Madden Surname Origins
The name Madden has several variants including MacAvaddy, Madagane, Madan, Maddan, Maldigan, Maddin, Maddon, Maden, Madigan, Madin, Madine, Madon, Madudhan, Maidan, Maiden, Meadon, O'Madagane, O'Maddane, O'Madden and O'Madigane. ["History of the O'Maddens of Hy-Many", G. Madden, 2004, p ii]
The Madden sept [a "sept" is a Celtic clan or family] was a branch of the Uí Maine, or Hy Many, centered in eastern Co. Galway and southern Roscommon.
The sept held a territory on both sides of the River Shannon—the western part being in Longford Barony in County Galway, the eastern part in the Barony of Garrycastle, County Offaly. Madden strongholds are recorded at Meelick, Cloghan, in Co. Offaly, and Derryhivenny, near Portumna. Their hegemony in the area was not seriously challenged until the English incursions of the 16th century; Lord Deputy Sussex captured Meelick Castle in 1557. It was destroyed in 1595, as was Cloghan castle, in a bloody campaign which resulted in the death of many of the O’Maddens. They retained power until the final confiscations of the late seventeenth century - Derryhivenny was built as late as 1643 - but had lost all by the start of the 18th century.
Nonetheless the family remained numerous in the area, and even today, the surname is by far most frequent in east Galway. A branch of the family moved south to the Clare/Limerick region in early times, and anglicised their name as "Madigan", and this separate surname is also still most strongly associated with its original homeland. Another Madden family, from Oxfordshire in England, settled in Co. Kildare in the sixteenth century, and gave their name to the village of Maddenstown.[Irish Times.com-Irish Ancestor-Madden]
Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt hereditary surnames from the 11th century. Many of these names began as patronyms to define a son from his father or grandson from his grandfather.
The "O" in "O'Madden" signifies 'grandson' just as the 'Mac' signifies son. The apostrophe that usually follows the "O" actually comes from a misunderstanding by English-speaking clerks in Elizabethan time, who interpreted it as a form of the word "of." [Irish Surname Meanings & Places of Origin, Kimberley Powell in About.com:Genealogy]
The first Madden was reputedly Madadhan, a chieftain of a sept from around Clogher in County Tyrone in the 10th century. The name is a diminuitive of Madaidhin, the ancient Celtic form for young dog or madra. The O'Maddens continued to be prominent in Tyrone until the 17th century. [op cit, Madden, p xii]
The most famous bearer of the name was Richard Robert Madden (1798-1886), doctor, traveler, historian and fervent opponent of the slave trade. He was the author of the monumental and hagiographic 7-volume The United Irishmen: their lives and times (1842-1846). His son Thomas More Madden (1844 - 1902) was also a well-known writer. [Irish Times, op cit]