Madden Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Madden Surname Meaning

The Madden surname is Irish in origin, deriving from the Gaelic O’Madain or descendant of Madain. This was a shortened version of the earlier Gaelic Madadhan which meant “dog” or “hound.” The hound was famous in Gaelic heraldry for having the virtues of speed, endurance, and loyalty.

Madden Surname Resources on The Internet

Madden Surname Ancestry

  • from Ireland (Galway)
  • to England, America, Canada and Australia

Ireland. The first Madden was reputedly Madadhan, a chieftain of a sept in the 10th century from around Clogher in county Tyrone.  “It was said that some of the tribe moved south and, with the spiritual assistance of Saint Grellan, defeated the pagan kings in east Galway and then established the first known and most enduring plantation in that area.”  

Galway.  The O’Madden homeland, known as Siol Arimchadhain, was fact in east Galway on the banks of the river Shannon between the Longford barony and Lusmagh parish in Offaly. They remained relatively independent until the arrival of the English in the 16th century.

When Donal O’Madden led a revolt in 1595 his castles at Meelick and Cloghan were destroyed in a bloody campaign that resulted in the death of many O’Maddens.

As the Annals of the Four Masters noted“The Lord Justice left an English constable, Master Francis, at Meelick and took hostages from the two O’Maddens. Thus was Siol Anmchadha taken and it is not easy to state or enumerate all that was destroyed on that expedition.”  

The O’Maddens retained some power in the area in the 17th century. Derryhivenny castle in fact was built as late as 1643. But later confiscations meant that they had lost all by the start of the 18th century.

By the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th century, the largest number of Maddens in Ireland was still in Galway, followed by Tipperary and Cork.

Elsewhere.  Maddens dispersed in the 18th century. Some like James Madden who fought for James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 were outlawed for treason. James became one of those “Wild Geese” who fled to France and stayed there.

There were Maddens in Kildare (the Maddens of Athgarret) and Maddens also in Limerick and Cork. John Madden had moved to Limerick in the mid-1700’s to involve himself in the construction of the Limerick-to-Killaloe canal. Maddens were later lock keepers on the canal. Meanwhile Paul Madden who died at Buttevant parish in county Cork in 1782 was the forebear of some notable Maddens from Cork.

English Origin.  One line of Maddens has had an English origin, starting with Hugh Mudwyn of north Oxfordshire in the early/mid 1500’s.  His descendant Thomas Madden came to Ireland to take up the post of Irish Comptroller in the 1630’s.  A later Madden, Samuel, established the Hilton Park estate near Clones in Monaghan in 1734 and this has remained with the Madden family.

England.  Some Maddens from Ireland came to England. One route was through the British army or navy.  Captain William Madden of the Royal Marines made his home in Portsmouth in 1800. One of his sons Frederic grew up to be the leading English palaeographer (manuscript archivist) of his day.

Billy Madden, born in London in 1855 of Irish parents, became a well-known boxing figure of his day.  Other Maddens headed to Lancashire in the 19th century in search of work.

America. There were Maddens in America in colonial times.

Owen Madden married Catherine Donawen in Boston in 1745 and they later settled in St. George, Maine. As a Loyalist he sought land in Canada, but was unsuccessful. He and his family remained in Maine.

In August 1758, in Spotsylvania county, Virginia, a poor Irish immigrant named Mary Madden bore a child, Sarah Madden, whose father was said to have been a slave and the property of Colonel James Madison, father of the future president of the United States. This daughter became indentured to the Madisons. There she worked as a seamstress to pay off the fine of her birth until she was thirty-one years old.

Sarah Madden bore ten children. When the term of her indenture was over, she and her youngest son, Willis, struck out for themselves. T.O. Madden recounted their family history in his 2005 book The Maddens of Culpeper County.

Thomas Madden, born in Frederick county, Virginia in 1765, fought in the Revolutionary War. His descendants were to be found in Illinois and Texas by the time of the Civil War, the former fighting on the Unionist side and the latter on the Confederate. Another Madden line was in Frederick county, Maryland at this time. Richard Madden of this family moved to Harris county, Georgia in the 1790’s.

Thomas Madden had come to Maryland in the 1770’s and was believed by his descendants to have fought in the Revolutionary War. By 1800 he had migrated south with his family to Ste. Genevieve on the Mississippi river (then under Spanish rule) where he was employed as a surveyor.

John F. Madden, born in Pennsylvania in 1826, came out West in the 1850’s to Hardin county, Iowa after gold had been discovered.  Earl Madden, born there in 1905, was the father of the renowned NFL coach and commentator John Madden who died in 2021.

Later Maddens.  There were Maddens who arrived later from England. Martin Madden, born in Durham, emigrated with his parents to Chicago as a young boy in 1860. He prospered there in business and was a US Congressman from 1905 until his death in 1928.

More notorious was Owney Madden who had grown up in Lancashire. He came with his widowed mother Mary to New York in 1902. He thrived there as a gangster and underworld boss during Prohibition times in the 1920’s before retiring with his wealth to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Canada. One early Madden arrival was a Loyalist from America. John Madden had come to Philadelphia from Dublin in 1760. But when the Revolutionary War broke out, he took his family to Vermont and in 1795 crossed the border into Canada. He settled at Napanee near Kingston, Ontario where he died at the grand age of 98 years. Later Maddens intermarried with other prominent Loyalist families in the Bay of Quinte area. Descendants held a family reunion in 1931 and again in 1997.

Australia. John Madden, a brogue-maker, was found guilty of “seditious practices” at the Galway assizes in 1820 and was transported on the Dorothy to NSW. His wife Margaret and sons Patrick and John did follow him, but eighteen years later.

And Bernard Madden from West Meath was tried for sheep stealing and transported to Tasmania on the Blenheim in 1851. His wife Rose and three children followed him four years later, apparently leaving five of their children behind.

Among free settler Madden arrivals were:

  • Patrick Madden from county Clare who came to Melbourne as a bounty (assisted) immigrant sometime in the early 1840’s. He farmed, firstly in the Kilmore area of Victoria (where Joseph Madden ran the Gold Diggers’ Home a decade or so later) and subsequently in Peak Hill, NSW.
  • and Patrick and Margaret Madden who came to Queensland from Limerick in 1863. Their family story was covered in Lorae Johnson’s 2003 book Madden Connections.

Madden Surname Miscellany

Madadhan Mac Gadhra Mor.  Madadhan mac Gadhra Mor who died in 1008 is thought to have been the forebear of the O’Maddens/Maddens in Ireland.

He was the son of Gadhra mac Dundach who fought at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.  On the occasion of his death, reputedly killed by his own brother, the Annals of Ulster described him as the Chief of Siol Anmchadha (along the banks of the river Shannon in what is today east Galway).

Madudan’s only known issue was Diarmaid mac Madudan.  His son Madudan Reamhart Ua Madadhan, who was the clan chief until 1096, was the first of the Siol Anmchadha to adopt the surname of O’Madadhan.

The Madden Lock Keepers in Limerick.  In 1757 cutting began in earnest on the Limerick-to-Killaloe canal and David Madden supervised the passage of the first canal barge to Killaloe in 1799.

The Maddens became lock keepers at the Park Lock in 1830 and it stayed with the family.  The stewardship of the lock passed from David Madden to his son Thomas and wife Kate in 1860 and they were to remain there for the next forty five years.  Thomas and Kate raised seven sons while they were lock keepers.

Two of his sons Mike and John were described by a local man Gus Doyle as follows:

“I saw Mike Madden break the ice on the canal with a sledgehammer so that he could take his boat up the canal, as he did for many years.   Mike was an outstanding Cloughoun hurler, as was his brother John who captained the 1914 Exiles team in New York.  Mike was the friend of everyone boating or walking.  His little cottage off Troy’s Lock was an open house to everyone alike.”

John had in fact emigrated to New York from Limerick in 1911.

Another son David became a lock keeper at Errina Lock further up the Shannon river.  Thomas sadly drowned in 1930 when the boat from which he was fishing crashed into the Black Bridge.  Denis meanwhile was a champion boxer who defeated Yank Kenney for the Irish welterweight championship.

Paul Madden’s Descendants in Cork.  Paul Madden who died in 1782 was the forebear of some notable Maddens from Cork.  Their numbers included:

  • Owen Madden (1790-1853), a Justice of the Peace
  • Daniel Owen Madden (1815-1859), novelist, historian, biographer, and political commentator
  • Rev. Samuel Owen Madden (1831-1891), Dean of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork
  • Alderman Paul J. Madden (1839-1901), mayor of Cork
  • Sir John Madden (1844-1918), Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria
  • Sir Francis Madden (1847-1921), Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
  • and Rev. Canon Owen Madden (1871-1947), Chancellor of the Diocese of Cork.

Captain William Madden of the Royal Marines.  William John Madden grew up in Cole Hill House in Fulham that had been built for his father in 1770.  He served for many years as Paymaster for the Royal Marines and later used his expertise to help with the financial affairs of fellow officers. This was sufficiently successful to enable him and his wife Sarah to purchase their home at 31 St. Thomas’s Street in Old Portsmouth in 1800.  They continued to live in the house until both he and his wife died in 1833 within a few days of each other.

The inscription on his gravestone read:

“To the memory of Captain William John Madden, eldest son of James Madden esq. of Colchill House in Fulham, and brother of Major General George Madden. He was born on October 26, 1757 and died on May 3, 1833.”

The eldest son Lewis, born in 1783, was a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines, serving almost twenty years in the French Revolutionary Wars.  Much of Lewis’s retirement was taken up by the new practice of brass rubbings of which he had become quite expert.  His younger brother Frederic, eighteen years the junior, spent much effort in securing a collection of these rubbings in the British Library.

Reader Feedback – Billy Madden in Boxing.  You have missed Billy Madden, famed pugilist and boxing manager.  He was born in London in 1855 to an Irish father and mother.  He died in New York in 1918.  He was John L Sullivan’s manager, as well as for numerous other boxing greats, a boxer in his own right, and was inducted into the Bare Knuckles Boxing Hall of Fame. He was an undefeated welterweight champion, but was best known as a master of honest boxing management.

Billy Madden was good friends with many national and international rich and famous sporting men of his day including Bat Masterson and Teddy Roosevelt. He was also a published author, Broadway playwright, politician, philanthropist, and social activist. His Irish roots were in Offaly and he was a direct descendant of the Maddens of Cloghan Castle.

Patra Madden (

Thomas Madden, Missouri Pioneer.  In 1800 Thomas Madden lived about three miles outside the town of Ste. Genevieve on the Mississippi river.  At that time the community was visited by the Rev. William Murphy a Baptist minister and his three sons.

The English-speaking visitors were dismayed to find they were not able to communicate at all with the French-speaking inhabitants of the town.  Fortunately someone contacted Thomas Madden and he came into town to invite the visitors to his home.  Madden made them feel welcome and advised them on where good pieces of land were available for settlement.

Later Madden moved his family about fifteen to twenty miles southwest of Ste. Genevieve to the large land grants he had secured from the Spanish near the present day town of Coffman and then called the Saline township.

Thomas Madden and his wife Margaret had a large family.  A genealogy chart for their family was offered by historian Lucille Basler in his book Pioneers of Old Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

Owney Madden in New York and Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Owen Vincent Madden was always known as Owney.  The gangster Meyer Lansky considered him the toughest man he knew.  And he knew plenty of tough men.  Wells, his long-time light duty man, said:

“Owney didn’t want any attention.  He didn’t want anyone making a fuss over him.  He always said his birthday was on Christmas, so that no one would celebrate him.”

He added that he was very private, but very generous with his money.

And plenty of money he had.  Years of prohibition liquor revenue from his various New York enterprises left him with considerable wealth.  He spent a time in Sing Sing prison.  After his release he was informed that he was no longer welcome in the state of New York by the powerful politicians there.  Thus he decided to move his fortune and apply his organizational skills to the small valley town of Hot Springs, Arkansas with a very large, and soon to be, larger illegal gambling operations.

Norwood Phillips, a well-respected attorney and native of Hot Springs, considered Madden to be the most generous wealthy man he had ever known.  Madden’s generosity had an impact on the youth of the community – by virtue of the largest Boys Club constructed in Arkansas at that time – and in the purchase of uniforms for the High School band, among whose members included former President Bill Clinton, according to Phillips.

His passions extended to the many pets he had and to the homing pigeons that he loved to utilize as couriers of cryptic messages between himself and New York mobsters.

The Life and Times of Steve Madden.  Steve Madden was born to an Irish/Jewish family in Far Rockaway, New York in 1958. He briefly attended the University of Miami, but left in 1977 after two years when his father said he would no longer pay tuition so that Madden could “golf year-round.”

Madden then found a job as a sales rep. for a shoe company.  Having learnt the business, he started out on his own in 1990.  He launched Steve Madden Inc. with $1,000 to his name and began selling his shoes to Macy’s out of the trunk of his car. Three years later he opened his first store in SoHo and later the same year the company went public.

In 1997 sales of Madden shoes approached $60 million per year.  But trouble was stirring in the form of an SEC investigation and a lawsuit by Madden’s former business partner.

Madden eventually resigned his CEO position and posted $1.5 million in bail, for which he had his Hamptons house to use as collateral.  In September 2002 he was convicted of stock manipulation, money laundering, and securities fraud.  Played by Jake Hoffman, his character appeared in the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street. 

Madden went to Florida to serve out a three-year sentence. While in jail, he remained the creative and design chief of Steve Madden Inc. with his salary of $700,000 a year.  His director of operations, Wendy Ballew, would come down to visit him often enough that he married her in 2005 shortly after he was released from prison.

Since his release he has enormously expanded the Steve Madden brand into a global lifestyle and destination brand for footwear, handbags and accessories, sold in over 80 countries worldwide.

Madden Names

  • Madadhan mac Gadhra Mór was the reputed 10th century forebear of the O’Madden clan. 
  • Richard Madden was a 19th century Irish writer, abolitionist, and historian of the United Irishmen. 
  • Sir Charles Madden was Second-in-Command of the British Royal Navy during World War One. 
  • John Madden was an American football coach who won the Super Bowl for the Oakland Raiders in 1976.  He earned greater renown as a commentator on his NFL telecasts from 1981 to 2009.
  • Steve Madden from New York built his shoe company into a global lifestyle brand.

Madden Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Madden and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Connacht in NW Ireland covers the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Galway, and Roscommon.  Here are some of the Connacht surnames that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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