Madison Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Madison Surname Meaning

Madison, commonly spelled Maddison in NE England, is a variant of the Mathieson surname that is found in NE Scotland and means “son of Matthew.” The name may also in some cases have stood for “son of Maddy” where Maddy is a pet form of Maud.  

Maddison and Madison are the two main surname spellings today, Maddison in the UK and Madison in America. Madison also became popular in America as a first name.

Madison Surname Resources on The Internet

Madison and Maddison Surname Ancestry

  • from NE England
  • to America and Canada

England. Maddison is a Durham name. Durham accounted for almost half of the UK Maddisons in the 1881 census.

Durham.  The Madysones at Ellergill in Weardale dated from around 1300. William Madyson held Unthank Hall near Stanhope through marriage in the 1400’s. Later Maddisons were to be found at Newcastle and Saltwellside:

  • Lionel Maddison was mayor of Newcastle three times between 1593 and 1617.
  • while Ralph Maddison, known as Mad Maddison, inherited Saltwellside manor in 1640.

Subsequently the Maddison family – based at Hole House on the river Derwent – was a respected family in the area. George Maddison and his brother John both held prominent diplomatic positions with the British government in the late 18th century.

There were Maddisons elsewhere. Thomas and Ruth Maddison were married at Whickham near Gateshead in 1722. They ended up at the coal mining town of Tanfield in the north of the county. James Maddison and his son George were working at the colliery there at the time of the 1851 census.

In the 19th century coal mining had become a major industry in Durham. It was in fact the leading work occupation for Maddisons in the 1881 census. George Maddison died at the Lumley colliery of knee injuries that year.

Lincolnshire.  There was a Maddison outpost, descended from the Unthank Maddisons, further south in Lincolnshire. Sir Edward Maddison, a merchant at Hull and Calais, was a supporter of Henry VIII and he established his family at Caistor. His son Ralph built Grimblethorpe Hall in the Lincolnshire Wolds in the early 1600’s and the Maddison family was to remain there until the 1940’s.

America. The spelling in America has been Madison, not Maddison, and that dates from an early time.

Virginia.  Isaac and John Madison were part of the early history of Virginia. Whether they were father and son is unclear:

  • Captain Isaac Madison came out to Virginia from London as early as 1608. He gained a reputation as an Indian fighter. He lived through the Indian massacre in 1622, but died two years later. His wife Mary, who came to Jamestown on the Treasurer in 1616, survived him.  
  • while John Madison from Gloucestershire, a ship’s carpenter by trade, was first recorded in Virginia in 1653 for taking out a patent for lands lying between the York and North rivers.

The Madison pedigree thereafter is fairly clear. From John’s son John Madison Jr sprung two branches of the Madison family in Virginia.

There was the eastern branch, those who settled in the Piedmont on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They were descended from the tobacco planter Ambrose Madison. Ambrose had died a young man in 1732, suspected of having been poisoned by one or more of his slaves.

  • his grandson James Madison, who grew up in the family plantation, was to serve as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. James and his wife Dolley did not have children and in his will his estate was left to his nephews and nieces.  
  • the main line from James’s younger brother Francis ran to his son Conway who headed west, first to Kentucky and then to Illinois. Conway’s children inherited most in the President’s will.
  • Madison Avenue and Madison Square Garden in New York were both named after the fourth US President.

Then the western branch of the family ran via John Madison, the first clerk of Augusta county, and gave rise to the Rev. James Madison, the first Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, and to John and Agatha Madison who emigrated to Kentucky in the 1780’s. Their son George was elected Governor of Kentucky in 1816 but died the same year.

Also on this side of the family was James’s younger brother John Frederick, a Loyalist in the Revolutionary War who departed for Nova Scotia where he was given a land grant. His son Peyton, however, returned to Greene county, Alabama in 1815 and John followed him later.

Elsewhere.  William and Sarah Madison from Lincolnshire were later arrivals to America, coming to Wisconsin in 1848 and then homesteading in Nobles county, Minnesota. Their son William grew up in Worthington there. He was the proprietor of the Worthington meat market and later the town’s mayor.

African American.  Reuben Maddison, born a slave in Kentucky around the year 1800, was the subject of Charles Stuart’s 1835 anti-slavery tract.  Reuben had managed to buy his freedom, but was deceived by his master on the payment sum.  Once free, he inquired after his lost family only to discover “his wife was dead and his children equally lost to him, being sold and sent away.”

Canada.  Steve Maddison from Durham arrived in Vancouver with his brother Fred in 1887.  He found work at the local waterworks and became a professional diver.  Still working at the age of seventy in 1940, he was repairing an intake pipe on the dam at Ocean Falls when he was sucked into the pipe and accidently drowned.

Madison and Maddison Surname Miscellany

Maddisons and Madisons Today

Numbers (000’s) Maddison Madison Total
UK    7    7
America   11   11
Elsewhere    2    2
Total    9   11  20

Lionel Maddison’s Family Buried at St. Nicholas Church in Newcastle.  On the north side of the south Isle at St. Nicholas’s church in Newcastle was to be found the monument to the family of the Maddisons.

The body of the monument, having in it six large and beautiful statues – three men and three women on their bended knees with folded hands in the posture of prayer.

  • the lady to the west was Elizabeth the wife of Henry Maddison.
  • the gentleman next to her was Henry her husband clothed in the scarlet gown of the aldermen of Newcastle.
  • next to him was his father Lionel Maddison, clothed in the same manner and kneeling before a desk with an open book on it.
  • on the other side of this desk was his wife Jane kneeling in the same manner with her face to him.
  • next to her was their son John who died in the expedition to Cadiz and who was therefore clothed in armour.
  • on the other side were effigies of one of Henry’s daughters, probably Barbara who died at the age of 17 years.

The inscription reads as follows:

“Here rests in Christian hope the bodies of Lionel Maddison, son of Rowland Maddison, of the county of Durham and of Jane his wife.  She died on July 9, 1611; he, having been thrice mayor of this town, departed on December 6, 1624, aged 94 years. He lived to see his only son Henry father to a fair and numerous issue.”

Mad Maddison of Shotley Bridge.  All villages have their characters.  Ralph or “Mad” Maddison was a member of a locally respected land-owning family at Shotley Bridge in Durham.  But he was their black sheep.

His notoriety was remembered in a tale that when the river was flooded he offered an old lady a lift to the other side on the back of his horse.  Halfway across, the wretch pushed the old lady off into the flowing torrent.  The current carried her for some distance before she was able to reach safety.

There was another documented case when Ralph argued with his then son-in-law in the Bridge End.  Having lost his temper he placed his son-in-law on his horse backwards with thorns under the saddle. As the horse galloped off the poor man was flung to his death.

His daughter then remarried John Elrington to whom Ralph took an instant dislike and tried to shoot.  Luckily the shot was short of the mark and the poor man got away. However, the feud between them lasted many years.  In 1661 when John had become a local magistrate, he prosecuted Ralph for arson and larceny to which he was found guilty and his hand was burnt for his crime.

As the years went by, Ralph was more and more out of control.   In 1694, in a drunken rage or fit of madness, he struck and killed Laird Atkinson of Cannyside Wood at Shotley Bridge.  A message was sent out for his arrest from Durham.  Fearing the worst, Ralph mounted his famous grey steed and sped off in the direction of the Cumberland Wastes pursued by a troop of soldiers.

On reaching Muggleswick his horse stopped and would go no further.  So Ralph took to his feet and ran into a nearby wood where it is said he took refuge inside on old hollow tree.  However, he was soon captured and dragged to Durham where he was hanged for his crimes.

Captain Isaac Madison in Jamestown.  Captain Madison was an influential man in the Virginia colony and took an active part in its defence against the Indians. A street ballad was printed in London in 1624 in honor of the leaders in the war against the Indians.  It contained the following lines in regard to Captain Madison:

  • “And Captain Madison likewise with honor did proceed,
  • Who coming took not [only] all their corn, but likewise took their King,
  • And unto James his city he did these rich trophies bring.”

The statement about taking the “King” was probably a mistake.  But on 23 July 23, 1623 there was a reference to Captain Madison marching against the Weyonacque Indians a week earlier.

The Rev. James Madison, Virginia’s First Bishop.  The Rev. James Madison, born in Virginia in 1749, took his degree at William and Mary College at Williamsburg in 1768.  He studied law under George Wythe, the Chancellor of Virginia, and was licensed to practice, but soon after began to study theology and was ordained in England. During his visit to London he attended the lectures on natural science by the celebrated teacher Corvello.

He returned to America and he was made professor of mathematics and philosophy at William and Mary College.  In 1777 he was elected President of the College, even though he was only twenty-eight years old.  The following year he was chosen as the first Bishop of Virginia.

From the time of his consecration as Bishop he did double duty, combining the duties of President of the College with those of his Bishopric. So enthusiastic and untiring was he in the pursuits of his calling that he was said to have lectured from four to six hours, every day of the week, up until his last illness.  He died in 1812.

His reputation was that of a refined and accomplished gentleman and of an enlightened and liberal philanthropist. 

President James Madison’s Will.  President James Madison died on June 28, 1836.  His wife Dolley Madison was the executrix of his will.  Having no children, he left a generous bequest of $9,000 to be divided among his nephews and nieces.

Dolley hired Pinkerton investigators and distributed trying to locate all of the heirs.

It is not known where she got the misinformation about James’s nephew Conway Madison.  She had in fact reported to Congress that Conway had died in Alabama in 1821.  But Conway’s wife Winna, having been made aware of Dolley’s circular, contacted Dolley in late 1836 and apprised Dolley of Conway’s passing in 1834, just two years prior.

After further correspondence and the submission of legal documents, the bequests were finally dispersed to all of Conway’s children in 1838, except for some unknown reason one son William.

Madison and Maddison Names

  • Lionel Maddison was Mayor of Newcastle three times between 1593 and 1617. 
  • Rev. James Madison was in 1778 the President of William and Mary College and also the first Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Virginia. 
  • James Madison was one of America’s Founding Fathers and served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817.

Madison and Maddison Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Durham)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Madison and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

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Written by Colin Shelley

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