Madison Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Madison 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 Resources on

Madison Ancestry

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
    , inherited Saltwellside manor in 1640.

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

During 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
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:

  • the eastern branch, those who settled
    in the Piedmont on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains,
    the tobacco planter Ambrose Madison. Ambrose
    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
  • 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.
  • the western branch of the family via John Madison,
    first clerk of Augusta county, gave rise to the
    Rev. James Madison
    , the
    first Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, and to John and Agatha
    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
    where he was given a land grant. His son
    Peyton, however, returned to Greene county, Alabama in 1815 and John
    him later.

Elsewhere. William
Sarah Madison from Lincolnshire were later arrivals to America, coming
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


Madison 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.

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

  • 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
    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
    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
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
.  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
guilty and his hand was burnt for his crime.

As the years went by, Ralph was
more and more out of control.   In
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
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.”

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
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
Bishopric. So enthusiastic and untiring was he in the pursuits of his
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

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

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
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
unknown reason one son William.


Madison 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

Select Madison/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)


Select 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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