Monday, October 31, 2011

Devil in the Shape of a Woman

If you are interested in an in-depth look at Witchcraft in New England, I would recommend you read a great book by Carol F. Karlsen called The Devil in the Shape of a Woman Witchcraft in Colonial New England.

It is a fascinating look at the Puritan ideas on Womanhood and the Woman's place in the world. The book discusses witchcraft beliefs, economic and demographic basis for witchcraft.  Reading it makes me glad I was born in the 21st century.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mary Perkins Bradbury

Mary Perkins Bradbury was the daughter of John and Judith Gater Perkins.  She was born in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England, and was baptized on 3 September 1615.  Mary was about 16 years old when she left England and sailed with her family to New England, landing in Boston in 1631. At age 21 she made a wise choice and married Thomas Bradbury. Thomas was an agent for and kinsman of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a key player in the early history of New England. Mary is my 8th great grandmother. Interesting, maybe only to me, her older sister Elizabeth Perkins Sargent is my 9th great grandmother.

Thomas and Mary Bradbury lived for a short time in York, Maine but by 1640 they had settled in the new plantation of Salisbury. They were a successful couple, Thomas was a schoolmaster, town clerk, clerk of courts and a military commander. Mary had a successful butter business, making enough butter to sell to the sailing ships. They raised a family, losing some children along the way, as did most families of that period.  All in all a respectable life, one in which I assume, they believed would continue until their deaths. Then came the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.

In early May of 1692 Mary Bradbury was accused of witchcraft. Her first accusers were the "confessors", those, mostly women, who had confessed under duress to witchcraft, and then began naming other witches.These confessors claimed Mary was also a witch and was responsible for the torment of a man from Andover named Timothy Swan. A warrant for her arrest was issued on May 26, 1692. Mary was first examined on July 2, and was then brought before the grand jury, the Court of Oyer and Terminar, on July 9. Oyer and Terminar is an Anglo-French term which means "to hear and determine".  During the proceedings of the Grand Jury five of the "afflicted girls" described how Mary's "specter" tortured them during her July 2 examination. Two of her accusers were Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam, Jr.  She was indicted by the Grand Jury on July 26. Her trial was later that same day. Below are the charges against her:

"In the yeare aforesaid and divers other dayes and times as well before as after Certaine Detestable arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries Wickedly Matllitiously and felloniously hath used practiced and Exercised At and int eh Township of Andivor in the County of Essex aforesaid in upon & against one Timothy Swann of Andivor In the County aforesaid Husbandman -- by which said Wicked Acts fthe said Timothy Swann upon the 26th day of July Aforesaid and divers other days & times both before and after was and is Tortured Afflicted Consumed Pined Wasted and Tormented, and also for Sundry other Acts of Witchcraft by the said Mary Bradbury Comitted and done before and since that time against the peace of our Sov'r Lord & Lady the King and Queen theire Crowne and dignity And the forme Of the Statute In that case made and Provided."Witnesses: Mary Walcott and Ann Puttnam

Many witnesses testified against her, two described how she had turned herself into a blue boar and tried to trip the horse of their father.  Samuel Endicott, grandson of Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Endicott, testified at the trial that he had been in a great storm at sea some eleven years before, when his captain later saw a pair of legs appear in the waves, then a woman in a white cap and a neck scarf from the middle up.  He went on to say that since Mary Bradbury had sold the captain two firkins of moldy butter and only a witch would do such a thing, the apparition must have been her. James Carr accused her of making his sick for many months so that her son William could marry Rebecca Wheelwright Maverick.  She had seemed to prefer James, but due to his illness he could not court her and she married William instead.  
Robert Pike, a highly respected Magistrate, his son Minister John Pike and many of her neighbors came to her defense.  Her minister testified to her good character and her many works of charity. 

Mary also spoke in her defense:
The Answer of Mary Bradbury in the charge of Witchcraft or familliarity with the Divell :
I doe plead not guilty.""I am wholly inocent of any such wickedness through the goodness of god that have kept mee hitherto. I am the servant of Jesus Christ & Have given my self up to himas my only lord & saviour: and to the dilligent attendance upon him in all his holy ordinances, in utter contempt & defiance of the divell, and all his works as horid & detestible;; and accordingly have endevo'red to frame my life; & conversation according to the rules of his holy word, & in that faith & practise resolve by the help and assistance of god to contineu to my lifes end:" For the truth of what I say as to matter of practiss I humbly refer my self, to my brethren & neighbors that know mee and unto the searcher of all hearts for the truth & uprightness of my heart therein: (human frailties, & unavoydable infirmities excepted) of which I bitterly complayne every day:" Mary Bradbury

Picture of the actual plea

Mary Bradbury's trial came near the end of the witch trials which was spiraling out of control. Many people were protesting against the trials. When the accusers began to make witchcraft claims against the wive's of the most prominent men in the colony, the judges finally began to rethink the whole process. One hundred and eighteen of her neighbors testified on her behalf. Despite being found guilty and sentenced to hang she survived.  Four others found guilty at at the same time were not so lucky. It is very possible that friends "spirited" her away. She died in December 1700.

Jane Bradbury, her daughter married Henry True, son of Henry and Israel Pike True. Mary's sister Elizabeth Perkins married William Sargent.

If you believe than any of this information is not correct, please let me know. There are many great sources for information on Mary and the Witchcraft Trials, the best of which is this online source by the University of Virginia. Because so much is known about the trial and her marriage to Thomas I did not cite any sources. I did happen to see on both wikitree and some trees which have her married to a Richard Goldsmith in Wenham in 1647. I am not sure where that came from but it is obviously a mistake.

Want to read a great book about the Salem Witchcraft Trials? I recommend The Witches by Stacy Shiff.

Family musings and the Genealogy Bug

So a few years ago, I decided to scan all my parents photos so that I could have them all in one place. This was a year long task of sorting and organizing and lots of scanning, but mission accomplished. After the photos were scanned I wanted to identify all the people in the photos, including aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles and on and on, which to make a long story short led me down the long and winding road called genealogy.

I have been infected with the genealogy bug. I dove head first into, a great site with some drawbacks. I had charts and trees and profiles, birth and marriage certificates galore. But what was missing was background, who were these people, what was their life like? Would I have liked them, would they have liked me? I am trying to compile a history for as many of my ancestors as possible. For some, there is tons of information and for others nothing.

So why write a blog? I have always been intrigued by blogging, writing something down and just laying it out there for the whole world to see or ignore for that matter. I have also read some genealogy blogs that have terribly inaccurate information on common ancestors. Maybe my blog could be a source for other fellow genealogy hunters. I'm not saying there won't be any mistakes, but I will try to avoid the gross errors I have seen on other sites. Who knows, maybe someone will actually read this and be at least slightly entertained.

My goal is post a bio on a ancestor weekly.


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