Answers to Questions


Adam or Madam, Harpenden, 17th century

February, 2012




Bill Mirams (billmiriams @t bigpond.com) from Melbourne Australia. writes: My family name is Mirams, which in the IGa search records for all this question, showed an entry Madams alias Mirams. We know this happened in Birchington Kent in about 1740.
     The first Madams shown in Kent, was a John Madams born 19/12/1652, at Harpenden Hertford, father being Thomas Madam. I have a birth of a Thomas Madams in 1637 at Hillmorton Warwickshire, and a gap to a Thomas Madam married to Agnes Faunche in 1614 at St Stephens, St Albans. I note in your site, that most people did not move a great deal. There for my assumption of Thomas born in 1637 at Warwickshire seems suspicious, but it is more likely the Thomas born in 1614 may well be the correct family. Can you point me to where I may do more research in your area for the say 1650's.

I am certain you are on a wild goose chase. There is a danger of cherry-picking names from online indexes unless you have a good understanding of the original documentation (which always should be checked - at least on microfilm or via a digital image), what records have and have not survived (particularly at the time of the Civil War), the limitations of the indexes and the original documents, and the social situation in which the documents were recorded.

First some distances. You rightly query a link between Hillmorten, Warwickshire, and Harpenden as the distance is about 55 miles. although the road from Hillmorten to London would have passed close to Harpenden (see The Peveril of the Peak). I am even more dubious about a link between Harpenden and Birchington, in Kent, a distance of about 110 miles, with no obvious direct connection between them. Of course some people did travel, such as carriers, soldiers, the very rich and their servants, but you really need a reason for bigger moves.

One next need to question the Hertfordshire record you quote. The only Madam(s) in the HALS Online Index is the marriage of Thomas Madam of Aldenham to Agnis Faunche of Aldenham at St Stephens Church, on 11 October 1614

The only other exact references to Madam(s) between 1600 and 1700 for Hertfordshire on the new familysearch are to Susan Madam who was christened 23 October 1623 at Walkern, the daughter of Hugh Madam, and John Madam who was christened 19th December 1652 at Harpenden , the son of Thomas Madam.

However a normal search on familysearch for Madam and variant spellings comes up with 688 references and it is obvious that the name Adam was a common name in the area around Harpenden. In theses circumstances the tiny number of Hertfordshire references to "Madam" are almost certainly references to "Adam." You must always consider "spelling errors" when you only find one or two references to a name in a particular county. The John Madam who was christened at Harpenden in 1652 could well be the John Adames who married in nearby Sandridge in 1680 and is very unlikely to be the same person as someone with a similar name that turned up over 100 miles away in Kent.

The change of name to Mirams that you say happened in Kent in about 1740 is not really relevant to your question about Hertfordshire several generations earlier, as long as you are sure that you have reliable reasons for looking for people called Madams.

Unless you have reliable contemporary evidence that a John Madams of Kent originated from Harpenden you should stop wasting your time on this line of enquiry. If the information came from a family tree drawn up by someone else you  should also treat all information on that tree as suspect unless it can be confirmed by reliable sources.

I suggest you may find some of the following pages on my web site useful..

How can you be certain about ...

How reliable is the informationyou are using and what you can do about it.


Right Name, Wrong Body

Some examples showing that just because the name, date  and place are "right" you cannot always assume that the individual recorded was your ancestor.


The Dangers of Internet Genealogy

How errors get propagated on the internet.


The Limitations of familysearch

The problems with the former version of familysearch, which included the whole IGI, including a significant amount of wrong information from family trees submitted by church members. This information is no longer available on the current web site.


The Myth of Stanstead Abbey

A case study showing how one error has been propagated by hundreds of people copying family tree information without checking the source, or understanding how errors can arise in original documents.

 If you can add to the information given above tell me.

February 2012   Page created