The Ladson family is an American family of English descent that belonged to the planter and merchant elite of Charleston, South Carolina from the late 17th century. The family were among the first handful of European settlers of the English colony of Carolina in the 1670s, where the family quickly became part of the American gentry.
The family is descended from John Ladson (died 1698), a Quaker from Brigstock in England; he emigrated to Barbados and then in 1679 to the newly established Charles Town (Charleston) in Carolina where he acquired land. When he moved to Charles Town John Ladson brought with him a single black slave from Barbados, 21-year old Sara. He married Mary Stanyarne, who had been born in Barbados around 1667 to parents also from Brigstock. Described as being of undistinguished background in Barbados, John Ladson rose to become a leading member of the Royal Assembly in Carolina in the 1690s and his descendants accumulated great wealth in Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries as major plantation owners with hundreds of slaves.
John and Mary Ladson were the parents of Captain Thomas Ladson (1690–1731), who was the father of William Ladson (1725–1755). William Ladson married Anne Gibbes (1730–1755), a daughter of John Gibbes and a granddaughter of governor Robert Gibbes as well as a great-granddaughter of the first European settler of Carolina Henry Woodward. The Gibbes Museum of Art is named for her family.
William Ladson and Anne Gibbes were the parents of the American revolutionary and Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina James Ladson (1753–1812). James Ladson married Judith Smith, a daughter of the slave trader Benjamin Smith and granddaughter of the largest slave trader in British North America, Englishman Joseph Wragg formerly of London; she was also a descendant of English colonial governors Thomas Smith, Joseph Blake, James Moore and John Yeamans. Judith's first cousin Elizabeth was married to Peter Manigault, the wealthiest man in the British North American colonies by the 1770s. Judith was related to some of the former lords proprietors of Carolina.
Among the children of James and Judith Ladson were the businessman and plantation owner James H. Ladson (1795–1868), who owned over 200 slaves and served as the Danish consul in South Carolina. He was married to Eliza Ann Fraser, a daughter of the merchant and plantation owner Charles Fraser (1782–1860), who owned the Bellevue plantation near the Pocotaligo river and whose grandfather John Fraser had moved from Scotland to South Carolina around 1700.
The Ladson family has numerous descendants who were prominent in American society—especially in South Carolina—as businesspeople, lawyers, and politicians. Through her American great-grandmother Mary Ladson Robertson, Ursula von der Leyen is a descendant of two of the children of lieutenant governor James Ladson, including James H. Ladson, and lived briefly under the name Rose Ladson.
- Walter B. Edgar, South Carolina: A History, p. 48
- Edward P. Lawton, A saga of the South, p. 58, 1965
- Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery, p. 124
- Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, p. 114
- Biographical directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985, vol. 2, p. 881, University of South Carolina Press, 1986, ISBN 9780872494800
- "Mehr gelebt als studiert", Die Welt, 20 June 2016
- Mary Preston Foster, Charleston: A Historic Walking Tour, Arcadia, 2005, ISBN 0738517798