The Wax Maddox Seal
had read about the tiny seal in a W. N. Hurley book called Maddox Family of
Southern Maryland. She had to see it because the wax seal on the 1757 will
of Notley Maddox Jr. was absolute history.
Important documents in England and
the Colonies were authenticated by placing a glob of sealing wax next to the
signature and impressing the wax with a signet ring. Because wills could be
easily falsified and the wishes of the descendant ignored, wills were "sealed"
by pressing a signature ring into the soft sealing wax proving that only the
possessor of the ring was the true divisee or grantee making bequests to his
heirs. If the Maddox family had passed down from father to son a signet ring,
this was tangible evidence of their ancient Welsh heritage.
Hurley notes the entire Maddox
seal doesn't show on the tiny wax impression but sees clearly the figure of a
lion passant (lion shown in profile), the principal charge on the Coat of Arms
of Maddox as described in Burke's "The General Armory."
Genealogists borrow legal
concepts, Doster says. In the case of an original document made at or near the
time of an event, genealogists consider this "primary evidence" or the highest
proof. Most family historians view copies. Deeds, wills, other probate records,
marriage bonds, are all copies made and stored in the courthouses of the county
of residence of our ancestors. State archives microfilm the copies, so does the
Pat Doster seems well-suited for
genealogy. Daughter of a lawyer, this North Carolinian is a stickler for truth
and accuracy. She doggedly checks her details and travels extensively to
satisfy her craving for history. One year, she'll tour Europe and another,
tramp through the tall grass of Kentucky to see a log cabin built by an
She'll study dull ancestral charts
and obscure books filled with names and dates of not just one family--but a
dozen. Family lineage is far from dull to her. If she finds that
interesting, what ecstatic bliss overcomes her when she touches what he touched,
the real thing--the red wax seal of her ancestor?
Maddox Return to Maryland
|In Search of Heritage
by genealogist Patricia DosterIf you visit a state
archive, you sit long hours viewing records on microfilm machines. A tiring,
extremely boring process. So, when presented with the possibility of locating a
will, authenticated with a red wax seal, my enthusiasm knew no bounds! Off I
went to Annapolis with high hopes of photographing it - at the very
Those of you who know Annapolis well,
understand it is an colonial city with high standards of historic preservation.
For those of you who have never been to Annapolis, a word of caution. Go armed
with a good map and know exactly what you're looking for. Annapolis is built
around two circles, Church Circle and State Circle, and the narrow one-way
streets radiate off the circles like the hub of a wheel. Once onto the traffic
circle, you must locate the right street and cut across two-lane traffic to
exit. It's a harrowing procedure--nearly as troublesome as finding long-hidden
records in an archive.
the Maryland Archives is located on Rowe Blvd coming into town off the Bay
Bridge Rt. 50/301. One in the lobby, I stored my purse and coat in a locker,
pocketed a key, and headed for the research room. Only pencils and notebooks are
allowed there. In fact, I was handed a rule list and practically had to place a
finger print on the sheet. Security, in other words, is very tight because of
philanderers who in the past have made off with valuable ancestral
Once I filled out the correct form and
placed it in the hands of the right librarian, all I had to do was wait
with bated breath. I heard my name paged and went to collect a large gray box.
Since I couldn't wait to get back to my assigned carrel to open it, I did so
while standing at the main desk . . . and there it was: a small dime-sized
piece of wax at the bottom of Notley Maddox Jr.'s three page
I gulped and inhaled! A thrill of discovery
went through me as I placed the tip of one finger lightly on the seal. I thought
about "the ET touch." I thought about God giving Moses the "touch" in the
That was the feeling - elation tinged with awe. My
finger was touching the past - the wax seal of Notley Maddox, my 6 x
great-grandfather. An awesome, sobering moment fraught with tense emotion.
"Wow," I exhaled, it was all worth it. The long trip over horrible interstates
to impassible Annapolis.
I must have
been beside myself because several by-standers rushed over to investigate. One
fellow even placed his finger on the seal. I was astonished. The seal had
survived for 240 years, and here was this imposter shoving it off the page. I
grasped his arm and pulled. "Please, sir, don't do that!" He eyed me with
suspicion but left me to my wonderment.
Since the rules
forbid more than looking, I asked about a photograph. "Yes," said head
librarian, "we do archival photographs, but the cost is
"Oh," was the
rejoinder, "ten dollars," eyeing me as if to suggest such a sum was beyond my
means. You know how officious librarians can be in your home town? Well,
quadruple that for state archivists. Not to be intimidated, I ordered four
copies! When I returned home, two weeks later there were the copies. Not very
good ones, I might add. I could have done better on a photocopy machine, but no
matter, I had been there, I had touched the seal, and I was satisfied - the
moment was locked in my psyche.
significance of who you are and what your family stands for in a country devoted
to pluralization"--Pat Doster