Surname Saturday: BABBAGE


This unusual surname takes me on a rare journey out of Cambridgeshire and down to the South West – to Devon.

In approximately 1816, Mary Babbage was born in Holcombe Rogus, Devon. She was the daughter of John Babbage, a labourer.

On Christmas Day of 1839, she married Samuel Burnell at Combe Florey, Somerset, where she made her mark [x] and was noted as a labourer. With her husband, they grew a family of 11 Burnell children.

However, the challenge is in securing the correct John Babbage. Despite this unusual surname, it’s the forename that really makes things tough as there’s quite a few John Babbages to pick from. With Mary’s birth being pre-certification, I’ve not been able to locate (for sure) her mother either.

The most likely candidate being a John Babbage born 1783, who married Rebecca Vodden. If this is the case, then it leads the family to the parish of Ashreigney in Devon. This John appears to die on 16th January 1868, with his Will and Codicil being proved at Exeter in June 1869. Here it names Ashreigney again, titles him as a ‘gentleman’ and that his son, James Babbage ‘a yeoman’ is one of the Executors.

Computer Pioneer?

Some articles suggest that Charles Babbage (1791-1871) an English mathematician, philosopher, engineer and (proto) computer scientist may have been part of a Devon-based Babbage family from Teignmouth. Other reports talk only of London, where a Blue Plaque has been added to a property in Dorset Street where his house once stood.
Was this mathematical genius a distant branch of my Babbage tree? The jury’s out, but I’d love it to be true.

About Andrew Martin

+Andrew Martin is owner and lead writer for History Repeating and Family Tree UK. Genealogist, historian, writer, photographer and would-be archaeologist. He'd love a time machine, but worries that it might take all the fun out of it.
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2 Responses to Surname Saturday: BABBAGE

  1. Very interesting. Please let us know how you get on in your search for your Babbage ancestors.

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