in 1624. She was buried Sept 11. She left all her belongings to sons Richard and Oliver.

Hudson had three sons: Richard, John and Oliver.

John Hudson was onboard as ship's boy with his father since 1607.  He served in all four of Hudson's recorded voyages. He was among the crew abandoned in the bay in 1611.  

At the request of his mother, the East India Company entered Richard Hudson's name on the ship Samaritan, gave him five pounds, and sent him to Bantam, Java, Japan, then Bengal, India, to serve as a factor for the company. One source says he was 3 at the time of his niece's christening, in 1608. Richard was very successful in India and amassed a large fortune. As a trader for the company, Richard was one of the first Europeans to be given a permit to live in Imperial Japan.  On a trip back to England in the late 1630s, he became involved in a dispute with the company, the reasons for which were never made public but probably had to do with his finances. They threatened to send him to prison, but he defied the directors and returned to his home in Balasor, India. Several of his children migrated to the New World and his descendants are still in America.  He died at his home in India, in 1644.  

Oliver Hudson had a daughter, Alice in 1608. Henry attended her christening.  Oliver may have written the journal of his father's 1587 voyage, which was published in 1612.

Father, Grandfather and Other Family:

Henry Hudson's grandfather was also called Henry Hudson, (according to Hakluyt, although some sources identify him as Hudson's father). His grandfather was named in Queen Mary's Charter, 6 Feb. 1555, as one of the founders of the Muscovy Company, which sponsored John Sebastian Cabot in his expedition to the New World. He was an alderman in the City of London.

His father was a wealthy Londoner, a member of the Skinners and Tanners (one of 12 privileged companies from which Lord Mayor can be chosen), possibly also an alderman, and owned property in Stourton, Lincolnshire.  Henry's father had eight sons - including Thomas, John, Edward, Christopher, and Henry. His father died in December (20?) 1555 (or 1585), of malignant fever. His widow Barbara married an alderman named Richard Champion, who was elected sheriff 1558-9, Lord Mayor 1566. She died in 1568 without issue.

William Hudson, born 1528(?) has been reported as Henry's uncle. William had a son, also named William, who married Alice Turner. They had a son, Richard, born 1605 in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Richard sailed to Virginia in 1635 on the   'Safety.'

Hudson's brothers:

Christopher was named as factor of the Muscovy Company in Russia.  Thomas was a sea captain in employ of  Muscovy Company 1580-1 and made at least one trip to Persia for the company.   He sold his inherited lands to his brother John.   John consulted with John Davis about finding the Northwest Passage and assisted in deliberations which resulted in Davis' famous voyages.

There were numerous Hudsons who worked for the Muscovy Company (founded 1555) serving as captains, factors and agents. Some were Henry's relatives, but little is known about them or their ties

David Hudson, a modern American descendant of Henry Hudson, put together this family tree, helped in part by records kept by the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Hudson Family Association (HFA) and The Hudson Family History by Van Alan Hudson. There are more than 90,000 descendants of the Hudson family listed in the HFA database.