Our Maddoxes before America

We’ve established that our 10th great grandfather Edward Maddox (d. 1694) lived in southern Shropshire, England, before emigrating to Maryland in the mid-1600s.  It’s useful to place the family in the historical, etymological and geographical context of Shropshire and their presumed earlier home of Wales.

Our Maddoxes in the context of the Madog dynasties of Wales

Madog/Madoc is the original spelling of our name, as used in Wales as a forename by ethnically/culturally Welsh ancestors at least as long ago as the 6th century.  Saint Madoc established a monastery in the 6th century at the eponymous Llanmadoc, on the Gower Peninsula, but that doesn’t mean he was the first Madog/Madoc in the area and it doesn’t give us a clue to the earlier origins of the name.  One writer has made a speculative claim that Saint Madoc’s DNA is similar to DNA found among the Gaulish Medulli people, including a Medulli group that lived in Medoc, France.

The Madog/Madoc lines in Wales are famous for their defiant kingdoms and their rebellions against Norman and English invaders.  Kings bearing the Madog name had a part in the establishment of the Powys kingdom after the Romans left Wales in the 5th century, and kept the Powys kingdom going for centuries.  Our known 17th-century ancestors might have descended from Powys’s Mathrafal dynasty, which included the 12th-century founders of the Powys Fadog kingdom (Fadog means Madog) and the Powys Wenwynwyn kingdom some decades later.  These kingdoms once held the majority of Wales and parts of Shropshire. The Powys Fadog kingdom was politically centered on Dinas Bran and spiritually centered on Valle Crucis.  The Powys Wenwynwyn kingdom included Munslow, Shropshire, where our Edward Maddox lived in the 17th century.  Perhaps the Powys Wenwynwyns deposited Edward’s grandfathers there

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Castle Powis in Welshpool, Wales, was originally owned by the Powys Wenwynwyn line.  It is now the property of the Earl of Powys.  The castle is open to the public and includes art and objects stretching into the 15th century.  We took the above courtyard photo during a tour in 2017.

The Powys Fadog kingdom fought with the Gwynedd kingdom to the north, which included numerous prominent Madog/Madoc relations.  The Gwynedd kingdom would defeat the Powys Fadog kingdom in the 12th century.  The most famous Madog/Madoc to come from the Gwynedd line was Madoc ab Owain Gwynned, who legendarily sailed to the American continent in the 1100s, and whose descendants would purportedly be found living among Native Americans in the 1600s and speaking Welsh.

The virality of the Madog “Lord Scethrog” pedigree among American genealogists

When American Maddox researchers claim ancestry in Wales via 17th-century Maryland and Virginia colonists, it’s usually a claim to the Maddoxes of the Powys Wenwynwyn kingdom, whether the researchers know it or not.  This claim was propagated by Fredonia Maddox Webster in the first four pages of her 1957 book, The Maddox Family of Maryland.  She relayed a romantic British description of the Madogs of Llanfrynach (a few miles southeast of Brecon), whose ancestors rebelled against the Crown before being reduced to minor local nobles.  Webster’s four-page genealogy of the Madogs of Llanfynach begins with King Arthur and ends with John Maddox, progenitor of Maryland colonist Samuel Maddox.

Many hopeful family historians have claimed that their Maddox line includes a Thomas Maddox, who settled near Jamestown, Virginia, in 1620 and died by 1623 (possibly due to injuries after the Indian Massacre of 1622).  They claim that this Thomas is identifiable with “Thomas Lord Scethrog,” and again they refer to Webster’s book, even though Webster writes that Thomas died in 1620 and his will and inventory are available in the Wales National Archives.  Webster claims that Thomas Lord Scethrog was the father of John Madog, who was the father of Maryland colonist Samuel Maddox. One researcher has found a 1607 gravestone for a “Gwladis, married Thomas Maddock, Lord of Scethrock” in Saint Meugan’s Church in Llansantfraed, providing perfect evidence for a geographic location… if only the genealogical link to the Maddox colonists could be proven. But so far it has been impossible to actually document known Colonial ancestors into the royal Madog/Madoc lineage in Llanfrynach.

While hopeful Maddox family historians may claim links to Fredonia Webster Maddox’s 16th-century Madogs of Llanfrynach, our own Maddox ancestors were living 60 miles to the northeast in Munslow, Shropshire, at that time.  Our Maddoxes were geographically closer to the extraordinarily beautiful Powis Castle, where the last of the Powys Wenwynwyn heirs lived in the late 13th century.  But the illegitimate son of the last Powys Wenwynwyn prince sold the castle to the Herbert family soon thereafter.  The Madogs of Powys Wenwynwyn were dispersed throughout the modern area of Powys.

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The kingdom of Powys Wenwynwyn included western Shropshire, where Edward Maddox lived in the mid-1600s. Credit: Wikipedia.

Difficulties of researching the Maddox name before the 1600s

The name Madog did not originally serve as a static surname.  It was a forename. Parents could name their sons Madog for many reasons, and the use of the name didn’t necessarily mean a blood relationship to any of the Madogs that came before.  For this reason, not every Madog in Wales should be considered a relative.  One researcher provides a deeper explanation here and another expresses frustration here.

For over a millennium, the ethnically/culturally Welsh used the Madog forename as a patronymic, meaning that a man would identify himself with his father’s name (or rarely his mother’s name).  For example, Madog ap Dafydd meant Madog son of Dafydd.  A woman would use matronymics, placing the term ferch (daughter of) before her mother’s name.  This was intended to establish genealogy for legal proceedings, but records and genealogies among the ancient Maddoxes are few and questionable.

While Welsh ancestors called themselves Madog/Madoc, ethnically/culturally English ancestors just to the east simultaneously spelled their name Madocke/Maddocke, based on a study of thousands of 16th-century records.

The use of patronymics generally ended in 1536, when Henry VIII passed the Act of Union, which put an end to the tradition in favor of Anglicized surnames.  Some families then incorporated the ap at the front of their surnames.  For example, the Rice surname became Price.  Other families added a possessive s to the end of their surname.  For example, Jone became Jones.  In England, Madog/Maddock became Maddocks/Maddox.  But the Welsh continued to use Madog/Madoc.

The transition to Anglicized surnames in the mid-16th century can help us establish geography and distinguish between families.  Our known ancestor Edward Maddox and his children used English spellings as early as the 1640s in Munslow Parish baptismal, marriage and burial records, implying English cultural/ethnic identity.  This could also imply an eastward aspect: they probably had been doing business with the English, whose centers of commerce were to the east toward London.

Our Maddox line in the 1600s in Munslow Parish, Shropshire County, England

Despite the limitations of 16th-century naming conventions, limited record keeping, and the geographic confusion of the Wales-England borderland, it’s still possible to make genealogical connections.  After years of persistent (obsessive) research, we lucked out when we found Munslow Parish Register entries listing Edward Maddox (d. 1694) with his previously identified children Edward, Cornelius and Alice.  And as a result of that lucky find, we have been able to identify two of his wives (Ellinor and Dorothy), and additional children Elinor and John.  These parish registers are priceless.

Edward and his family attended St. Michael’s Church in Munslow Parish.  St. Michael’s is a 12th-century Norman-style Anglican church with an intricate interior, including 15th-century stained glass windows, a 15th-century baptismal font, and original pews.  Edward’s children were baptized in the existing baptismal font, sat in the existing pews, and stared at the existing stained glass windows.  We’re indebted to the parish’s Reverend John Beesley for allowing us to join his congregation for Evensong in June 2017, and welcoming us into his church to take some photos.

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One of three 15th-century stained glass windows in St. Michael’s Church.

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The baptismal font in which Edward, Cornelius, John, Ellinor, and Alice Maddox were baptized in the mid-1600s.

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Hand-knitted kneeling pads depicting rural scenes around Munslow parish.

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A broken headstone from the 1800s.  Unfortunately, most of the older headstones have fallen or been buried over time and there’s no hope of finding them – such as the headstones for Ellinor and John Maddox (mother and son), who were buried a week apart in 1656.

Also because of the Munslow Parish Register, we have been able to identify the location of Edward Maddox’s (d. 1694) home during his time in Munslow.  The register states that he lived in Thonglands – a small rural hamlet just to the northeast of St. Michael’s Church.  To find Thonglands, we drove along high hedgerows and forded a river.  We were welcomed by the owner and his wife, who showed us around the place – including the dovecot, moat, ancient loo (outhouse, complete with a small gargoyle above the door), and the various segments of the home.  The place has been inhabited since before the Domesday register of the 11th century, and it includes numerous architectural styles.

Although it remains unclear whether our ancestors lived in the house itself or lived nearby, it is certain that they would have interacted with the owners and would have visited it in the routine of their lives.

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Thonglands was a manor in its day.  It was surrounded by a moat (seen in this picture) and featured a 240-hole stone dovecot (also pictured).

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One of the older Tudor-style sections of the Thonglands house.

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The current owner calls this the “black and white” section of the home.

Possible motivations to emigrate to the American Colonies 

Edward Maddox (d. 1694) and his family departed England between 1656 and 1668, based on his last known child’s birth and the first known record of his activities in Maryland.  He does not appear on the 1662 Hearth Tax rolls, possibly indicating his departure before 1662 (but appearance on the Hearth Tax rolls was not universal).  We wonder at his motivations to leave England, and the resolve it must have taken to settle in the harsh wilderness along the Potomac River.  He was among the very first Englishmen to live in the area.  Court records document Edward’s rough frontier medicine, land speculation, wolf hunts and conflict with the Native Americans.  In contrast, Edward’s home at Thonglands in Shropshire, England, appears to have offered all of the typical comforts of 17th-century England.  And based on his rapid economic ascent in Maryland and Virginia, he probably was not poor by any means.

To understand Edward’s motivations to emigrate, we turn to the predominant forces at play in Shropshire during Edward’s life there.  In his early adulthood in England, Edward would have endured the 1642-1651 English Civil War, during which 6 percent – or 300,000 – of his countrymen died.  It was a fight between “roundheads” and “cavaliers” – parliamentarians and royalists.  The parliamentarians won in 1651.  It was England’s experiment with republicanism, and for a decade it functioned roughly as intended, with Oliver Cromwell’s cronies keeping order over a rowdy parliament until 1659.

But beneath Cromwell’s anti-monarchism there was a darker religious fervor… against Catholics.  The English establishment could not stand the implications of a Catholic king – the economic upheaval it would risk – and rumors of English kings’ Papal alliances were truly incendiary.

Everything in Edward’s records indicates he was a fervent anti-Catholic.  We see him in Stafford County, Virginia, in the late 1680s befriending the notorious Parson Waugh, whose claim to infamy was his 1681 incitement of an anti-Catholic riot in Virginia.  Waugh falsely claimed that Maryland Catholics were crossing the Potomac River with Seneca Indians to murder Virginians in their sleep. Waugh and Edward Maddox’s other friend George Mason (grandfather of the Founding Father) would be punished for the subterfuge.  The trio was tight – Edward was George Mason’s step-father, and Reverend Waugh’s daughter Elizabeth married George Mason.

But where Edward’s Colonial records reveal his strong anti-Catholic sentiments, the records do not reveal any strong favor for the king.  Instead, his departure from England around 1660 – as the parliamentarians lost power and King Charles II restored the monarchy – could mean just the opposite.  If Edward left England at the time of Charles’ crowning in 1660, it could mean he was fleeing the royalists’ wrath, or rejecting the king’s rumored Papism in favor of more puritanical Protestantism in America like many others did.  He would have been among friends in Maryland, where he resided until 1684 –  a year before King Charles II’s death.

Edward’s later life also offers implications about his competing allegiances to god and king.  Although Edward rose in social prominence in Maryland and Virginia through the 1680s by marrying into the prominent Stone and Mason families, he did not attain a public position as a Justice of the Peace in Stafford County, Virginia, until 1691.  His very late Justice appointment – when he was probably 80, and just after the king’s death – may indicate that Edward had been a political outsider during the king’s reign, but that he was finally brought into the fold after allegiances changed.

We’ve inquired about Munslow Parish’s political and religious leanings during the Reformation and the British Civil Wars, but records offer only oblique clues, and locals – including the local vicar – have little to say about the matter.  Clear evidence of Parliamentarianism or Puritanism in Munslow Parish during the British Civil Wars or the Reformation – and retribution by their Royalist enemies afterwards – could add to the theory of Edward’s Puritanism and the case for Edward’s emigration motivations.  One piece of evidence might be the Munslow Parish rector’s declaration of loyalty during the Great Ejection of 1662 – when thousands of rectors were required to state their loyalty or be excommunicated from the Anglican Church.  In 1645, the rector George Littleton had identified himself in the Register as he had each year before.  After 1645, no rectors are named in the Munslow Parish Register, possibly implying that the church was run by an outsider during that tumultuous time (a strong implication).  In Littleton’s place, we find “esquires” officiating marriages, such as the marriage of Edward and Dorothy Maddox.  In 1662, during the Great Ejection, we see George Littleton’s name return to the Munslow Parish Register without mention of the circumstances.  These circumstances require more research.

Edward Maddox’s possible father

Linking further than Edward Maddox (d. 1694) in England has proven extremely difficult.  Although we have a hunch, we cannot prove his father’s name.

Two records in the Munslow Parish Register show an Edward Maddox buried on 10 October 1658, and an Alice Maddox, widow, buried on 16 February 1662/3.  Edward and Alice could be the parents of our Dr. Edward Maddox (d. 1694).  The timing and location are right and the couple’s names are consistent with family given names.  While their paternity and maternity to our Dr. Edward Maddox remain uncorroborated, these records are so far the closest we’ve gotten to another link in our chain.

One genealogist recently listed the handful of Maddoxes who took up residence in Munslow Parish shortly after 1600, all of whom were fathered by a John Maddockes.  However, Edward Maddox (d. 1658) is not listed as one of John’s children.

In a search for records of men born in England around 1600, using traditional family given names (Edward, Cornelius, John, Thomas) and all variations of the surname Maddox, we have identified a handful of additional possibilities, but none of them is as compelling as the Edward Maddox (d. 1658) who was living in the same Munslow area as Edward Maddox (d. 1694).  Here are the additional possibilities:

  • Edward Maddox, married Elnor, the daughter of John Hickes, on 30 May 1614 in Norbury, Shropshire.  An Edward Maddox was buried in Norbury, Shropshire, on 13 June 1640.  Source: Norbury Parish Register.
  • Edward Maddox, baptized on 30 July 1591 at Langnor Parish.  His father was Edward and his mother was Alice.  Source: Langnor Parish Register.
  • Edward Maddox, baptized on 26 July 1595 at Frodeslay Parish.  His father’s name was Robert.  Source: Frodeslay Parish Register.
  • Edward Maddox, baptized on 13 November 1589 at Pontesbury, Shropshire.  His father was Thomas.  Source: Pontesbury Parish Register.
  • John Maddox, baptized on 12 January 1589 at Chelmarsh, Shropshire.  His father was Thomas.  Source: Chelmarsh Parish Register.
  • John Maddox, baptized on 24 April 1597 at Clunbury, Shropshire.  His father’s name was John.  Source: Clunbury Parish Register.
  • Edward Madoc, baptized on 29 September 1577 at Ruabon, Denbighshire, Wales.  His father was Wylliam Robert Dd.  Source: Ruabon Parish Register.
  • Edward Madoc, born on 11 October 1579 at Ruabon, Denbighshire, Wales.  His father was Mathe Jenij.  Source: Ruabon Parish Register.
crazyhedgerows shropshire

When visiting Shropshire, mind the hedgerows!