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Our 2,745 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

I have been researching my Family History for some time and when I got stuck, about ten years ago, at my 4xg grandfather Robert Madder of Syderstone in Norfolk, I started to extend my search. Eventually I was collecting all instances of the Madder name and eventually joined the Guild of One Name Studies in 2009.

Variant names

The only registered variant of the name is Mader.

Name origin

The Madder surname is probably a metonymic occupational name for a dyer or seller of dye from OE maedere ‘madder plant’, or a nickname for a person with a ruddy complexion, from the same word. The earliest occurrence is Thomas Mader in the Curia Regis rolls for Norfolk in 1221.

Historical occurrences of the name

The only Madder that I have come across involved in historic events is Captain John Madder, who was tried and hanged as a pirate in Edinburgh in 1705. He was the Mate of a ship called the Worcester and an innocent victim of anti-English feelings in Scotland in the events leading up to the Union. In fact he was probably Scottish.

Name frequency

According to the ONS database there were 108 Madders at September 2002. This makes it the 31,572th most common name in England and Wales. Mader is the 35,355th at 90.

In the 1881 British census there were 127 Madders and 4 Maders. In the USA 1880 census the numbers were 175 and 837, which reflects the large numbers of Germanic immigrants of that name. I have not yet done any research into the Continental version of the name

Distribution of the name

For a long time I had assumed that the Madders originated in Norfolk, with some moving into Suffolk. However there is a large population in North West England especially Lancashire and Derbyshire, where I have discovered a DNA connection with Mather (a variant I am not including in this One-Name Study). There is also a Scottish branch, which probably originates from Jedburgh in the Borders.


All of the Madder entries from the General Register Offices for England & Wales (since 1837) have been recorded (approximately 1250 entries).

All copies of pre 1858 wills in Norfolk and Suffolk have been obtained, as well as all PCC wills at TNA. The 30 odd grants of probate since 1858 in England and Wales have also been recorded.

A large number of entries from Parish Registers have been collected and most census entries for Madder.


A DNA project has been set up.