THE DOODSON FAMILY HISTORY SITE
Everything you wanted to know about Doodson family history
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At the height of the industrial revolution some intrepid Doodsons joined the many thousand emigrants from the British Isles across the Atlantic. I’ve tried to catalogue them, work out where they originated and find out more about their lives. I’ve used immigration records, US census returns and other records such as wartime enlistment lists and US veterans grave records.
The US census returns are a marvellous source of information, and although the handwriting of the US census recorders is as bad as in England, there is often information that is particularly helpful in tracking down lineage. For example some of the census returns give a date for when the person became a US resident, and most record where both parents were born. Disturbingly, from my perspective, the census returns also recorded the person's colour (only distinguishing between Black and White).
Even this can give a useful insight - to find Doodsons recorded as black in a southern US state in the mid-1880s is fascinating. How did someone clearly not from Lancashire get to be called Doodson? Did they marry an English (yes, let's face it, white) Doodson? Or was there simply a spelling mistake on the census return? Or did they take the name Doodson because locals found their original surname difficult to pronounce or spell? It was common for immigrants to the US to do such a thing, but usually there was some "anglicising" of a European surname involved (especially with German or Eastern European countries). This can hardly be a good reason to adopt "Doodson" - a notoriously difficult name to spell or pronounce right. Oh yes, you'd be amazed at how many different spellings we Doodsons get, and how many odd pronunciations... The worst potential reason for an African American to adopt the surname Doodson might be that they (or their forebears) were slaves “belonging” to someone called Doodson. So far I’ve not found any evidence that this is the case.
US censuses were done every ten years (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Census ) and are available online from 1840 to 1930, as well as some single state censuses (e.g. New York State did a census in 1925 - see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_censuses_in_the_United_States ) . It's interesting that the English censuses are only published up to 1911, presumably on the basis that there would be plenty of people from say 1931 that are still alive. If the census records made it possible to steal someone's identity (e.g. to grab mother's maiden name, birth date, first school etc) I could understand this, but the UK seems too cautious.
Many Voter Registers and city directories are available online, which are also useful, though they don’t directly give someone’s age, though they can be useful to prove that two people were related, since the addresses are given in both types of document. Some Social Security records are available online - usually on the death of someone. Some WW1 and WW2 draft cards are online, though they often give only limited information. For some States death and marriage certificates are online. Not sure which states or which time periods, as they seem somewhat patchy. And of course the usual slew of other records appear online including obituaries and gravestones, all of which help to validate and in some cases add to information from other sources.
Other great sources of information are the immigration records, which listed the people landing in the US from the many ships that crossed the Atlantic. These records only cover a relatively short period, but can be mighty interesting, since they say whether a person could read or write, how much money they brought with them, whether they had a ticket for their onward journey, who they were visiting in the US and so on. Sometimes they record the actual address they came from or were headed to - this can be vital in confirming relationships.
It's possible to trace a few families from the moment they arrived in the US right up to 1930 - or even beyond. In some cases it's possible to find these people in the English censuses and plot them on the family trees of English Doodson families. This section, and the main left hand part of the PDF file, attempts to do just this. An "odds and ends" section is stuck at the end, with a few seemingly isolated Doodsons from around the US, who don't appear to belong to another family hierarchy. In many ways these are more interesting and thought-provoking than the trackable families - what brought them to America? Were they alone? Where did they come from? Where did they end up?
The Rhode Island Doodsons
Founders Thomas and Lucy Doodson, from Kearsley, Lancashire - see the Kearsley/Australia family tree. In August 1896 Thomas Doodson arrived in Boston, headed for Pawtucket, Rhode Island, visiting someone called Geo. Howarth, who was presumably a former neighbour from Lancashire who had already emigrated. Thomas obviously liked it because not only did he stay but he brought over his wife, Lucy and son Arthur Sydney and became US citizens. There are still Doodsons living in Rhode Island.
The Massachusetts Doodsons
John William Werneth Doodson and his wife - see the Werneth family tree - were in Massachusetts shortly after their marriage in 1910 in Chadderton, Lancashire. Their first child John Werneth Doodson was born in 1912 in Fall River, Mass.
The New York Doodsons
Harry and Mary Doodson - see the Reuben family tree - arrived with their family in 1908 and settled in Frankfort, NY State. Robert Doodson - see the Bury #2 family tree - arrived in the US in 1914 and settled in Rochester, New York.
The Pennsylvania Doodsons
Peter Doodson - see Glossop #4 family tree - arrived in 1868 and settled in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. There are still Doodsons in the area.
Various others …
There have been other Doodsons in Pennsylvania (not related to the ones above), in Cook, Illinois, and in Suffolk, New York - I’ve been able to trace these back to family trees in England.
But there are yet more Doodsons who I’ve not been able to trace back to England, living at various times in Palm Beach, Florida, in Connecticut, in Suffolk, New York (not related to the others above), and Gasconade, Missouri. And of course a number of black Doodsons living in Tennessee, and Missouri.