There I was, pondering what I might say in today's blog post, when my sister-in-law sent me the following article, from People magazine: "Connecticut 'Witches' Could Be Exonerated 375 Years After Going on Trial." Connecticut Representative Jane Garibay apparently has nothing more important or interesting to do than tilt at windmills.
Local historians and descendants of the Connecticut witches and their accusers hope lawmakers will finally deliver them all a posthumous exoneration. "They're talking about how this has followed their families from generation to generation and that they would love for someone just to say, 'Hey, this was wrong,'" Rep. Jane Garibay told AP. "And to me, that's an easy thing to do if it gives people peace."
Really? The world truly has gone nuts. I'm happy about our family's connection with these women (and the rare man). They hardly need exoneration, especially not from someone who couldn't tell a witch from a warlock.
Instead of accomplishing the work I had intended to do this afternoon, I did a little digging. Here are the people I've found so far among our ancestors who were accused of witchcraft:
- Mary Perkins, wife of Thomas Bradbury, accused and convicted in Salisbury, Massachusetts but escaped hanging, for reasons unknown. She is my 9th great-grandmother through my father's Bradbury line.
- Winifred King, wife of Joseph Benham, accused three times in New Haven, Connecticut. The first two times, the charge was dropped; the third time she fled to New York. She is my 8th great-grandmother through my father's Langdon line.
My husband's side:
- Mary ----, wife of Thomas Barnes, convicted in Hartford, Connecticut and hanged. She is his 8th great-grandmother through his mother's Scovil line.
Both sides, though not a direct ancestor:
- Mary Bliss, wife of Joseph Parsons, charged but acquitted. She is my 9th great-grandaunt through my mother's Smith line, and also my husband's 9th great-grandaunt through his mother's Davis line.
You'll note that I have not found anyone accused of witchcraft in my husband's father's line, though it is brimming with early New England ancestors. But that's okay, because it is through him that my husband is related to his 9th great-grandfather, Edward Wightman, the last person to be burned at the stake in England for heresy. Edward is also my own 10th great-grandfather, through my father's Langdon line.
Unlike New England's witches, Edward, it seems, was guilty as charged, and more than a little bizarre by the end. But to be a genealogist is to realize that we come from heroes and villains, the oppressed and the oppressor, the innocent and the guilty—and to embrace them all as our own.
To be real you need to celebrate your own history, humble and tormented as it might be, and the history of your own parents and grandparents, howsoever that history be marked by scars and mistakes. It is the only history you will ever have; reject it and you reject yourself.
— John Taylor Gatto