Posted by: Christine | January 21, 2013

Merry Madder Christmas

Since I was confined to the house by the snow this weekend, I decided to do a bit of tidying up. No, not the house (I wasn’t that desperate!) – it was the computer files that needed sorting out. I was about to order a certificate so I had a look to see if there were any others I needed to purchase. That involved looking at my Madder birth, marriage and death list – about 1250 names collected from the GRO indexes. And I might add, collected from the original index books, every one lifted down from the shelves at Somerset House, St Catherine’s House and Middleton Place. None of this downloading everything from some website!

In the course of sorting this out, I noticed a small collection of eight names in the Aylesham Registration District. This is in Norfolk, where “my” Madders came from, who were they? I realised I already had one of the certificates – the birth of Henry MADDER in Coltishall.

Baptism of Henry Madder in Coltishall in Norfolk

Baptism of Henry Madder in Coltishall in Norfolk

I suddenly remembered that I had researched this family and I quickly found the family tree. It was one of those annoying little trees that you end up with when conducting a one name study. A female Madder arrives out of nowhere, has a couple of illegitimate children then gets married and eventually everyone ends up with the husband’s surname. The registrations were the births and a death of the children of her illegitimate son.

I had discovered all this several years ago using FreeREG which is particularly good for Norfolk Parish Registers – but this is only an index. I had found the marriage of William Madder and Sarah POOLEY in 1838 there under the name of Christmas William MADDY, but couldn’t find a baptism for him under any name. Many of the Norfolk Parish Registers can now be found on Familysearch, so I decided to confirm the information I had, from the images of the register pages. Since I had a date for William’s marriage I was soon able to find that.

Marriage of Christmas William Maddy and Sarah Pooley in 1838

Marriage of Christmas William Maddy and Sarah Pooley in 1838

Notice that there is no father’s name entered for William – could it have been Christmas? I knew from census entries that William had been born around 1817, so I started working my way through the Coltishall baptisms. I started from 1813 and soon found Mary Anne, the first illegitimate child of Anne Madder.

Baptism of Mary Anne Madder in 1813

Baptism of Mary Anne Madder in 1813

Very much illegitimate (base born) and unusually it gives an occupation for the mother, she was a servant. I carried on through the register page by page, until I came to the following entry, in 1817.

Baptism of William Christmas Merry in 1817

Baptism of William Christmas Merry in 1817

Everything seemed to fit apart from the surname MERRY. I had not come across any other entries for this surname (or CHRISTMAS for that matter). I looked at the date 5th January – it was very likely that he had been given that name because he was born at Christmas. I think that the Rector, or whoever had filled in the register, had perhaps been celebrating too much – it was, of course, Twelfth Night, or got confused with the Christmas name and instead of writing Maddy wrote Merry.

This mistake was not noticed, over twenty years later, when the same Rector’s Curate baptised William’s first child, also called William (brother of the above mentioned Henry).

An 1839 family baptism in Coltishall.

A 1839 family baptism in Coltishall.

On 28th April 1839 William, son of Xmas Wm and Sarah Maddy was baptised. (X was a common abbreviation for Christ – the word Xmas is not a modern invention!). There was obviously some uncertainty as to whether the father had been baptised – did they flip back the pages and find the Merry entry? – but they did him again just in case (the second entry). The third entry is William’s mother Anne, who had married Henry PARNELL and was baptizing a child, Elizabeth. I think this must be another late baptism as she would be in her mid 50s by this date and there is no Elizabeth Parnell registered in 1839.

Anne’s place of birth is given in the census as St Faiths and there is a Madder family in Horsham St Faiths at the time of a birth, about 1785. There is an Ann Madder born there in 1788 but it appears she married in 1825. The registers of Horsham St Faiths are not online, so I don’t know what extra information I might find if I looked at the original entries.

It just proves that you cannot rely on indexes or transcriptions – you must look at the original document!

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