Posted by: Christine | February 3, 2014

Ancestors are like Buses

I do wonder if it is our ancestors who make the decisions on what they want us to find, not us. Sometimes there are the strangest coincidences. Recently I heard from a someone interested in the Madder name. We had met last year via Ebay, when we both bid for a Madder family bible. I let her have it – it was her family after all, and we have exchanged information. This latest e-mail was about a Private Thomas Madder who died age 29 in 1864 in the Maori Land Wars, Tauranga, New Zealand. She didn’t think he belonged to her family, but thought I might know him.

Since Thomas was aged 29 in 1864, he would have been born around 1835 – just before civil registration. I had a look at my family trees and found a Thomas Madder born a couple of years later. I had him in the census, aged 4 in 1841 and 13 in 1851, then nothing at all.

Thomas Madder aged 4 with the rest of his family

Thomas Madder aged 4 with the rest of his family in New Windsor

This was a good candidate – he could have lied about his age and joined the army sometime between 1851 and 61. A bit of research via Google and I found that Thomas was a member of the 43rd Regiment and had been serving for 9 years. He died on April 30th, of a Gunshot wound to the left chest. I now had enough information to look for the start of his army career at TNA (which I will be visiting at the end of this month)

This will be the reverse of the research I was doing recently on Samuel Madder, whose death I never managed to pinpoint precisely. Thomas, if he is who I think he is, was Samuel’s grandson! Yes, I’m back researching that same family. Robert, the groom/gentleman’s servant who died of TB and Amelia, the gentleman’s mistress, were brother and sister to Thomas. But this is not the coincidence I want to write about today.

Last Friday, a few days after finding Thomas, was  the monthly computer evening I run for Rugby Family History Group. I was demonstrating newspaper websites, which are such a rich source for family historians. I was on the British Newspaper Archive  site and had done a search for Madder (as I usually do if no-one else suggests a name – it is a bit of a joke in the group.) In fact, I think the search was for “Mr Madder” a good method to find people rather than just the word Madder. I then started to show the filters on the site. I selected a place filter of Aylesbury, it was top of the list and I knew there would be results there. I then noticed that one of the filters was for type, and there were 2 illustrated articles.

Searching the BNA website.

Searching the BNA website.

I clicked on this filter and chose the first of the two articles – I had struck gold! This was the 1909 obituary of Charles Samuel Madder. One and a half columns of information on his life. It included his date and place of birth – I only had his baptism as he was born in 1827, before civil registration. It gave information about his children, the fact that one son was in America (the other was to emigrate to Canada a few years later). There was a list of everyone at his funeral and who had sent flowers, naming nephews and nieces. Best of all there was a picture. Not a very good picture, but better than nothing.

Picture of Charles Samuel Madder from the Bucks Herald 27 Nov 1909

Picture of Charles Samuel Madder from the Bucks Herald 27 Nov 1909

This was gratefully received by his Canadian descendants, who recognized a likeness – the hairline has obviously been handed down!

Charles Samuel, Robert and Amelia are all on the 1841 census above, with Thomas. I only hope that I discover that the soldier I was told about is part of this family. But don’t buses normally arrive in threes? Perhaps there will be another ancestor coming along soon.

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