The Challenge of Finding Charles Dudley

This week’s prompt is “Challenge” and I found that solving the mystery of our first Dudley ancestor to immigrate to America and unravelling his story is indeed a true challenge.  It is a challenge that raised more questions than answers!

Last week  I was searching for the first Dudley ancestor who immigrated to the American Colonies.   The immigrant I found was Charles Dudley, my fifth great-grandfather.  I found him in a round about way as so often happens in genealogical research!  I was researching Robert Dudley who married Clarisssa Isabell Ross, and were my fourth great- grandparents.  This led me to explore their children and one daughter, Elizabeth Dudley, had married a Hardin Herring.   Elizabeth was also called “Betty” in some sources and “Betsey” in others which also made research on her a bit challenging!

I had to search for her husband and found information on Hardin Herring in the “History of North Carolina”  (see sources below).  Hardin Herring’s father was Henry Herring who came from Virginia to Surry County, North Carolina in colonial times and bought a tract of land on Stuart Creek.  I knew the Dudley family was in Surry County and that Robert Dudley had land on Stuart Creek so things were starting to become familiar.  I learned that Henry Herring contracted to pay for the land in tobacco – interesting!  Tobacco was the currency of the period.  Henry lived only a few years and the perfecting of the title to the land on Stuart Creek was left to family members.  His son, Hardin Herring, had made farming his lifelong occupation in Surry County and took a wife to join him in this endeavor.  He married “Betty” Dudley, who I determined was Elizabeth Dudley, daughter of Robert and grand-daughter of Charles Dudley.

Now I had found Charles, the father of Robert Dudley, through his grand-daughter, Elizabeth (Betty).  The source also stated that Charles was a native of England and added this information on Charles:

“He (Charles) is said to have been a younger son of a wealthy nobleman.  When a youth, seeking adventure, he ran away and accompanied a neighbor to America.  In this country, he acquired land on Ararat River in Surry County (North Carolina), and here he reproduced so far as possible the circumstances and environment of the typical sporting English squire.  He evinced a great fondness for fast horses and kept up a free-handed hospitality.”

That was quite an interesting insight about Charles Dudley but I needed to know more and to further verify this information.   I found that a Charles Dudley was born in England on 21 December 1750 as recorded in his Anglican Church Prayer Book and Psalms, place not mentioned.   One source stated he was born in Sedgley, Staffordshire and was the son of Thomas Dudley (1716-1758) and Hannah Maria Keeling or Keelinge (1720-1790).   A Charles Dudley was baptized on 27 July 1752 in Tipton, Staffordshire, England, son of “Thos. Dudley and Hanamarie” according to  England Birth and Christening records.  This may or may not match our Charles Dudley.  However it seems unlikely that if he was born in 1750 that the parents would wait until 1752 to baptize him considering the prevalence of infant mortality at the time.  FamilySearch has a record of his birth as 30 June 1752 and his christening at St. Martins, Tipton, Stafford, England on 27 July 1752.  This seems to be the truer date of birth for Charles.

UPDATE: However, I recently found that the Charles Dudley, son of Thomas and Hannah had died young in England so it could not be our Charles!  So the search for his true parentage continues!

dudley, charles, birth, baptism, 1752, eng 001 (2)

But which birth record is for our Charles Dudley?  The date written in the prayer book or the birth and christening records for St. Martins?  After all, the prayer book also had names and birth dates of wife Mary and their son Robert and daughter Judithe.   Would not the dates written by Charles himself be accurate?  There is a difference of 2 years between the 2 sources and it is assumed that both are the same Charles Dudley.  More research questions emerge!

Charles married Mary Dulyin in 1769 in England.  Mary Dulyin was born 14 July of 1749 and they were married for about 31 years until Mary died in Surry Co., North Carolina just before 1800 at about age 51.  Their first child was Judithe Dudley born 5 May 1770 and second child was son Robert Dudley, born 30 December 1772, my 4th great-grandfather.  Charles married  Elizabeth ____ soon after  his first wife’s death in 1800 and they had supposedly two daughters, Nancy  in 1806 and Mary on 10 April 1808.  Wife Elizabeth died in 1859 in Mount Airy, Surry, North Carolina.  There are confusing records about the last two daughters, Nancy and Mary, and they may indeed be the same person.  According to the Surry County Historical Society records, Mary may have had the nickname of Nancy.  Mary  (Nancy) married Thomas Poore,  had 8 children and her descendants preserved the prayer book containing vital dates of birth – no death dates were recorded.

dudley, charles, bible record closeup 001

I discovered an immigration record for a Charles Dudley arriving in 1776 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Charles Dudley was recorded as the “Primary Immigrant” but does not record if his wife accompanied him as they would have been married by then.  He would have been about 24 years old if this is the record of our Charles Dudley.  It is not contrary to the history about which stated he came as a youth (young man).

We can follow Charles’ migration somewhat.  His son Robert was born in Carolina County, Virginia so we can assume Charles was in Virginia about 1772.  In 1782, Charles Dudley owned 200 acres of land in Surry County, North Carolina.

dudley, charles, land grant, 1787, surry nc 001  Now here is an interesting fact – this land was acquired by the famous “Siamese Twins”, Chang and Eng.  Prior to his death in November 1781, the land was owned by Mr. Byron Bunker, a descendant of one of the “Twins.”  Charles Dudley received a land grant for 100 acres on 9 August on 1787 on the south side of the Yadkin River in Surry County.  Further research discovered that his first land grant was earlier – in November of 1777 and he received 3 more grants for a total of about 1000 acres.  Based on the land records, I can assume he moved from Virginia to North Carolina between 1772 (when son Robert was born) and 1777.

In 1780, it is believed that Charles was part of the Surry County Militia of Patriots that fought at the Battle of Shallow Ford.  According to Wikipedia, the Battle of Shallow Ford occurred on October 14, 1780 at the Yadkin River and the outnumbered patriots (Whigs) with help from a troop of Virginia militias, defeated the Tory army and caused them to retreat.  The Battle occurred a week after the Battle of King’s Mountain and was an important turning point in the Revolutionary War.

Some sources state that Charles died in 1859, making him 108 years old at the time of death!  However there is no proof of this.  So here was another challenge!!  I decided to review census records for Charles in Surry County.  The first census I found him in was the United States Census of 1784-1787  where his surname was listed as “Doudley.”  Henry Herring (see above) was also on the census.  The Census records for 1790 affirms Charles as a resident as does the Census for 1800 -both in Surry County.  The 1800 Census also listed his son Robert as a separate household.  Charles is listed on the 1810 Census in Surry and he would have been around 60 years old.  However, the 1820 Census for Surry County does NOT list Charles Dudley but does list his son Robert and his grandsons, Ransom and William.   In 1830, only Robert is listed as Ransom and William moved to Virginia in 1828.  No Dudleys were listed in Surry County in 1840 (Robert died in 1834).  Judging by these census records, I believe that Charles Dudley died sometime between 1810 and 1820 between the ages of 60 and 70 and not in 1859.  His wife Elizabeth lived until 1859 but no actual death record for Charles was yet found.  Charles was buried in the Herring-Dudley Cemetery, Mount Airy, Surry, North Carolina.

So it seems there is more research ahead on Charles.  However, we know he was brave enough to immigrate and finally establish himself in North Carolina and live the life of an English Squire.   He was a patriot and helped to defend his home and county from the British.   He sold land that would belong to the Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng.  His son Robert lived near him with his family which may have been comforting.  He had to endure the loss of his first wife around 1800 but quickly remarried.  In all, despite the lurking questions, I did learn some interesting facts about my immigrant fifth great-grandfather!



History of North Carolina, Vol. 5, North Carolina Biography; Connor, R. D. W. (Robert Digges Wimberly), 1878-1950; Boyd, William Kenneth, 1879-1938; Hamilton, Joseph Greoirede Roulhac, 1878-1961; Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, New York; Published 1919; Vol. 5, p. 76. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Charles Dudley  Family Bible Record:  1749-1830; State Archives of North Carolina; Call # 400.1.1.761; also, North Carolina Digital Collections.

A Brief History of the Dudley Family; contributed be Naoma Dudley Slone; U. S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s; Original data: Filby, P. William, ed.; Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012.

The Heritage of Surry County, Surry County Historical Society; Family No. 209; p. 166.

Surry County, North Carolina, Land Grant No. 1834; Aug. 9, 1787, Bk. No. 65; Page No. 279.

U. S. Census – Dudley in Surry Co., North Carolina, 1786-1850; Compiled by Nancy Bryant 4/25/00 based on information on census information on microfilm and books at Family History Library, Los Angeles, California.

England Births and Christenings 1538-1975, database, FamilySearch; Citing Charles Dudley; FHL microfilm 1,526,134.

3 thoughts on “The Challenge of Finding Charles Dudley

  1. Hello! My name is Kellye Voigt, and I, too, have this Charles Dudley as my 5th great-grandfather. I am happy to share my family tree with you if you have an Ancestry account.

    The cool news is that I plan on going to NC for a job training, and I want to take that Saturday to travel to Surry, NC to see what I can find out in the library there about Charles. I am happy to contact you and let you know if I find anything worthwhile.

    Thanks for sharing this information! It helps straighten out a few questions about Charles.

    Take care,
    Kellye “Smith” Voigt


    1. Hi Kelly! Maybe I should say “Cousin Kelly”! Yes, I would be so pleased if you could share anything you find on Charles Dudley with me! He has become a sort of brick wall for me. I thought that I knew his parents but a contact on Ancestry revealed that she had traveled to England to search the possible parents of Charles. The parents I found did indeed have a son Charles born the same year as ours but that child, she found, had died young in England. We figure that Charles was born in America but so far haven’t found parents. Perhaps land records, tax record, deeds or other records will name some parents – Good luck in your research and I am anxious to see what you find! I have an Ancestry account – the Lyons/Swanson Family Tree that is public. I really would like to explore your ancestry account – we may have more in common! Thank you so much for contacting me! Marilyn Pawlak


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