Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thriller Thursday: A Family History of Evil – Herman W Mudgett

   Herman Webster Mudgett (1861-1896) a.k.a. Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was one of the first documented American serial killers.  His crimes, possibly 200 murders, were documented at the time by William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers and more recently by Erik Larson in his best-selling book – The Devil in the White City.


   Herman was born in Gilmanton, NH to Levi Mudgett, an alcoholic, and Theodate Price, a devout Methodist.  The debate of whether Herman’s evil is the result of nature or nurture will no doubt continue.  The claim that Herman Mudgett was in fact Jack the Ripper is still to be proven.

   What’s known is that Herman had deep New England roots with connections to Gilmanton and Exeter, NH and Salisbury and Rowley, MA.  Names like Prescott, Scribner, Hilton, Dudley, Partridge, Coffin, Greenleaf and Batchelder decorate his family tree.  Ted Bundy was also born in New England.  Is there a genealogical connection between serial killers?

   I'm hoping the answer is definitively – no.  My children are cousins to Herman Mudgett through the Dudley and Coffin lines.  I probably shouldn’t be worried by the 1% of 1% of the shared DNA, unless it’s one of those genes that doesn’t get diluted over time.  Note to self: have the DNA of the kid with the shifty eyes tested.

My Mudgett connections:

Enoch Moore (1561-1615) & Catherine
Sarah Moore & Edmund Greenleaf
Judith Greenleaf & Tristram Coffin
Judith Coffin & John Sanborn
Judith Sanborn & Ebenezer Gove
Judith Gove & Jonathan Prescott
Jonathan Prescott & Rachel Clifford
Samuel Prescott & Anna Healey
Nancy Prescott & Scribner Mudgett
Levi Mudgett & Theodate Price
Herman Webster Mudgett (9th cousin 3 times removed)

Richard Fettiplace (1460-1511) & Elizabeth Bessiles (1465-1511)
Anne Fettiplace & Edward Purefoy
Mary Purefoy & Thomas Thorne
Susanna Thorne & Roger Dudley
Thomas Dudley & Dorothy Yorke
Samuel Dudley & Mary Byley
Mary Dudley & Samuel Hardy
Theophilus Hardy & Sarah Follett
Mary Hardy & Richard Smith
Sarah Smith & Edward S Mudgett
Samuel Mudgett & Mary Morrill
Scribner Mudgett & Nancy Prescott
Levi Mudgett & Theodate Price
Herman Webster Mudgett (12th cousin 5 times removed)

We are connected to the evil, the good, the common and the famous.  It doesn’t define who we are but it does spice up our dinner conversations.


  1. Uh oh! I'm descended of Goves, Healeys, Sanborns, Coffins, etc. No Mudgetts. Yikes!
    Thanks for digging up his roots. This will make interesting conversation up here in New Hampshire...

  2. I loved that book "Devil in the White City."

  3. oh, wait, count me in on the Edmund Greenleaf line through his son Stephen!

  4. I was looking at my family tree and I have a bunch of the same people in my family tree starting with Richard Fittiplace and down. Feel free to contact me if you wish.


Relaunching Origin Hunters

   For the past four years I haven't been very active writing or attending genealogical conferences.  My focus has been quietly he...