Posted by: Christine | September 20, 2012

Captain William

I have been away for a few days, so it has taken me a while to catch up with the new release from Ancestry – Great Britain, Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927. Knowing that several Madders had been sailors, I immediately did a search for Madder – only one name came up. But what a wealth of information I found, plus new sources to explore.

The first thing to say about the records is; don’t just look at the image and think that is all there is. Search the images before and after – there may be more. For example, this is the image I got when I clicked “view image”

Masters Certificate of Service No 43.637 for William Madder

Useful information which gives an exact date and place of birth at Colchester. It also says that he had been in the British Merchant Service for 45 years. I had already found references to William as master of several vessels in newspapers. Ships are identified by captain so searching newspapers for a surname brings up references to ships leaving and arriving port. You can build up a picture of where they were trading. But what about his career before he became a captain. This is where looking at the previous image paid dividends.

Reverse of the Certificate showing career of William Madder.

As you can see, this covers the whole of William’s career at sea; from his position as apprentice on a coaster, the Fortune, in 1801, up to 1849 as Master of the Alfred, sailing to the Baltic and “Archangle”. It gives details of ever ship, which port it belonged to and tonnage. It shows what position he held and where the ship was trading.

One thing I noticed is that there is a gap in his service – from 1809 to 1814 he was a “Prisoner in France”. Suddenly a whole new avenue of research opens up. These dates cover the period when we were fighting Napoleon, so he must have been on a ship which was captured by the French.

Looking back at the certificate, we can see that according to the last entry before this imprisonment, he was Mate on a ship called the Peggy on a trip to the West Indies. Once again I made use of the British Newspaper Archive. As he was still only a Mate, I couldn’t search for his name, but did an advanced search for “ship”  “Peggy” and “London” and limited to the year 1809. It’s amazing how many ships had this name, but eventually I found this entry.

Newspaper report dated 21 Sep 1809 about ship Peggy damaged in storm

It seems there had been a bad storm and many ships were lost or damaged, including the Peggy which had lost part of her mast. We also have the name of the Captain – Smith. Another report about three weeks later tells the rest of the story.

Report from newspaper 13 Oct 1809 of capture of British ships by French

This small extract contains references to no less than three ships called Peggy. The one we are looking for is in the final line. A ship called the Moniteur (French?) reports the capture of four British ships by the French, the last of which is the Peggy, Captain Joseph Smith, from Antigua.

So, William Madder’s ship was damaged in the storm and with the loss of a mast was unable to escape the French. I was unable to pinpoint his release, but the newspapers are full of reports of transports of prisoners returning after the War ended in April 1814.

Can I find out anything about his life as a prisoner in France? I see from the TNA Research Guide to Prisoner of War Records, that there are “Lists and accounts of naval and civilian prisoners in the French Wars (1793-1815)” in ADM 103, so that’s a job for my next visit. There are also various books on the subject. Look out for a follow-up blog in a few months.

And if you were wondering what happened to William Madder, here is his entry in the Probate Calender – also found on Ancestry. He retired from the sea and died at the age of 72 at home in Wivenhoe. This also gives information about his sons.


  1. Hi, I am not related in any way, but was just taking a look at some sites using wordpress to get an idea of what they look like – and wanted to tell you that I love what you have done with your Madder family info – you are obviously a very good and thorough researcher and gave me some ideas of how I should follow up on some of my folks. Thank you

    • Thank you for your comments. Good luck with your own blog – let me know when you’ve got it going.

  2. […] no time to research my third Napoleonic Madder, William who had been a prisoner of war – see Captain William. So was my trip to The National Archives a […]

  3. Hi bored on a sunday morning i googled my name A Madder and found your blog, great reading from what must have been an insane amount of reseach, i will be printing and passing on all this info to my uncle Syd who some years ago did an extensive search (pre internet) on his mothers family tree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: