Thursday, May 25, 2006


This weblog is designed as a networking resource for genealogists interested in the family line that originates with James and Sarah Maddera in Isle of Wight, Virginia, sometime shortly before 1680. In subsequent generations, their surname goes through a number of spelling variations, including Madray, Maddray, Maddry, and Maddrey.

The 1920 U.S. census shows that the Commonwealth of Virginia was home to 1 family using the name Maddera, 1-4 families using the name Madray, 4 – 10 families using the name Maddry, and 8 – 22 families using the name Maddrey. The Maddera spelling was more prominent in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Utah. The Madray spelling was prominent in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. The Maddry spelling was prominent in North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and California. The Maddrey spelling was most popular in North Carolina, where census records show 23 – 43 families using the name.

According to Oxford’s Dictionary of American Family Names, Madray and Maddry are variations on Maddrey, the Americanized form of the Spanish “madera,” which means “wood” or “timber” (from the Latin “materia”). One entry says that the name Madera is “probably applied as a topographic name or a habitational name from a place named with this word, as for example La Madera in Asturies.”

Several researchers have speculated on the origins of the name:

In a March 7, 1982, article in the Raleigh News & Observer, J.C. Downing says that the name may be derived from the Old English word "maedire" or "maeddre," which denoted a maker, user or seller of a red dye made from the root of the madder plant. Downing makes reference to Thomas Mader of County Norfolk, Jacob le Madur of Lincolnshire, Walter le Madere of County Essex and Thomas Madder of London -- all of whom lived in the period 1221 - 1327. Alternately, the name might be derived from the French word "madre" ("mother") or the Old French word "madre" (denoting the maker or seller of onyx). Another possibility is that the name is associated with a place in France called Madre, a Spanish place named Mader (meaning "place at a woods"), or with the Portuguese Madeira Islands.

Brian Kelly Madaris includes James and Sarah Maddera on his webpage, supposing (“although there is no strong evidence”) that James might be a son of Domingo Madeiras, a Portuguese settler whose own origins on the East Coast of North America are unclear.

Robert F. Madry Sr., author of an unpublished pamphlet entitled “From Quakers to Crackers: A Madry Family History,” says: “Earliest records of the Madry family indicate that they were Huguenots who came from the small French district of Madrie in the department of L’Eure and who probably had originated in the area of Basque in northern Spain.” He goes on to suggest that the Madrie family settled in the area of Stirling, Scotland, “where they probably were engaged in seafaring activities as indicated by the Maddera coat of arms.” A few years ago, Mr. Madry paid a visit to the Genealogical Society in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he came across a reference to Thomas Madoure, present at the Marches of Kyrknes in 1395.

The common ancestor of the Maddrey family in North America seems to be James Maddera. 17th Century Isle of Wight County Virginia, Will & Deed Book 1 contains the following entry: “John Murray sells James Maddera 100 acres in U.P. adj. Thomas Took Elizabeth Murray also signs. 20 Jan. 1681. Sam Cook.” This indicates that James bought 100 acres of land in the Upper Parish of Isle of Wight County. Robert F. Madry Sr. locates this property “on the east side of Lawne’s Creek about a mile south of its juncture with the James River.” He adds that “other property owners in the immediate vicinity were Thomas Tooke, Robert Flake, Capt. Francis England, Thomas Blake, Edmund Brantley, George Wombwell and Col. Nathaniel Bacon.”

Nathaniel Bacon is famous as the leader of “Bacon’s Rebellion.” For details, see: or

According to one family researcher, James was a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion. She cites the signature of “James Maddora” on a petition found in Cal. State Papers, Vol. 30, Folio 84 as proof. Her notes also indicate that “James is the ancestor of the Isle of Wight County, Virginia / Warren County, North Carolina Maddrays,” and that “his son Zachariah is the ancestor of the Surry County, Virginia / Northampton County, North Carolina Maddrays.”

Based on a reading of Zachariah’s will (recorded in Surry County Deeds, etc. 1738 – 1754; Reel 6, page 749-750, Virginia State Library), she adds: “We assume that he was a farmer of some means. He giving his son ‘James, plantation where he lately lived, son John, plantation where he now lives, son William a piece of land on Pigeon Swamp known by the name of Goodman’s.’ All three children are given slaves.”

For more information on Zacharias Maddray (note spelling variation), see the website of Forrest Davis King, The website also features a wealth of information on James Jr., brother to Zacharias. According to King’s research, James Jr. had three sons, Joseph (1725 – after February 26, 1777), Richard (1726 – before May 25, 1812), and James III (1726 – before August 12, 1760). Joseph (1725 - after February 26, 1777) had at least two sons: James and Joseph Jr. These brothers married the Womble (alternate spellings: Wombwell and Wombell) sisters, Mary and Margaret.

I believe that I am descended from James and Mary, who settled in Northampton County, NC in the late 1700s.

More to come...


  1. Excerpt from "The First Womble Families of the US" by GH Womble Jr (1960):

    The name Wombwell was used until about 1750 when the present form Womble, and in some instances Wombles, became the accepted spelling… The original name came from two words, (1) womb, meaning “a hollow cavity,” and (2) well, meaning “a spring or well.” When combined it probably meant “the spring in the valley.” Many Wombwells and Wombles are found in Yorkshire and Kent counties England. There is a city of Wombwell in Yorkshire. As early as 1200 Wombwells have been connected with this area and named as holding land. In 1277 when Kirby’s inquest was taken John de Wombwell is returned as holding land in Wombwell. “Silver Cliff” is often mentioned and was probably a large estate belonging to the Wombwell families during the 11th and 12th centuries and remaining theirs for many generations. In 1638, Thomas sailed on a ship owned by the James City Co of VA, commanded by Christopher Lawson. They landed in Jamestown May 1 1638. On December 25, 1638, Thomas received a patent from the James City Co for 650 acres of land. Captain Wombwell became the third clerk of the county of Isle of Wight in 1645 to 1656.”

  2. For genealogy of Edward Brantley (whose great granddaughter Priscilla married Zachariah Maddrey), see Forrest King's website:

  3. For more information on the Wombwell line, see Forrest King's website: