Searching for the Origins of John Skudder (c. 1796 – 17 Jul 1866) and Mary (Russell) Skudder (c. 1802 – Feb 1864), both of Southwark, Surrey

“The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

I’ve often thought about these lines. And I’ve mused how they might apply, or not apply, to family history research. We look and look and look for the missing kernel of truth, the fact – the particular birth, the marriage, the death, and its dates – upon which we can build and expand and elaborate all the others that follow. But sometimes there is no kernel of truth. No one fact. Just a list of competing, though in the end not terribly different, theories. And the truth, if we are ever to know it, will be found not in one theory or another, proven correct or incorrect, but in the vague haze that surrounds all of them.

The name Scudder, as it occurs in America, is usually spelled with a “c,” and for the most part derives from a small handful of early immigrants. Extremely good work has been done on the origins of these people, particularly by the Scudder Association Foundation of America.

But, as we’ll see, even as those early Scudders ventured forth to their adopted country, they left behind in England a large number of relatives, many of them scattered throughout the county of Kent. There they multiplied for generations until relatively recently, in the mid-1860s, two daughters of one family decided, along with their husbands, to also leave the UK and come to the US. Jane (Skudder) Burgin and her husband Thomas Burgin, and Mary Ann (Skudder) Spencer and her husband George Marks Spencer, arrived in northern New England in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Both families settled in or near Rutland, Vermont. The Burgins soon moved south to Massachusetts, while the Spencers stayed in the Green Mountain State. [Note: this branch of the family has used a “k” – as in “Skudder” – since at least 1825. I will use both spellings here, the “c” and the “k,” in deference to each individual’s preferred spelling. —LSL]

The story of Jane and Thomas Burgin’s immigration is told here. And my earlier efforts to discern a little more about their immediate nuclear family as a whole is told here. But for years, the information in that last blog post has been, to borrow from Shell Silverstein, where the proverbial sidewalk ended.

We know from marriage and baptismal registries in the neighborhoods of Southwark and Bermondsey – sections of old London – that Jane’s and Mary Ann’s parents were one John Skudder, first an oilman and later a grocer in the Southwark neighborhood, and his wife Mary. They appear to have frequented two parishes: that of St John, Horselydown, and St Olave’s.

A look at Thomas Burgin’s and Jane Skudder’s (our immigrant ancestors) marriage certificate.

And earlier, a look at Jane’s birth entry in the baptismal register.

As has been useful in other posts of this type, I’m hoping to start now with what we absolutely know to be true, regarding the end of John and Mary Skudder’s lives, and progress slowly to what we strongly suspect, before – near the end – listing what amount to only educated guesses.

Basic Background Research

John Skudder, grocer of Southwark, husband of Mary, died 17 July, 1866, and was buried on July 24, 1866, in a nearby cemetery, Norwood Cemetery, on Norwood Road, in Lambeth, that reused graves. His will was entered into probate on the 14 Aug 1866, accompanied by a posting in the London Gazette soon afterward.

His wife Mary had died two years earlier, in February of 1864.

A brief aside. In June of 1852, his son John Skudder, at 18 years of age the sole male bearer of the family name (in 1838, an infant son, Henry, died less than a year old) had left England for Australia, arriving on the 25th of Nov 1852 at Phillip Bay. (His name is second from the bottom of the frame.)

In January of 1855, his parents, John and Mary, placed an ad in a local paper (The Argus based in Melbourne) asking their son, from whom they presumably hadn’t heard much, to please write home. They were worried.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.) Wed 10 Jan 1855; Page 1 (right hand column, fourth entry down.) Courtesy Elisha Lee.

I include this here because A) it’s a small and beautiful human moment, and B) there is at least the possibility that we have Australian relatives. What became of John Skudder, b. 1835-? Did he die soon after arrival or survive in his adopted country to have children who in turn had children of their own? Is there a line there? This brief mention might, perhaps years from now, yield an answer from a reader. Echoing the words of John and Mary Skudder in 1855, if you are a descendant of John Skudder, b. 1835-?, your American kin would like to correspond with you!

Moving further back in time, there are the marriages of the couple’s daughters Jane, Mary Ann, and Emma, then, still further back, the entries for the children in the baptismal registry of their parish.

I’ve already mentioned Jane and Mary Ann at the top. Their families are well documented, and that information is on Ancestry and FamilySearch.

We know Emma (b. 4 Jun 1844, d. 24 Dec 1933) married a man named John Kilby because in the 1881 Census, she is listed as Emma Kilby, wife of John, sharing their home with her sister-in-law, Eliza Skudder. This will actually matter in just a bit… So hold that thought.

1881 Census showing “Jno” Kilby [John], his wife Emma (Skudder) Kilby, and sister-in-law Eliza Skudder, a former governess.

Back to John and Mary Skudder. In the 1861 Census, John Skudder’s place of birth is listed as Crayford, a town in Kent. In that same Census, 1861, Mary’s place of birth is listed as Welling, but in 1851, she gave as her answer, Bexley—both also towns in Kent. Welling adjoins East Wickham, and Bexley is a slightly larger town, roughly 4.8 miles just to the south. (Of note, Crayford is 3.4 miles from Welling, and just 1.7 miles from Bexley.)

Assuming they knew each other before they wed, in other words that the marriage was not somehow arranged, the triangle of Crayford, Welling and Bexley is actually quite small, and it gives us a reasonable ground to cover looking for evidence of their wedding.

One doesn’t have to look far.


On the 30th January, the 6th of February and 13th February, 1825, at St Mary the Virgin in Bexley, one John Skudder (“of this parish”) published banns with a Mary Russell (also “of this parish”).

Their wedding soon followed…

On the 19th of February, 1825, at St Mary the Virgin in Bexley, John Skudder (listed as “of this parish”) married Mary Russell (also “of this parish”).

(For more on the witness, Mr. Thomas Coombes, who was raised in Swanscombe and lived in Dartford, see here.)

Note there are many mis-transcriptions of these documents, recording her name variously as Mary Ruppell, or Rupell. That is incorrect, and simply reflects a lack of familiarity with older forms of longhand. Her name was, according to the typical script used at the time, Mary Russell.

OK! From this we learn that both John and Mary were members of the parish in Bexley, and that Mary was a spinster or un-married at the time of her wedding, and that her family name was Russell. Great!

Now, at this point a cautious researcher might pipe up, “That’s interesting, even tantalizing, but how do you know this was your John and Mary? Couldn’t there have been other John Scudders/ Skudders marrying women named Mary, in the Bexley area?”

Yes! That is quite possible. As we’ll soon see, identical names attached to different individuals is going to be a HUGE problem in this entire search.

But recall that I said to pay attention to the daughter, Emma (Skudder) Kilby. She gave her youngest son, Stanley, the middle name of… Russell. Is this proof? No, of course not, but taken with all the rest, I find it pretty reassuring. At any rate, it’s as good as we’re going to get.

In Search of “Our” Mary Russell

This surname of Russell is a huge clue waiting to be pursued. It’s also the first major roadblock.

As it turns out, subsequent searches of Bexley and its surrounding areas, yield not one but three (or possibly three) Mary or Mary Ann Russells. All were born within the right time period, and two(!) had fathers named William Russell and mothers named Ann.

The oldest of these, a Mary Ann Russell (btw, recall the name of John and Mary’s second daughter was Mary Ann) was (probably) born in early 1799 to a William and Ann Russell, and was christened on 2 June, 1799, at St Mary the Virgin in Bexley.

Currently, contributors working on FamilySearch have equated this Mary Ann Russell with the Mary Ann Russell, a daughter of a William Russell (noted to be a “woodman”), who grew up to marry two men, first a William Hart and later in 1837 a William Tipler. In support of this connection, at the time of her wedding to Tipler, one of the witnesses was a Henry Russell.

Henry Russell was felt to be the brother of the Mary Ann who was christened in 1799 in Bexley. And, later, Mary Ann Tipler in the 1851 Census listed her place of birth as Bexley, and her age as 51, the implied year of her birth thus being 1799/1800. It’s a reasonable case that is being made.

[Note to future researchers: this “attribution” that the Mary Ann Russell who married Hart and Tipler was a daughter of the large Bexley family of William and Ann Russell, and sister of John Russell could be challenged if someone were to find a later wedding of one of her siblings, in which the father, William Russell, was noted to be some profession other than a woodman. For now, though, it seems reasonable to leave this woman with this family.]

So, if the Mary Ann Russell who was christened in Bexley in 1799 was, by virtue of having married two other men, demonstrably not our ancestor, where else can we look?

The next possibility, another Mary Russell, was born on 14 Jul 1801, and was also the daughter of a William and Ann Russell. She in turn was christened on 9 Aug 1801 at the parish of St Michael in East Wickham.

The first thing to note here is that East Wickham is just .9 mi from Welling! Recall that Welling was the place of birth given by “our” Mary (Russell) Skudder in the 1861 Census. Basically, if you glance at the map, Welling is just at the other end of a small street. A literal stone’s throw away.

The second thing to note is that the year of birth for this woman is closer to the estimated year of birth of our Mary, 1802, per both the 1851 and 1861 Censuses.

A quick search of parish records reveals that a William Russel married an Anne Viner on 16 Aug 1787 in East Wickham. These were likely the parents of the Mary Russell mentioned above (though some online researchers have conflated them with the William and Ann who were the parents of Mary Ann (Russell) (Hart) Tipler. There was also apparently a sister in this family, Elizabeth, born two years earlier in 1798. That sister, Elizabeth Russell, married a man named John Monk in East Wickham on  5 Sep 1814, thereby becoming Elizabeth (Russell) Monk.

It is worth pointing out that in all likelihood there were two Russell families, each with a husband/ father named William and a wife/ mother named Ann: one family in Bexley, with ten children, all of whom apparently were christened in St Mary the Virgin between 8 Jan 1792 and 15 Nov 1818, and one family in East Wickham, with at least two children, Mary and Elizabeth.

Before you say, “Job well done, that’s our woman,” not so fast. It’s not at all a foregone conclusion that the Mary Russell christened in East Wickham was in fact our ancestor.

One fact that stands out is that a Mary Russell (parents not recorded) married a man named James Seabrook in East Wickham on 10 November 1823.

Was this a case of yet another Mary Russell? Or could it perhaps be “our” Mary, in some sort of early marriage that was possibly annulled, or swept under the rug? It now looks to me like it was the former, i.e. this was yet another Mary Russell.

Interestingly, Elizabeth (Russell) Monk – Mary’s presumed sister, the other daughter of William and Ann Russell of East Wickham – was a witness, along with a James Barnes, and while Elizabeth signed her name at her own wedding, Mary did not sign her name, but simply made her mark, a rough looking “X.”

“Our” Mary Russell, from Welling +/- Bexley, who married John Skudder at Bexley in 1825, did in fact sign her own name when she married. With an attractive signature. [See document above.] There was no Elizabeth Monk as a witness, but rather, as we saw, a Thomas Coombes, and a Mary Maclean. It’s perhaps also worth noting, no one named either Skudder or Russell signed as a witness.

My overall point here is that the presence of a known sister, Elizabeth (Russell) Monk, persuasively ties Mary Russell, chr. 1801 in East Wickham, to the Seabrook marriage. And this, along with her lack of ability to sign her name, separates this Mary Russell from “our” Mary Russell who later married John Skudder and founded our line.

So… we now have three Mary (or Mary Ann) Russells living within a very small triangle of Welling, East Wickham, and Bexley c. 1823-25.

If “our” Mary, who stated she was born in Welling, wasn’t the Mary Ann Russell of Bexley, who married Hart and Tipler, and she wasn’t the Mary Russell who was baptized in 1801, and whose family worshiped in the St Michael parish of East Wickham and who later married James Seabrook, then who was she? And where are her records?

At this point, I have no answers. And that is where I’ll leave it.

In Search of “Our” John Skudder

Moving on, if we are temporarily stymied regarding Mary Russell “of Welling,” what of John Skudder “of Crayford,” and his family?

A confession and a warning: everything from here out is – from a research perspective – truly tough going. Mind numbing minutiae; very little in the way of high altitude overviews. Here’s a brief summary, nonetheless.

It would be an understatement to say that the Scudders/ Skudders of Kent were, as a rule, “not wealthy.” Few of them were even what we today would call middle class, or perhaps, prosperous merchants. (Indeed, at this point, the industrial revolution was only beginning, so there really wasn’t even a true middle class to speak of.) Their lives appear to have been recorded only a few times: when they were baptized; when they married, +/- the names of their fathers on their wedding certificates; when they had their children baptized; when they died; and when they were buried, and/or when their wills/ debts were processed. That’s about it.

And the central problem is: they gave their sons names like John, James, William, George, and Henry, and their daughters names like Mary, Jane, Mary Jane, Ann, Mary Ann, and Elizabeth. (Every now and then there’s a Francis or a Jane Sophia to spice things up, and offer just hint of specificity, but not often.) Each couple averaged about five or six children, and many never moved more than a few miles from the place they were born or christened.

The crucial point, though, is that while many of these folks never moved much, a small few did indeed migrate on a relative scale, i.e. somewhere between five and fifteen miles. So any effort to group or categorize people solely based on their place of birth in the census records is going to create as many problems as it solves.

In an attempt to see what others have come up with, I went on both and FamilySearch. If you do the same, you will quickly find that multiple researchers on those sites have assembled vast and intricate genealogies of the Scudders of Kent. So… Success? Hardly.

The problem is, where this particular extended family is concerned, these online genealogies don’t stand up to anything more than superficial scrutiny.

Sadly, we have the work of a few well-intentioned amateurs mixing up family groups and merging them based on roughly similar first names and roughly similar dates, with the result that many of them are shown as having two spouses at once, overlapping children by different spouses, dual death dates that are thirty years apart, and so on, and so on. It’s a real mess, and – to harp on one of my main themes here – with each subsequent user who uncritically copies it and passes it all along, the mess is starting to become regarded as “fact.” Until some altruistic researcher does a parish-by-parish investigation, including a review of wills and perhaps deeds, all this is unlikely to get untangled anytime soon. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Echoing the problems encountered with Mary Russell, there are indeed multiple John Skudders, with generally the right dates, i.e. 1790s and early 1800s, within the relatively large area of Crayford, Bexley, Swanscombe, Southfleet/ Northfleet, Gravesend/ Milton, and Shorne.

Now, we’re going to be looking in these documents for a John Scudder or Skudder ( either “c” or“k”) to emerge as the likely younger self of the man we know married Mary Russell, and then we’ll need to find his parents and siblings.

We can begin with the fact that “our” John Skudder’s entry in the 1861 Census, his age listed at his burial, and his will in 1866 all agree: the year of his birth was 1796.

What about place of birth? You’ll recall we said that in the 1861 Census, John listed his place of birth as Crayford. (In 1851, he simply and unhelpfully stated, “Kent.” Or, that is what was recorded.)

Searching the available databases, nothing for a John Scudder born or christened in Crayford comes up. There were several John Scudders/ Skudders born nearby in the early 1800s, but they don’t really pan out.

This could be for one of two reasons: 1) he really was born in Crayford, or close by, but the parish records have simply not yet been digitized and uploaded to the various genealogy sites, in which case there’s nothing to be done but wait, or travel to Kent and do the necessary work on site oneself; 2) he was born elsewhere in the region, but moved to or near Crayford, either as an infant or a child.

The rest of this post will be devoted to this second possibility: that “our” John Skudder was not born literally in Crayford, but somewhere among the adjoining villages and towns, but if so, where(?).

I mentioned there are John Scudders in the general vicinity who were born in the early 1800s. I think it’s fair to eliminate them as the 1861 Census, the burial note, the will were all specific. Our man was born in 1796. Ok…

One possibility then comes immediately into view.

While the handwritten record is admittedly difficult to decipher, it appears that on both April 4 and May 1 of 1796, in the town of Southfleet, a John Scudder – listed as the son of John and Susan Scudder – was either baptized or admitted to the congregation at St. Nicholas of Myra in Southfleet. Could this be him? While the transcribed links are interesting, I think it’s always better to look at the actual handwritten entries. Accordingly….I’ve reproduced them below.

It’s worth emphasizing that I cannot completely read the end of the Apr 4 entry. “Prev[ious] bap[tism]” perhaps?

And the May 1 entry is also not entirely clear. “[illegible] into cong[regation]” Or this would be my guess.

Someone with a familiarity with Kent’s baptismal registries might recognize at a glance what is being conveyed, but it’s beyond my powers to do so.

[Addendum: Since posting this entry, an attentive reader and personal friend who is also a retired Episcopal deacon has suggested the entry may refer to a provisional baptism, also called a conditional baptism. These are performed when there is a question of whether or not a previous baptism might have been done in strict accordance with church doctrine. The idea being that a valid baptism only happens once. For more see the Comment section below. –LSL]

(For the source of the above, meaning a complete compendium of those records, see here.)

Going back online to see what might already be known, other children of this same couple are listed on Ancestry and FamilySearch, most of them christened either in Swanscombe or Southfleet.

A brief summary: (Note this is just what has been assembled online. My including it here is not an endorsement of any kind. My guess is, there are elements here that are not accurate, but others that are.)

1. John Scudder. Born in ______, Kent, England?

Sometime before or during 1793 John married Susan ______, and the two settled in or near Southfleet.

They had the following children:

                        i.          Harriet. Born in 1793 (probably in) Southfleet, Kent, England.  Note the name here is similar to the Harriet/ Harriot Scudder, also daughter of a John and Susan Scudder who was b. 1 Sept 1794, and chr. 8 Sept, at St Margaret of Antioch, Darenth, Kent, and soon after was buried on 30 Sep 1794 in Darenth, Kent. Has there been some confusion? Possibly, but that is a question for another day.

          2          ii.          John (~1796-?) Chr. 4 Apr or 1 May 1796 in St Nicholas Of Myra, Southfleet, Kent, England

                     iii.          Sarah. Chr. on 14 Oct 1798 in St Nicholas Of Myra, Southfleet, Kent, England.

                      iv.          Maria. Born abt 1801. Chr. 20 Sep 1801, Swanscombe, Kent. A girl named Maria Scudder was buried in 1807 in St Nicholas Of Myra, Kent, England. Another young woman of that same name, also b. 1801, later married a William Cowper or Cooper in Swanscombe.

          3           v.          Francis (1806-1877) Francis turn out to have lived a well-described life, and I will cover him in detail in the last section of this post. As a hint, guess where he was born, guess where he was christened, and guess where he was married? (No fair looking!)

          4          vi.          Susan (1809-1887) Susan also appears to have lived a well-described life. (She probably married none other than John Russell, the brother of the Mary Ann Russell who was born/ lived in Bexley and later married Hart and Tipler.)

We can also ask, what might have been Susan’s, the mother’s, maiden name?

Perhaps it’s worth noting that in 1792 at St Botolph’s in Northfleet, one John Scudder married a Susan Killick.

That’s something to go on, but it sure isn’t proof, either that the John and Susan Scudder who married at St. Botolph in Northfleet in 1792 are the same as the John and Susan Scudder who had the children born in Southfleet and/or Swanscombe, or, that the family above, including the John Scudder christened in 1796 at St Nicholas of Myra in Southfleet was the same man who went on to marry “our” Mary Russell in Bexley.

On this note, though, one could ask, would a family based in Southfleet/ Swanscombe really be likely to move to places like Crayford or Bexley later on?

Hold that thought. That’s a question that is going to take up a lot of our time.

Reservation #1: Did John Scudder, chr. in Southfleet 1796, grow up to become the John Scudder of Northfleet and later Gravesend/ Milton?

Before we get too excited that this John Scudder, born in Southfleet 1796 to a John and Susan Scudder, is “our man,” one experienced researcher I have discussed the matter with has raised the possibility that he is not the John who subsequently ended up in Bexley marrying Mary Russell before moving to Southwark where he was recorded in multiple Censuses; rather, he is much more likely the (different) John Scudder who was born, according to mid-century census records, at Northfleet, and later moved to Gravesend / Milton (as recorded in the 1851 and 1861 Censuses), before dying there in 1885.

Leaving aside the nominal difference between Southfleet and Northfleet, could that have been the fate of this boy who was christened at St. Nicholas of Myra? Did he really end up in Gravesend/ Milton? Let’s look at this hypothesis in detail.

In multiple records, the age of the John Scudder who moved from Northfleet to Gravesend/ Milton is listed as either 1793 or 1794, not the 1796 of the John Scudder, christened at Southfleet mentioned above, and also not the 1796 of “our” John Skudder, later of Southwark.

In the 1851 Census (year of birth noted as 1794):

(As nothing other than a piece of trivia, it appears this John Scudder of Gravesend married a Scottish wife many years his senior.)

In the 1861 Census (year of birth noted as 1793)

In the 1871 Census (year of birth noted as 1791):

At his death in 1885 (year of birth noted as 1793):

So, not only the census records, but also the death records, seem to be coalescing around two birth dates for the two John Scudders of Gravesend/ Milton and Southwark: c. 1793 (1791, 1793, 1794) and 1796, respectively.

Well, we know at least one infant John Scudder was born in the vicinity of Southfleet, where he was christened in 1796. But… Could there have been a second infant John Scudder in the same general area, but of a slightly older age? Is there perhaps a better candidate for the “young version” of the John Scudder who who ended up moving to Gravesend/ Milton? It turns out there was.

Returning to FindMyPast, this hypothetical child shows up as a John Scudder born 7 May 1793(!) to a William and Sarah Scudder, and who, on 23 Jun 1793, was christened in the nearby town of Shorne.

A transcription…

And the original…

BTW, Checking FamilySearch, there is a duplicate record of this christening here.

(For the source of the above, meaning a complete compendium of those records, see here.)

This peaked my interest.

I wondered, where exactly is Shorne? And… If John Scudder of Gravesend/ Milton were to have migrated in childhood or young adulthood or even middle age, say, from either Southfleet or Shorne (via Northfleet) to Gravesend, was one particularly farther than the other? Unfamiliar with the geography of the area, I turned to Google Maps. As it turns out, the distance from Southfleet to Gravesend is 3.5 miles depending on the route. The distance from Shorne to Gravesend is 4.2  miles depending on the route. A difference of a mere .7 miles.

To sum up: we have a John Scudder of Gravesend/ Milton who gives the census taker “Northfleet”  as his place of birth. Based on baptismal records, he was probably fudging or approximating a little, but he almost certainly came from a nearby town. And, in both census records and his death entry, John Scudder of Gravesend/ Milton was said to be born about 1793.

So, which baby John Scudder was most likely to grow into the John Scudder of Gravesend/ Milton?

We have candidate No. 1, John Scudder, christened in Southfleet 1796, and candidate No. 2,  John Scudder, christened in Shorne in 1793. Southfleet and Shorne are essentially equidistant, and less than a day’s walk, from Gravesend/ Milton.

None of this is proof as to the background of John Scudder of Gravesend/ Milton, but I hope I’ve raised some significant doubts. 

Could he have been the John Scudder who was christened in Southfleet in 1796. Yes, he could have been. But he also could have been the John Scudder who was christened in Shorne in 1793, an equal distance, but much better match on the date.

At the very least, I would suggest we open ourselves to the idea that John Scudder, christened 1796 in Southfleet, may NOT be the John Scudder of Gravesend/ Milton as recorded in the 1851/61 Censuses.

Very well. Based on the foregoing, let’s now assume, for the sake of argument, that the John Scudder, christened in 1796 at Southfleet, did not grow to become the demonstrably older John Scudder, born c. 1793 in Northfleet, who moved to of Gravesend/ Milton.

Could he have become “our” John Scudder?

Reservation #2: Was John Scudder, chr. in Southfleet 1796, unlikely to be the John Skudder of Crayford and Bexley based on the distance between Southfleet and Bexley?

A second reservation, or doubt, goes like this. “Our” John Skudder, husband of Mary Russell, who in the 1861 Census listed his year of birth as 1796, and town of origin as Crayford, was almost certainly not the one who was christened in 1796 in Southfleet because the two communities are simply too far apart, and do not form a single cohesive whole. The idea here is that people stick with the relatives and neighbors they know, and they stay in the places they know. One is unlikely to break those bonds, and simply move, even if it’s just nine miles. Such mobility defies common sense.

Or does it? What if we could show that not only were there individuals – Scudders – who were born in Southfleet, and lived in Swanscombe, but who later moved to “distant” towns exactly like Bexley?

What if we could show that another son of John and Susan Scudder, born in Southfleet, but baptized in Swanscombe, moved precisely to Bexley, where he married and then settled?

Such an example might at least give support to the possibility that the John Scudder, chr. 1796 in Southfleet, could have done the same.

On a whim, I decided to search FindMyPast for the records for any and all Scudders worshipping at Bexley, St Mary the Virgin, c. 1825.

A number of names come up:

John Scudder, whom we know, born either in simply “Kent” or perhaps Crayford (depending on the Census, 1851 vs. 61), c. 1796 or 1798, and the groom/ husband of Mary Russell.

Sarah Scudder, who married Henry Nightingale. She was purportedly born in 1805 to James and Sarah Scudder in Bexley, though I have yet to confirm that.

A James Scudder who married a woman named Catherine Verralls.

But… also a Francis Scudder, who in 1826 married a Dinah Millis.

Interestingly, in the 1851 Census, a Francis Skudder, married to a Dinah Skudder, currently residing in Bexley, almost certainly the same man, lists his year of birth as 1806 and his place of birth… as Southfleet!

This is then repeated in the 1861 Census, which also mentions Southfleet.

Looking further, we find Francis was christened in Swanscombe, in Ss Peter and Paul. (See also here.)

(For more of Francis’ documents click here or here.)

Here is proof that at least one member of “the Southfleet Scudders,” a son of John and Susan Scudder, was born in Southfleet, spent time (i.e. was christened in) in Swanscombe, and then migrated to Bexley, where he – Francis – married his wife – Dinah – in Bexley, St Mary the Virgin.

In other words, the distance was not in fact too far… Some of the Scudders/ Skudders worshiping in Bexley at St. Mary the Virgin were indeed one and the same as the Scudders of Southfleet and Swanscombe.

I’ll also note in passing that one of the witnesses to the wedding of Francis Scudder and Dinah Millis was a man named John Russell. This Mr. Russell was probably the brother of the Mary Ann Russell who married the two gents (Hart and Tipler) that I alluded to earlier, and who was very likely the husband of Francis’ sister, Susan Scudder (1809-1887). (As I pointed out when I mentioned Susan above, despite the tantalizing name of Russell, it’s likely John Russell was from a different branch of Bexley Russells than “our” Mary. Be that as it may, it still serves to reinforce what we learned from Francis’ marriage: that these families were indeed traveling to and from these various towns, and that the distances were not too far, or the neighborhoods too separate.

This is also as good a place as any to remind the reader that one of the witnesses to the wedding of “our” John Skudder and Mary Russell was John Thomas Coombes, who was raised in Swanscombe and lived in Dartford. In other words, he represents yet another connection between the folks at that Bexley wedding and the people of Swancombe. These neighborhoods absolutely interacted.


If the John Scudder, who was christened in the Southfleet church in 1796, did in fact move in a similar direction from town to town as his brother Francis, whether as part of a unified larger family, or simply as as an individual, the result would be two brothers, marrying in the same small church, within one year of each other. Stepping back, such similarities simply make sense, and happen every day.

You could also flip this around… IF this were NOT the case, if my alternative hypothesis is in fact wrong, then we have to remark on what a coincidence it is that another son of this family, a brother to the John Scudder, christened in Southfleet in 1796, namely Francis Skudder, just happened to move to the exact spot in Bexley, where he was married in the exact same church as “our” John Skudder who was also born in 1796 and who married Mary Russell.

In sum, I am suggesting that, following Occam’s razor, based on the migration of Francis Scudder from Southfleet (where he was born) to Swanscombe (where he was christened) to Bexley, and specifically Bexley St. Mary the Virgin (where he was married), the simplest solution is that his brother, John Scudder, christened 4 Apr 1796 and/or May 1 1796 in Southfleet, son of John and Susan Scudder, is in fact the same man as the John Scudder/ Skudder, born 1796, who ALSO got married in Bexley St. Mary the Virgin to Mary Russell and who subsequently founded our line.

Is this proof? No. Sadly, and frustratingly, it is not. We may never actually get proof, in a legal or even a genealogical sense. And even if it were, that would just serve to set up the next great challenge: where did John Scudder, the father, husband of Susan______, come from? And, was this the John Scudder who, in 1792, married Susan Killick at St. Botolph’s in Northfleet? If so, who were that John’s parents, and where did Susan Killick hale from?

If and when someone takes this all up again, either with better information from the parish registries, or some sort of advanced genetic analysis, my hope is that those future researchers will at least be able to reproduce the basic legwork that my cousin Elisha Lee and I have done on this whole series of questions, as of the summer of 2021.

To return to that Conrad quote I began with, there is no proverbial kernel here. But perhaps if we finish reading, put the computer to one side, and pour a glass of something old and fine, there might just be the beginnings of a haze, or perhaps even a halo, “made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.”


Update: September, 2021

Several years ago, my cousin, Elisha Lee, put his DNA online and in early July of 2021 a connection via the Skudders was finally flagged on

The distant relative in question (see graphic, with close relatives removed) descends from a Stephen Skudder, born in Erith, but baptized in Crayford(!), in 1804, and who passed most of his life in/near Erith before dying in Dartford. [See his profile on FamilySearch here.–LSL] Stephen was known to be the son of a John and Sarah Skudder (note the rare use of the “k”).

It’s worth emphasizing that the dates in the Ancestry screen grab above pertaining to John are not firm. They were merely put there by the descendant Elisha matched to. And I think it is not yet conclusively proved that Stephen is what Ancestry has identified him as: a half 3rd great-granduncle. To say more, I would have to know precisely how to interpret the 28 centimorgans of genetic material in common.

Caveats aside… IF the genetic interpretation is correct, the designation of Stephen as a half 3rd great-granduncle implies that while his father, John, was indeed our ancestor, his mother, Sarah, was not. This raises the questions, which John Skudder was this, and, to whom was he married when he fathered our John “of Crayford” born c. 1796? Does it upend *everything* I wrote above? Or is there a way most if not all of the pieces actually fit?

All of this remains to be seen. But finding the name of Stephen Skudder, of Crayford and Erith, son of a John Skudder, with a documented genetic connection to our present-day family, is – I think – significant progress.

From here, I will have to start combing the records of Erith and Crayford. More, when I know it. —LSL



A quick summary of four generations of the descendants of John Skudder (c. 1796-17 Jul 1866) and Mary (Russell) Skudder (c. 1802-Feb 1864). A similar chart can be found on FamilySearch, here.

John Skudder

  b. abt 1796, Crayford, Kent, England

  d. 17 Jul 1866, Southwark, London, England

& Mary Russell

  b. abt 1802, Welling, Kent, England

  d. Feb 1864, Southwark, London, England

  m. 19 Feb 1825, St Mary the Virgin, Bexley, Kent, England

|           Jane Skudder

|             b. 30 Jul 1826, Southwark, Surrey, England

|             d. 6 Apr 1911, 95 Goffe St., Quincy, Massachusetts

|           & Thomas Burgin

|             b. 7 Apr 1825, St. Mary, Somerset, London, England

|             d. 9 Jun 1888, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|             m. 23 May 1848, St. John’s Church, Southwark, Surrey, England

|           |           Thomas Burgin

|           |             b. 25 Mar 1851, Southwark, Co. Surrey, England

|           |             d. 7 Jan 1854

|           |           John Burgin

|           |             b. 27 Dec 1852

|           |             d. 8 Aug 1857

|           |           Thomas Burgin

|           |             b. 3 Jun 1855, Southwark, Co. Surrey, England

|           |             d. 20 Oct 1898, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           & Sarah Adaline “Sadie” Danforth

|           |             b. 26 May 1855, Jefferson, Schoharie, New York

|           |             d. 6 Nov 1923, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |             m. 15 Aug 1877, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           Anna Mae Burgin

|           |           |             b. 2 May 1879, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 9 Feb 1956, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           & Harry Clark Regan

|           |           |             b. 3 Nov 1882, North Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 12 May 1968, New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut

|           |           |             m. 5 Apr 1904, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             div. 1952

|           |           |           Harold Edwin Burgin

|           |           |             b. 17 Aug 1883, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 12 May 1921, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           Alfred Burgin

|           |             b. 22 Oct 1857, St John, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 1929, Greenwich, Hampshire, Massachusetts

|           |           & Emma A. Gutberlet

|           |             b. 1858, New York, New York

|           |             d. 1924, Springfield, Massachusetts

|           |             m. 9 Jun 1880, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           John Alfred Burgin

|           |           |             b. 7 Mar 1882, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 1 Aug 1945, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           & Della K. Briggs

|           |           |             b. Aug 1881, Chatham, Columbia, New York

|           |           |             d. 7 Mar 1957, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             m. 2 Oct 1907, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           Grace Kathryn Burgin

|           |           |             b. 14 Jan 1891, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 22 Apr 1976, Greenwich, Massachusetts ?

|           |           |           & Charles Dexter Walker

|           |           |             b. 26 Dec 1889, Greenwich, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 23 Nov 1969, Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts

|           |           |             m. 24 Jun 1916, Springfield, Massachusetts

|           |           Jane “Jennie” Burgin

|           |             b. 1 Feb 1860, Southwark, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 25 Feb 1884, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           Edwin Burgin*

|           |             b. 26 Jul 1862, St John’s Parish, Southwark, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 30 Jan 1906, Belchertown, Hampshire, Massachusetts

|           |           & Selina M. Baldwin

|           |             b. 18 May 1862, Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut

|           |             d. 5 Feb 1898, 6 Chase Ave, Holyoke, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |             m. 12 Sep 1885, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           Edna Seymour Burgin

|           |           |             b. 10 Nov 1889, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 16 Nov 1993, Corona Del Mar, Orange, California

|           |           |           & Walter Alanson Shaw

|           |           |             b. 18 Apr 1889, Holyoke, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 11 Jul 1971, Corona Del Mar, Orange, California

|           |           |             m. 18 Jul 1911, Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           Edwin Burgin*

|           |             b. 26 Jul 1862, St John’s Parish, Southwark, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 30 Jan 1906, Belchertown, Hampshire, Massachusetts

|           |           & Lucy Cornelia Smith

|           |             b. 11 Mar 1876, Holyoke, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |             d. 1964, Massachusetts, United States of America

|           |             m. 10 Jul 1900, Holyoke, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |           Lucy May Burgin

|           |           |             b. 30 Nov 1902, Holyoke, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 9 Aug 1999, Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio

|           |           |           Edwina Burgin

|           |           |             b. 26 Mar 1906, Holyoke, Hampden, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 16 Jan 1997, Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio

|           |           Clarence Burgin

|           |             b. 27 Oct 1865, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |             d. 13 Apr 1943, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           & Minnie Morton Rodgers

|           |             b. 2 May 1869, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |             d. 5 Jul 1951, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |             m. 22 Jun 1898, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |           Clarence Rodgers Burgin

|           |           |             b. 23 Oct 1899, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 22 Feb 1990, Milton, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |           & Helen Swain

|           |           |             b. 25 Jan 1905, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 22 Sep 2001, Fox Hill Village, Westwood, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |             m. 24 Oct 1931, First Parish Church, Cohasset, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |           Thomas Skudder Burgin

|           |           |             b. 15 Apr 1902, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 24 Jan 1986, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |           & Marjorie Christine Smith

|           |           |             b. 10 Oct 1911, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           |           |             d. 25 Jun 2005, Sayre, Bradford, Pennsylvania

|           |           |             m. 25 Jun 1930, Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts

|           Mary Ann Skudder

|             b. 22 Feb 1829, Horseleydown, Surrey, England

|             d. 26 Mar 1885, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           & George Marks Spencer

|             b. 22 Nov 1825, Camberwell, Surrey, England

|             d. 29 Jul 1879, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|             m. 3 Apr 1849, St. John, Horselydown, Southwark, Surrey, England

|           |           Mary Ann Spencer

|           |             b. abt 1850, Horseleydown, Surrey, England

|           |           & George Thomas Coleman

|           |             b. abt 1847, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England

|           |             d. abt 1904

|           |             m. 17 Mar 1868, St Giles, Camberwell, England

|           |           |           Laura Gertrude Coleman

|           |           |             b. abt 1869, Bermondsey

|           |           |             d. abt 1935

|           |           |           & Ernest Francis Tofts

|           |           |             b. abt 1866, Southport, Lancashire, England

|           |           |             d. abt 1935

|           |           |             m. 24 Jun 1891, St Luke, Shepherds Bush, Middlesex, England

|           |           Eliza Jane “Lizzie” Spencer

|           |             b. 14 Jun 1852, Rotherhithe, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 1920, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |           & John Pennington Hunt

|           |             b. 30 Jun 1847, Highgate, Franklin, Vermont

|           |             d. 19 Nov 1895, Rutland Co., Vermont

|           |             m. 13 May 1885, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |           |           Mary Inza Spencer “Inza” Hunt

|           |           |             b. 29 Mar 1886, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |           |             d. 21 Jan 1951, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |           |           & Andrew Jackson Provan

|           |           |             b. 11 Jan 1884, Manchester, Bennington, Vermont

|           |           |             d. 17 Apr 1942, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |           |             m. 2 Jun 1914, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           |           Alice Spencer

|           |             b. 10 Jul 1854, London, England

|           |             d. 5 Sep 1934, Vermont

|           |           & Charles Julius Hill

|           |             b. 20 May 1856, Manchester, Bennington, Vermont

|           |             d. aft 1934

|           |             m. 16 Jun 1888, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont

|           Eliza Skudder

|             b. 29 Jun 1831, St. John, Horselydown, Southwark, Surrey, England

|             d. abt 1885

|           John Skudder

|             b. 11 May 1835, St. John, Horselydown, Southwark, Surrey, England

|             d. aft 1855, Australia

|           Henry Skudder

|             b. 20 Jan 1838, St. John, Horselydown, Southwark, Surrey, England

|             d. abt Nov 1838, St Olave, Southwark, London, England

|           Ann Skudder

|             b. 29 Jun 1840, Surrey, England

|             d. Dec 1845

|           Emma Skudder

|             b. 4 Jun 1844, St. John, Horselydown, Southwark, Surrey, England

|             d. 24 Dec 1933, Lewisham, London, England

|           & John Kilby

|             b. Jul 1846, St Olave Southwark, London

|             d. 17 Jul 1899, Lewisham, London Borough of Lewisham, Greater London, England

|             m. abt 1874, Southwark St John Horsleydown, London, England

|           |           Sidney John Kilby

|           |             b. 13 May 1875, Horselydown, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 6 Nov 1946, Lewisham, London, England

|           |           Florence Emma Kilby

|           |             b. 14 Sep 1876, Horselydown, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 30 Jun 1957, Lewisham, London, England

|           |           Irene Kilby

|           |             b. Jan 1880, Horselydown, Surrey, England

|           |             d. 14 Jun 1922, St Thomas, Devon, England

|           |           Gertrude Kilby

|           |             b. 1 Sep 1881, St Olave Southwark, London, England

|           |             d. Mar 1882, St Olave Southwark, London, England

|           |           Stanley Russell Kilby

|           |             b. 25 Oct 1882, Horselydown St Johns, London, England

|           |             d. 22 May 1901, Kent, England


2 thoughts on “Searching for the Origins of John Skudder (c. 1796 – 17 Jul 1866) and Mary (Russell) Skudder (c. 1802 – Feb 1864), both of Southwark, Surrey

  1. Daphne B. Noyes June 10, 2021 / 6:17 pm

    “Prev baptism” could be actually “prov[isional] baptism” used in the case where someone *may* (or may not) have been baptized before. (Also called conditional baptism.) That would be my guess, since we don’t re-baptize. Fascinating work, thanks for sharing, and hope it didn’t tie your brain in too bad of a knot!

    • LSL June 11, 2021 / 10:07 am

      Hi Daphne! I’m so glad you saw this post, and read it through in detail. I’m only embarrassed I didn’t think to run the question of the strange (provisional?) baptismal entry by you in the first place. But given your background, I’m sure you’re right. That’s extremely helpful! And yes, my head is still hurting from writing it all down. But now at least it’s ready and available for whomever picks up where I left off. Again, thank you!

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