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.

Author: Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is a British author, family historian, tech nerd, AFOL, and host of The Family Histories Podcast.

3 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: BABBAGE”

  1. i HAVE BEEN TRACING MY WIFES’S ANCESTOR John Williams and have a copy of the 1871 census which shows a John Babbage Born 1809 and daughter Rebbeca V Babbage Born 1846.. I believe that at this time John was a farmer (Whites Directory 1878). We believe that John Williams was a servant to John Babage and may have worked on the farm until his marriage to Eliza Brooks in 1874 at Swansea, South Wales. Any information about our ancestor John Williams would be helpfull.


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