Sunday, 12 July 2015

Reverend Ralph Cudworth (1572-1624) (52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #28) Theme: "Road Trip"

It was our best road trip ever! In June of 1998 my English/Canadian husband Graham graciously volunteered to drive my mother, my sister Sandy and me around England in search of some of our roots. He kept telling his friends that all he needed to take along was a roll of duct tape, but upon our return, we were able to assure everyone that we hadn't had to use it on him even once!

Route taken on our 1998 Road Trip of England
Aller, Somerset is located lower left

My mother's maternal line includes numerous New England families dating from the time of the Mayflower and the immediately following decades. Most were Puritans who had come to America seeking religious freedom. Some of those family lines were easily traced back to locations in England. Others remain elusive to this date.

We planned our road trip to include visits to tourist sites such as Stonehenge, numerous cathedrals and a castle or two as well as visits to members of Graham's welcoming English family. Having learned to drive in England before emigrating to Canada, Graham was completely comfortable driving on the "wrong" side of the road and maneuvering through narrow winding roads.

We saw so many family locations that it is difficult to choose just one to write about this week and I have randomly selected one of the first places we visited - Aller, Somerset. Aller was associated with my 9th great grandfather Ralph (sometimes Rauf or Rad) Cudworth, father of my immigrant ancestor General James Cudworth.

Church at Aller, Somerset

Although Ralph had been born in Werneth, Lancashire in 1572 after the death of his father Rauf earlier that same year, his primary connections are to Cambridge University, the court of King James I and the church at Aller, Somerset. He was considered a brilliant scholar, entering Cambridge at the age of 16 and receiving a BA in 1592, MA in 1596, BD (Oxford) 1610 and DD in 1619. He was a Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was also minister at St. Andrew's.

He was presented as the Vicar of Coggeshall, Essex on 4 April 1604 upon the deprivation of the previous vicar, a man named Thomas Stoughton.   Ralph was to remain Vicar at Coggeshall until he resigned that post on 8 March 1607. (Had we known of the Coggeshall connection to Ralph, we would have made a point of visiting it later in our road trip when we drove past within 5 miles. A visit there will have to await the next road trip!)

It was his long-time association with Emmanuel College, Cambridge that led to his being awarded his living as rector in Aller in 1609.

Rectors of Aller - Ralph Cudworth STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology), third from bottom

A prestigious appointment occurred in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Through friends who had contacts at court, Ralph became chaplain to the King. This is the same King James who authorized the new translation of the Bible (1604-1611) that is generally known as the "King James Version". Although not credited as being directly involved in the translation, one might suppose that as King's chaplain, Ralph would have been in the inner circle of religious leaders involved in the project.

But Ralph was not only concerned with matters theological. It was in the King's household that he met Mary Machel, nurse to Prince Henry. Ralph and Mary were married in 1611. Their children included my 8th great grandfather James Cudworth (born about 1612) and Ralph Cudworth (born 1617).

1611 Marriage Record for Ralph and Mary highlighted in yellow

Ralph retained his position at Aller until his death in 1624. He would have been just in his early 50's and left his widow Mary with quite young children. His home base at Aller made a scenic stop on our road trip between Taunton and Wells.

Google Earth map of Somerset, England showing location of Aller


In the list of rectors of Aller (see above) the person who followed Ralph Cudworth at Aller was a man named John Stoughton. It isn't known for sure whether John and Thomas Stoughton (who had been deprived at Coggeshall) were related, but it is probable. It is also interesting to note that after the death of Ralph Cudworth in 1624, his widow Mary married John Stoughton who thereby stepped into Ralph's shoes both in the church and at home! There is evidence that he had a close relationship as step-father to Ralph's sons. By 1635, Dr John Stoughton was living in Aldermanbury in London and was found to be supportive of the Puritans in New England. Dr Stoughton was taken into custody and his study sealed, but in a few days he was returned in the Earl of Holland's coach. We know that Stoughton's stepson James Cudworth was indeed a New England Puritan and it isn't surprising that the family remaining in England could have entertained Puritan sympathies while being an integral part of the established English Protestant church.

Stained Glass Window at Aller Church


  • "Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900" accessed 21 November 2012 via
  • Beaumont, George Frederick, "A History of Coggeshall in Essex: With an Account of its Church", 1890 accessed 11 July 2015 at
  • "The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 21"
  • Cudworth, Dan, "An Autobiography of the Life of Daniel Boyden Cudwoth, Jr.", 1993 (copy accessed 1999 in the Scituate Historical Library)
  • Yates Publishing, U.S and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc, 2004), Source Number 2800.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number of Pages 1, Submitter Code: DH1


  1. I seem to remember this story, if not the part about the duct tape. Graham can play the part both ways giving new meaning to "good over evil".

  2. I have a whole lot of English ancestors on my mother's side as well, so I find this very interesting. But so far, none of mine were very distinguished like yours. It is harder to track the plain farmers! When you were on your road trip did you visit places that had records and learn more about some family members? How many days did your trip take? Seems like a lot of territory to cover.

  3. I found your blog online today. I too am descended from Ralph and his son James. I enjoyed reading your synopsis.

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