Posted by: Christine | August 31, 2012

From Norfolk to London

 I sometimes think that this blog is turning into a fan site for the British Newspaper Archive, but I couldn’t resist discussing another gem I recently stumbled upon.

I was recently writing up a history of a Madder family which included Amelia, mistress of “Mr Flutter” and “Samuel the Soldier” (see previous posts). Samuel was born in Brisley in Norfolk, the son of Samuel and Mary (née BARRETT).

Marriage of Samuel Madder and Mary Barrett in Brisley 4 Dec 1770
(Image from

Samuel and Mary had a large family, none of whom stayed in the parish. Why was this?

The late eighteenth century was the start of the big exodus from the country to the towns. Enclosure of land and the industrial revolution made it more difficult for the agricultural labourer to find work. Norfolk, as a mainly agricultural area, was particularly badly hit.

With the wars against France, a lot of men went into the army or went to London where they thought the prospects of employment were better.

Samuel and Mary’s children were:
Elizabeth (baptised 1771),
Mary (1772),
Samuel (“the soldier” – 1775),
Robert (baptised in 1845, gave date of birth 1778),  
John (1778),
Charles (1786),
Clement (1788),
Mark (1791)
and Richard (1793)

What do you notice about the dates?
Any experienced genealogist would immediately spot that there is a gap between 1778 and 1786. At a time when birth control was virtually non existent, families would normally have children about every 2-3 years. (If you come across a wife having children every year, it usually means that they were rich and could afford a wet-nurse, or that the children were dying. Breast feeding acted as a contraceptive).

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, around the time some of these children would be starting their own families, several Madder families appear in London.

There was Charles, who married Jane Knott in 1826 (The Charles born in Brisley was in the Army from 1805 to 1819, then disappears)

A Mark Madder married Dinah Wildman in 1828 in London.

The other family is headed by a Thomas Madder who married Sarah Prior in 1814. We can tell by his age when he died that he was born around 1782. Was he a child of Samuel and Mary, born in that gap between John and Charles? I was fairly confident, because of the names of his children: Mark, John Thomas, Elizabeth, Samuel, Charles and Thomas Clement. Some of these names might be coincidence, but both Mark and Clement are unusual in any other Madder families.

Then, this week, when I was searching the British Newspaper Archive online, for a completely different Madder, I came across this short notice in the Norfolk Chronicle of 26 Nov 1803:

Notice in the Norfolk Chronicle 26th Nov 1803 about Thomas Madder (Image from http://www.britishnewspaper

Once you get past the “s”s that look like “f”, this gives us all the proof we need. Thomas Madder came from Brisley. He is aged 21 in 1803 (ie born in 1782). It tells why he left – he was called up to serve in the Militia. It even gives us a description and the fact that he had been to sea. I am intrigued by the letter on one wrist – was it on his left wrist and to enable him to tell left from right? A vital necessity to a sailor!

We can assume Thomas avoided the constables and settled in London. His occupation at the time of the baptism of his children was variously given as servant, trade and mechanic. He died in 1831 at the age of 49. Later, at least two of his sons were in court for robbery and one was transported to Australia – but that’s another story.

Once again the newspapers had come up with the goods. That subscription to British Newspaper Archive online was worth every penny.

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