On the western waters….

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I have not given up, I have not lost hope, I am not convinced that we have found and settled on where my 5th Great Grandfather Gov. Richard Caswell is indeed buried. There. I said it. I am at it again.

For several years there have been many people involved in questioning and searching for where North Carolina’s first Governor is buried; archaeologists, East Carolina University students & professors, a team from the Smithsonian, state & local historians, family members, genealogists and curiosity seekers, all have come together in several attempts at finding out where Gov. Caswell is buried, yet none have solved the mystery, even the last attempt at his grave excavation in 2009 could neither prove nor disprove the theory he is buried in Kinston at the Caswell family cemetery.

In the next couple of posts I am going to give a short description of the death and burial and the history of the search for the resting place of Governor Richard Caswell. Then I shall track my investigation as I go forward with my hunch that he is indeed buried in the western part of North Carolina, which may now be actually be in Tennessee.

Why do I seek this information? It is a mystery that I cannot let go, there are questions I still have and above all else if found I want to honor his resting place. Some say that the loss of his burial location is a loss for the citizens of North Carolina and history, that as a Founding Father for North Carolina, he deserves better in memory. If North Carolina had not been the poorest of the 13 colonies, he would have been as well known as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Adams, all contemporaries and friends of his. Out of sight is not out of mind for me.

So to begin,

  • I will take a closer look at the letters I have gathered where Richard speaks of his time in this area, as well as his sons,
  • I will look at other letters, documents and records of his friends actions in the area from just prior to his death to a few years after,
  • Chart the boundaries from land sales on a map, laying out areas to search for further records of any actual habitation,
  • I will search for more of his son Winston’s documents & writings for his movements in the 10 years after his father’s death until his own, specifically the months proceeding and after his fathers death to see if I can find him recorded in that area.

Stay tuned for more on this journey.

Fathers Wisdom & Wishes, a letter to his son

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In late 1775, William Caswell, oldest son of NC Gov Richard Caswell, is serving in the 2nd Continental Regiment of North Carolina assisting the Virginians in driving back Lord Dunmore’s attack around Norfolk, VA, known as the Battle of Great Bridge. The valuable aid given by the North Carolinian’s was such that the Virginia House of Burgesses praised the victory and announced the high regard for the brave men of both Virginia and North Carolina.

EasternVirginia 1775

William wrote to his father often, they corresponded much through the war and before that when he served his father as his confident and secretary. His father often would write to him of his pride for the service William provided his country but also of his love for his son and duty to country.

In this letter dated 8 Feb 1776, he once again will instruct and encourage his son in his service.

Dobbs, Newington, 8th February, 1776.

My Dear Son:

Your letter of the 24th of January, I this moment received and rejoice to hear of yours and Mr. Herritage’s health, tho’ Lowly. Men in your Situation are often so & when you Consider the great Cause you are engaged in, You will, I flatter myself, think your Sufferings from those small Vermin not worth Notice. However, if it is in my power to send you Shirts I will most Chearfully do it or any thing else within the Compass of my power. I did not doubt but you had Carried all the Clothes you had at Newbern with you.” 

“I hope my Dear Child, the Virtuous cause you are engaged in and the hope you have of giving the little Assistance in your power to the relief of your Country, and as far as your power extends, will Stimulate you to put up with Hardships, Fatigues & inconveniences which others may shudder at, to ward off that slavery which is Attempted to put the present, as well as the future, generation under in this once happy Land.

Don’t mistake me when I say the dissatisfaction of others ought not to be a rule for you, nor think that I would wish you to be one Moment in a Service your own Conscience does Not tell you it is your duty to Attend and even Sacrifice that life which I have been an instrument in the Hands of your Maker of giving you. You know I would not wish you to remain a day longer from me or those of your Family to whom you are very dear if I did not think your own, mine & Our Country’s Honor & Welfare required it.

Let Virtue, Honor & Prudence conduct you. If I never have the Pleasure of Seeing you again in this World, my prayers shall be daily made to the Almighty disposer of all things to Bless you in the next. 

With hopes of seeing you soon, I Conclude,
Your ever affectionate Father,

Caswell signature

 

 

 

In the letter to his father, William mentions that most of the army were lacking in clothing, food and pay. William himself answered the call and left with whatever he had on himself at the time. He did not even have his horse. There seems to be several officers and men that are writing letters of dissent, but he is not one of them. Instead he is telling his father of the battle and the following hardships he is suffering and seeing and I am sure he is hoping for his father’s continued support and words of wisdom to get him through.

William took his duty seriously, entering into the Continental Army as an Ensign of the 2nd Regiment of NC Line, from the New Bern district. He was immediately dispatched to serve with General Washington’s forces in the north. Both he and his Uncle, Colonel John Herritage, were with General Washington during the winter at Valley Forge.  William was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine and reported to have “served well with valor” and was soon promoted to Lieutenant and then promoted once again to Captain of the 5th NC Continental Regiment in April 1776.

In 1778 he returned home to Kinston, NC with failing health, some thought to be from his injuries earlier at the Battle of Brandywine and deprivation in the following years. However, as his health regained, duty called him once again to engage in the war, this time as Brigadier General and fought against Cornwallis’s army as it marched from Wilmington to Guildford Courthouse. William was there at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered.

Having served his country and his father well, it is sad indeed that William Caswell died on 6th January 1785, age 30, leaving a young wife and son Richard William Caswell. Soon after his wife would also die and the young child would be taken in by Gov. Caswell and his wife Sarah to be raised along with his other children.

Had he lived, I have no doubt he would have continued to serve his country in the best way possible and with the same determination and passion his father taught him with the lessons learned at his side, serving him and other Founding Men.

When I read these letters from my 4th-Great Uncle and my 5th-Great Grandfather, I am warmed at the obvious affection between the two but also the words of wisdom that Richard expresses in order to bolster his son’s morale in what he knows to be more than just a hardship but one of survival.

Note: I also love that Richard Caswell often wrote in his letters that he would “cheerfully” obtain or do whatever he was compelled to do for the support, safety and comfort of his men or the independence and future of his country.

When facts are few, thoughts are wild and assumptions abound…

In the realm of genealogy if there is no source noted it should not be considered fact until proven. Simple. One would think. 

In the realm of family and local historians, the stories we hear and the writings we come across can seem factual, if not we think at least nuggets of truth may exists in these. These nuggets, or clues, can help us in our research. But all too often what is stated in writing or verbally in stories handed down, after generations, can seem to become facts/truths and that is where continued research and new discoveries can become points to some that are at the least disappointing or as objectionable, seem argumentative or down right hostile words despite the true intentions.

Take the case of a historical home in Kinston, Lenoir, North Carolina, “Harmony Hall”. The name itself given to it by a local historian and was never referred to by this name in it’s time period under discussion.

State researchers recently told the board that they would lose the historical marker as the facts stated were not proven. (The post would remain and if they want to have a new marker installed they would help to word it, though of course not pay for it or the installation.) I met with Mike Hill at the NC State Archives yesterday to learn more about it.

The website http://harmonyhallkinston.com/ states.

Harmony Hall is the only house of historical significance left standing in Kinston, North Carolina.

The site was built in 1772 by Jesse Cobb and his wife, Elizabeth Heritage Cobb, and has served as a residence to prominent historical figures of Lenoir County.

Harmony Hall housed the offices of James Glasgow, Secretary of State, until 1781. The State Board of War and other official meetings were held there at this time.

During the Revolutionary period, it was owned by Richard Caswell, First Governor of North Carolina after Independence was gained from Great Britain.

The house was also the site of a Civil War Hospital, Church Annex, Public Library, and Women’s Club building.

The house was remodeled around 1790, again in 1835 and the most recent restoration was completed in 1984.

The restored house features a large reception room, called the great room, at the center of the first floor with open fireplaces at each end. The great room is the actual size of the original dwelling built in 1772. This area was enlarged by the addition of wings and rooms in later years.

 

The problem with this is there is no conclusive evidence to link Governor Richard Caswell with either the lot or home. State instituted research going back at least as far as 1969 demonstrate that while the home was found to “have features dating from the mid-eighteenth century including some wide beaded weatherboarding applied with rose headed nails, door casings, moldings, raised-panel doors, and a Georgian secondary mantel on the second floor” proving an 18th-century connection, there is no evidence of original ownership given. A respected local genealogist, extremely well qualified to do so, very recently researched the claim as well and came across no documentation of Richard Caswell’s connection to either lot or building, My own 20+ years of research has shown nothing concerning this lot either, though I admit to not having this on my radar to research.

Dendrochronology could indeed give us a better time period of the original part of the houses age, however this still would not tell us as fact who owned the lot or who built the dwelling prior to 1790. Gov Caswell of course died in Nov 1789. Lenoir county is what is referred to as a “burned county”, having suffered two significant court house fires in the later 19th-century destroying many documents that could have solved this and many other questions. 

It has been said that one block over the Governor had a home at 111 E Bright Street, now an empty lot with the brick foundation showing, and behind that on 200 E. Shine street his son, Dallam, had a home that is also now gone. Richard Caswell owned quite a bit of land in the area so it is conceivable that he could have owned the lot on E King Street (Harmony Hall), but no supporting documentation has been found as of this date. Continued research on these other two lots is undergoing.

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Though the change in understanding the Peebles House, as it more accurately should be called, has changed how the state thinks it should be historically marked, this does not call into question that this building is still the oldest surviving building in the city and should have a marker noting this and it’s history of being used during the War Between the States. 

Too often we tend to take local history as truth unquestioned and that can lead to generations of misunderstandings and take historians, genealogists and researchers down the wrong path of wasted time, energy and disappointment. Since I myself have had to own up to past tales that were not in fact proven and changed my thoughts and research, I know this is hard and hope that those who support (and I am one) the history of Harmony Hall/Peebles House can still celebrate it’s history.

 

Christmas Newsletters and family historians

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We all have received them and many of us write them, the newsy letters to family and friends where we give or receive detailed information on Aunt Mary’s hip surgery, little Susie’s tap dance lessons,  Ashley’s senior trip to France, the car that broke down during the family vacation, etc, etc.

We do these letters or emails, to keep in touch, to brag about our accomplishments, to let others know how we are doing, and to give a snippet of our lives to those we generally do not see through out the year but want to keep in touch with.

These letters can be a treasure of family information. If it has been a tradition in your family to send these out, I hope you are keeping one for yourself each year, place them in binder by year and watch your family stories grow through the years. Make a habit of pulling out the binder each Christmas season and reread some of the older letters and maybe relive some great memories or remind yourself how lucky you are. As the children grow the letters can be fun for the grandchildren to hear!

If you are a recipient of these letters, do the same thing for family newsletters. Keep them in a binder and reminisce, but these will also be great for yourself and future generations of genealogists.

The information and stories these newsletters generally give are brilliant. Births, marriages, anniversaries, deaths & funerals, traditions, stories, moves, occupations, schools, societies, and important names, dates, locations, etc.

I must also say it was recommended to me to scan the letters for safe keeping, but I have to admit to loving the touch of the real thing, the hand written ones are even better. But scan if you must, just as long as you keep these snippets of life where the future can also share in the details of our lives.

Memories, how do we keep these?

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There are so many things I can remember clearly, even things that happened many, many years ago and then there are things that happened just a few months ago I have trouble recalling. It is not just age effecting this, but my life is so busy and overwhelmed at times that I do not pay full attention to the moments I am in, as I am always thinking behind, ahead or just trying to catch up.

So, how do we keep our memories strong, recall things of importance or store those moments in life that make us smile, laugh, proud or even sad? How do we stop losing the stories of our ancestors? Reminiscence reviewing!

If teens and young adults who have become sudden sensations in Hollywood or the music industry can write a memoir, why shouldn’t you? Think of it as a peek inside a diary, a snippet of “what life is all about” or the appeal of reporting history as it happens, first person, so that future generations will learn from more than just misguided and skewed history books, but from those who actually lived it.

Capture your life in words, you do not have to be a professional to write. Just sit down at your desk, favorite chair or even in bed, wherever you are most comfortable, get your computer, typewriter, tablet, Ipad, recorder or even a legal pad, and start writing. There is even a computer program that you can dictate to and all the typing is done without you pecking away! ( like Dragon Naturally Speaking) Start with today, yesterday, last month or last year. Just start talking about what comes to your mind.

Some ideas to consider,
o Is there a favorite family member you want to remember, tell a story about?
o What about your own parents or grandparents telling you a story about an ancestor?
o What was your own childhood like, good or bad, these are things to recall and record
o Is there any military service stories, who served when, where and what did they do?
o What were your school years like? Do you remember things like what the favorite lunch was, teacher, and subjects? What were the fashions? Who was popular? Were there any scandals?
o Your dating days?
o Your engagement & wedding?
o The birth of children or nieces & nephews?
o Your friends, where do you spend your time, doing what?
o What is the social scene, in your youth, middle age, as you age?
o What historically significant events have you witnessed or taken part in? How did you feel, did it cause you to do something, change your life, etc?
o Traveling, where have you gone? What did you do? Where did you stay, eat, visit, etc?
o What are your interests and how did you get started?
o What occupations have you had, and what brought you to them? What do you wish you had done instead, why?
o What are your religious beliefs, where do you worship? What is your community like, what traditions do they bring to your life?
o Describe yourself as a child, youth, teen, young adult, middle age or whatever stage you are in.
o What are your hopes for your own future and that of your family or friends?
o Is there some great meaning to life or lesson you have learned you want to pass down?

Get the children involved as well. Have them write as soon as they are able to and before that you can record things for them. Even if it is just a paragraph a week or month. Get them in the habit. Buy them a nice journal to use or encourage them to keep an online diary or even a blog. Let them know that they matter, their stories matter.

We all have such unique lives that create wonderful stories; they should be remembered and retold, or at least recalled and recorded, for future generations to learn about your history, your heritage and your story and in your own words.

My Mayflower Family ancestors…..what does their story mean to me?

When I began in earnest to research my family history, I mainly worked on my father’s line, closer to home as they were in North Carolina, and I had an elderly Aunt and some cousins who helped me. My father had been told all kinds of stories growing up. And I was consumed with learning more about my 5th Great Grandfather, Gov Richard Caswell. I was (and still am) very interested in our revolutionary history.

My mother’s family was much different.  My great grandmother raised my mother and I had heard stories about her parents and her late husbands family who were from Scotland, as much as she knew, and so I had a sketch of what that line looked like and was able to work on it.

I remember when I was young, maybe in high school, my mother told me that we were somehow related to John Alden & Priscilla Mullins of the Mayflower, but she was unsure just how. It was through her Grandmother McMeekin. Thinking this was pretty cool, I filed it away and did not think about it again for many, many years.

When you are not raised close, either in proximity or with bonds of family, there are no histories to hear, no heritage to learn, no story to tell. My grandfather, Howard Grant McMeekin Jr, was not a nice man. He was not evil, just not a stand-up kind of person. He did not raise his children, left that to the mothers he abandoned or their families. His own mother was by all accounts, not a friendly or warm woman. Not at least to her children or her grandchildren. Edna Leighton Blaisdell was born in 1883 in Illinois. Her father, James M Blaisdell and mother Helen Amanda Sampson were from New Hampshire, having moved to IL after the Civil War. I know very little personal information on these families, sad to say, other than what records can tell me. There is no family to tell me more about the people themselves.

Helen can be seen on the far left, in dark clothing. Edna is the tall girl in the middle.

Through James & Helen, I have connections to the Blaisdell, Hanson, Sampson/Samson, Leighton, Emerson, Baker, Wentworth & Noyes families of New England. It is through these lines that I am the great-granddaughter of John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, Myles Standish, William Bradford and William Brewster (and probably one or two more passengers).

In the mid 1990′s I found an address for the Blaisdell Family Association after I discovered a book my mother had that had belonged to Edna. It is a hardback book with Edna’s name imprinted on the cover. The Blaisdell Family Papers Volume 1 1935-1941. This had my my grandmother, Janet Ellen Frew’s, marriage to Howard Grant McMeekin Jr and then listed was my Uncle and mother’s births. Along with some other family members notes. Through ancestry.com I was able to find more information on my line going back from Edna. I still had no personal stories though, and that has saddened me.

Then Google happens, and as my daughter will tell you, “the Google knows everything”. Google search had just started to be known and I used it to find more information on these families and came across a recent contact information for the Blaisdell Family Association. Their contact was very glad to hear from me, and to get the update on this line for her files. She in turn sent me a a file about 2″ thick of printouts for my family going back to, yes the Mayflower and beyond to England. There were sources and notes galore!

I was in heaven reading this package. I found that I am the 9th great granddaughter of Susanna North Martin, an elderly woman tried, convicted and hung as a witch (see previous post on her), that I am also the 9th great granddaughter of Myles Standish, John Alden & Priscilla Mullins, William Bradford & William Brewster.  I also found a connection to Nathaniel Currier of the Currier & Ives publishing firm that is beloved even today.

Reading this stack of family history made me finally feel a connection to my mother’s family, for me to know that I am here in part because these courageous souls dared to follow their hearts, their dreams, their desires and needs and not to follow what others would tell them to do or believe. They came to an unknown place with very little and yet were able to carve out a space to live, socialize, grow and assimilated into a new world. They did not all get along, they had different opinions and even ideas of what the new world should or could be, but maybe it is their tenacity, resourcefulness and endurance that is the real legacy worthy of story telling for my future generations.

Aside

Genetic Ethnicity

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Several weeks ago, I sent in a sample for DNA testing, no not for paternity, but for my genetic ethnicity. I was unsure what to expect when the results came in. Would my many years of research be proven  or would something throw a wrench into my life?

I only half-jokingly asked my father, “Dad, now is the time to tell me if I am adopted or if there is something else in our family that I need to know.” He laughed and said no and nothing that he was aware of. So I spit into the tube, closed the top and sent it off.

Just a couple of weeks later and I have my results.  Was my research confirmed? Did I find anything new? Yes to both.

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  • British Isles                         67% (thought it would have been higher)
  • Eastern European              15% (what?!?!)
  • Central European                10% (Dad said he thought there was a French connection)
  • Unknown                               8% (as more people do this test, these regions become clearer)

So, what does this tell me? I need to find out how close the relation has to be to have a 15% result, how many generations back could that go? I called my father and told him the results and he says, “Well Grandma Sallie once told me that she heard her grandfather say that his grandfather said that had he been born in the next farm over, he would have been Polish.” Really Dad, you are just now telling me this?? So, who was this #great grandparent that could have been Polish or other EE group?

Not having much experience with the Eastern European areas, I thought where should I be looking at and what should I be looking for? According to ancestry.com modern day countries would be,

Poland, Greece, Macedonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Moldova, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Belgarus, Kosovo

Since my mother’s line is the strongly known and documented from England, Scotland and Ireland with a Frenchman way back in the 17th-century, and given what my father just told me about his grandmother’s comment, I decided to look at his line first for possibilities. This is where I have the most unanswered questions and blank lines.

I have no ancestry records for these great grandparents from North Carolina, could one of these couples hold the key to the Eastern European ancestry?

  • 3rd Great Grandfather, JOSEPH BURGESS, d. aft 1830. No wife found, two known sons, John T (my 2nd g-grandfather) and William.
  • 3rd Great Grandfather, SILAS HEATH, 1793-? Wife Nancy. Known children, Amanda, John William, Nancy, Thomas Arendell (my 2nd g-grandfather) and Sally
  • 3rd Great Grandfather, JOSHUA ROUSE, 1816-1887 and his first wife Susan Caswell. Known children, Sarah E, Susan M, Marcellus Wooten (my 2nd g-grandfather) and William Henry.
  • 4th Great Grandparents, WRIGHT HUNTER and Wife NANCY DAVIS. Known children Nicholas, Wright William (my 3rd g-grandfather), Mary and William Jackson.
  • 4th Great Grandfather, JESSE COOPER, 1776-1859. No wife found. Two known daughters, Lucinda (my 3rd g-grandmother) and her sister Caroline.
  • 4th Great Grandmother, CATHERINE BOND, North Carolina.  Husband Dallam Caswell. No proof of her maiden name found. Eleven known children including Susan M Caswell (my 3rd g-grandmother)
  • 5th Great Grandparents, NATHANIEL BATTS, abt 1750-1840 and his wife, ELIZABETH DIXON. Known child, Lewis Jasper Batts (my 4th g-grandfather)

Nothing is jumping out at me when I look at this list of names, however surname migration research will help and visiting the NC archives will be another step. Also, having my father participate in the DNA genetic ethnicity testing will help, for his genetic make-up will tell me if indeed it is his line that the EE make-up comes from.

Knowing my genetic ethnicity will hopefully lead me in new research directions and just maybe, find some new family leaves. Yes, the fire is lit once more on my North Carolina heritage and with renewed determination, I am hopeful for rich discoveries in the future, dare I hope the near future.

Stay tuned. I will be documenting my search for my Eastern European ancestry as I find it fascinating that after 25 years of researching, I can still learn plenty of new and interesting facts about my own family.

Salem sadness

I had a wonderful opportunity last week while in the Boston area for my nieces wedding. I had planned to visit at least two historical sites that have family connections, to pay my respects and hopefully feel a connection or learn something new about my ancestry.

On Friday we landed in the early morning in Boston and drove to Waltham to our hotel. Since our room would not be ready for hours, we decided to go to the first place I had wanted to visit, Salem. When I asked the hotel employee how long it would take to get there, the woman scrunched up her face, shaking her head side to side and told us we would not like it. Not deterred, we went not really knowing what to expect.

So, why Salem?

I am the 9th great granddaughter of a woman described as “short, active, plump and well developed in her figure, and of extraordinary neatness“, a woman who raised at least 9 children, of which 7 were living at this time, her name is Susannah North Martin. She is the daughter of Richard North and Joan Bartram.

In 1669, Susannah was first formally accused of witchcraft by William Sargent, also an ancestor of mine. Susannah was required to post 100 pounds bond to appear in court on a charge of witchcraft, a capital offense. Her husband, George Martin, sued Sargent for slander against Susannah for accusing her of being a witch, but the Court upheld the accusation of witchcraft. A higher court later dismissed the witchcraft charges.

In 1686, Susannah was left an impoverished widow when her husband George died. It was that year that inhabitants of nearby Salem, stated that she had attempted to recruit them into witchcraft  She was described by many of a pious nature and could quote the Bible quite well. A witch should not have been able to do that, but it seems it did not help her case as she was also noted to be outspoken and “contemptuous of authority” or “defiant in the face of slander“.

In April of 1692 an arrest warrant was issued for witchcraft to Susannah of Amesbury, Massachusetts  She was 70 yrs of age.

THE WARRANT
To the Marshall of the County of Essex of his Lawful Deputies or to the Constable of Amesbury:
You are in their Majests names hereby required forthwith or as soon as may be to apprehend and bring (before us) Susanna Mertin of Amsbury in ye county of Essex Widdow at ye house of Lt. Nathaniel Ingersalls in Salem village in order to her examination Relating to high suspicion of sundry acts of Witchcraft donne or committed by her upon ye Bodys of Mary Walcot, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis of Salem village or farmes whereby great hurt and damage hath beene donne to ye bodys of said persons according to complt of Capt. Jonathan walcot & Serg Thomas putnam in behalf of their Majests this day exhibited before us for themselves and also for several of their neighbors and here you are not to fail at your peril.
Dated Salem Aprill 30th 1692.
John Hathorn, Jonathan Corwin, Assistants

INDICTMENT v. SUSANNA MARTIN
Anno Regis et Reginae William et Mariee nunc Anglice etc. Quarto. Essex ss.

The Jurors for our Sovereign Lord and Lady the King and Queen presents that Susanna Martin of Amesbury in the County of Essex, widow the Second day of May in the fourth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord and Lady William and Mary by the Grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland King and Queen Defenders of the faith etc. and divers other Days and Times as well before as after certain detestable arts called witchcrafts and Sorceries wickedly and Feloniously hath used Practiced and Exercised at and within the Township of Salem in the County of Essex, aforesaid in upon and against one Mary Walcott of Salem Village singlewoman, by which said wicked arts the said Mary walcott the second day of May in the fourth year aforesaid and at Divers other Days and times as well before as after was and is Tortured Afflicted Pined wasted and Tormented as also for Sundry other acts of witchcrafts by said Susanna Martin committed and done before and Since that time against the Peace of our Sovereign Lord and Lady William and Mary King and Queen of England their Crown and Dignity and against the Form of the statute in that case made and Provided.

Witnesses
Sarah Vibber, Sworn
Mary Walcott, Sworn
Mr. Samuel Parris, Sworn
Elizabeth Hubbard
Mercy Lewis

On the 2nd of May, she was arrested and taken to a tavern, Ingersills, in Salem, where she was examined. The Reverend Cotton Mather said of her,

This woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of this world; and she did now throughout her whole trial discover herself to be such a one. Yet when she was asked what she had to say for herself, her chief plea was that she had led a most virtuous and holy life.”

Her trail was the 29th of June and it was recorded that she “laughed out loud at the afflicted persons as the writhed about the floor in great pain, which they said was caused by Susannah having bewitching arts”. I have to admit, I too would probably laugh at that, how absurd the whole thing must have been to her.

Though she pleaded innocence at her trial, on July 19 1692 she and four others were thrown into a cart, taken through Salem town up to Gallows Hill, where they were hung. The bodies were then thrown carelessly into an unmarked crevice among the rocks. At some point, late in the evening, one of the husbands (or family members) came to reclaim the body of his wife and secretly buried her, place still unknown. The others were Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Wilde and Elizabeth Howe.

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In 1696 a document was signed by the 12 jurors in that trial asking for forgiveness in their part. In 1706 Ann Putnam, one of the main witnesses, an “afflicted child“, confessed and asked to be pardoned and forgiven. In 1709 twenty-one accused witches and children of these witches asked that their reputations be restored and also sought compensation. In 1711 the General Court granted compensation to the many victims however, Susannah’s children never applied for or received any restitution.

In 1957 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cleared the names of everyone ever accused of witchcraft.

It was my intention to go up to Salem and pay my respects at the memorial garden that was created for those that were convicted and hung. As we drove into the city, I was appalled by what I saw. Dollar Store Halloween at it’s worst. Even as close as a foot from one the oldest cemeteries and the memorial to these innocents there were trailers of cider, t-shirts and souvenirs being sold. There were buildings of witch and vampire goods being sold, with smoke coming out to form mists and scary sounds being pumped into these businesses. Flags and banners on the businesses and just a scary b-movie kind of look to the town. The Park Ranger told me it would only get worse in the next week, but yes it was this cheesy most of the time. I asked where we could go to see more of the historic parts of the city and lazily he noted on the map, “well this house was owned by one of the judges” as he circled it. He was not even interested in telling me more when I told him I wanted to learn more about it. Just directions to this house, though he failed to mention it was not open.

The (Salem) Witch Hunts were and are nothing to be made fun of, nor taken lightly. It was a time in our history that innocent victims were accused, abused and then hung and if not killed, they were never the same again in their own hometowns or even some within their own families. These men and women were violated with their bodies being combed over for any sign of being a witch, any thing as simple as a mole or malformation could be used to accuse. Every aspect of their lives were looked into for any possible reason to cry out “Witch!

Imagine your neighbor has a dispute with you, over land or water rights, or if he he thinks you have coveted something of his. Imagine you do not want to attend the church, would rather not be a part of the faithful and wish to be left alone. Maybe someone in your house was so ill that death was expected but you tended to the sick and were able to make them better. Perhaps you were seen to give the sick something to drink or eat, yes you could be a witch indeed. Children heard stories and became “afflicted” and this hysteria caught on from one child to the next, suddenly you are accused of being able to transport your being into these children and cause them harm.  If crops failed, winter was worse than before, infestations of flies or other insects abound, if cattle died or you had a child who was born deformed or died, cry witch!

To take a town like Salem, beautiful and full of history and let it become a mockery to this history and to allow these businesses to be so very close to sacred ground is just wrong. Do I take it too seriously, I think not.

Just as people do not want shopping malls on Civil War battlefields, I do not want our history to be forgotten and turned into a shameless way to make money and fun at the expense of the memories of these citizens; wives, husbands, daughters and sons, who were tortured and killed in an angry, frightful superstitious time.

Better that we learn from this part of our history, a time when fear was high in the new world, times and ways were changing faster than the people could adapt to and the unknown was far to scary for many. When we let fear rise to the top of our emotions, we tend to inflict pain on others thinking we are helping ourselves.

I for one, will keep the Witch Trials in mind, so that when I look into another’s way of life, I will not let judgments, prejudice, and yes even pride, form at the top of my thoughts.

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On the hunt….

Researching across the pond is not as easy but when you find something, it is a Snoopy Dancing day though.

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(A terrific group of people I have been friends with for more many years have a saying when you find something you have been trying long and hard to find, or something just comes your way, we snoopy dance.)

I received in the mail the birth registration for my 3rd great grandmother Ellen Whitehead. Confirming the names of her parents and birth location. I have been looking for my 4th great grandparents Joseph Whitehead and Jane Buckley on and off over the years and began the search again a couple of weeks ago. Determined I would find out more about my English family.

These are the facts I know

  • Joseph Whitehead was born in England
  • Joseph is not living with his wife, Jane and children in the 1841 census
  • Joseph is dead before April 1841 (daughters 1841 death certificate list him as deceased)
  • Joseph married Jane Buckley 09 July 1827 at St. Mary’s Church, Oldham, Lancashire, England
  • Jane Buckley was born abt 1801 in Oldham, Lancashire, England (1841, 1851 census)
  • Jane is living with her children in 1841 & 1851
  • Children listed are Hannah (abt 1828), Betty (abt 1833), Mary (abt. 1835), Sarah (abt. 1837), Ann (abt. 1839) and Ellen 1841
  • Jane and Hannah are listed as born in Oldham in the 1841 census
  • The other girls are listed as born in Dunkinfield, Cheshire.

  • Ellen Whitehead is born 03 April 1841 (see document)
  • Ellen marries Eli Schofield 24 April 1859 in Oldham.
  • Ellen comes to the US with her son, James Schofield and his young wife Ada Schofield (same surname) and infant daughter Ellen (my great grandmother) in 1893.
  • Eli is alive, but stays in England. Ellen leaves him for “the drinking”.
  • Ellen Whitehead Schofield dies 10 April 1926 in Sherrard, Mercer, Illinois

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ImageEllen Whitehead Schofield 1914

This is what I have found and researching this may lead me to answers with facts,

  • Joseph Whitehead register of birth 01 June 1803, St. Mary’s, Oldham, Lancashire, England, parents listed as Joseph Whitehead and Mary (no surname)
  • Joseph Whitehead married 20 Dec 1797, Mary Bell in Cheshire, England
  • Joseph Whitehead born 25 Nov 1804 to Joseph Whitehead and Mary Hilton
  • Jane Buckley christened 18 Aug 1802 in Lancashire, father James Buckley and mother Ellen (no surname)
  • Jane Whitehead living in 1861 with son-in-law Edward Fletcher and wife Maria and 6 children. Jane is listed as Jane Whitehead age 60. Is this Maria really Mary?
  • Jane Whitehead death, two are listed in the right area, B. abt 1803 died aged 79 in 1882 and b. abt 1803 died aged 75 in 1878.
  • Found these three birth registrations with Joseph Whitehead and Jane (no surname) as parents
  • Hannah Whitehead birth registration for 22 June 1828
  • Betty Whitehead birth registration for 01 Jan 1832
  • Mary Whitehead birth registration for 03 Aug 1834

I have given this information to several people I know in England and hope they will be able to find or confirm information for me. This could lead me with this line the 18th century and really unblock that family line.

You never know how or where you will find your answers. Never give up, keep sending emails, post questions, find new websites, look for new sources on familiar sites, etc. The answers are there and you do not have to get on a plane to find them. At least I hope not, or it might be quite awhile before I find mine.

Their Descendants…

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Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valour;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes—
all these were honoured in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
But of others there is no memory;
   they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
   they and their children after them. 
But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
Their offspring will continue for ever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.

Ecclesiasticus 44

It is true that those who strive to make a place in the world for themselves and their families, are remembered long after they are gone. Those who become famous, rich, notorious, etc will find themselves sung about in ballads, noted in history books, their lives made into movies, and remembered in many other ways. Often distorted in view and history is re-written.

But what about those who raised their families, worked the crops, fought the battles without accolades, who took care of the elderly and young, who struggled to make sense of a precarious world during events they had no control over? I think of my great grandparents in England working in the 19th century cotton industry, weaving and spinning, men, women and young children.

I think of the farmers in NC and the road builders in IL. I remember the stories about my grandfather who never stayed too long in the same place as he looked for newspaper employment and moved his wife and son around always trying to get a better job.

What of those who were good men & women but accomplished nothing the world would notice until their descendants accomplished something unimaginable to themselves, such as landing on the moon or becoming the President of the US? Then their lives are opened up and analysed as historians try to find out what makes a famous person who they are. What or who influenced them or created the drive in them?

But what of all these other lives, the goodly men and women who are buried in peace, but not honored in memory because their stories have been lost, they are not remembered.

Those are the stories I like to tell. The ones who because they lived a life of quietness or maybe something happened to their stories, a fire, flood or other disaster destroyed their documentations, are left to the past.

We think what we do is making a difference, or at least we hope that is the case. We want our children and grandchildren to have a better life and in most cases we try to live our lives so they will. We educate ourselves, try to get better paying jobs, we work smarter so we can work less to enjoy our families and friends. Even if we chose not to have children or circumstances prevent us from adding to the family tree, we still strive to make the world a better place for those who do. We engage in taking care of the world resources better, become active in social changes, etc. The world today is so much more in tune with making a difference for our future.

So many choices we have today that were not available even a generation ago to our parents or grandparents and unimaginable to our great grandparents. We live in a digital age and our lives will be most likely an open book. Future generations will have an easier time I think in finding out more about us. Lucky them.

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