The Salem Witch Trials seem like they were so long ago – but in a historical sense they’re really a blink of an eye away. Have we really learned the full lesson about ostracizing members of groups and judging them poorly?
The image shown here is of Mary Walcott, one of the girls who was afflicted and who began accusing women, including Ann Foster, of being a witch. The illustration was made by John W. Ehninger in 1902. It is now in the public domain.
Our family traces back to this Ann Foster, one of the women who died at the Salem Witch Trials. She was a grandmother at the time, with five children: Andrew, Abraham, Sarah, Hannah, and Mary. and our family is descended through one of her five children.
Ann was born in England in 1617, and came over to the promising new world in 1635. For a long while life chugged along at its usual pace. Ann was fairly mature – she was 75 – when the Salem Witch Trials first began. Not only was Ann accused, but Ann’s daughter, Mary Lacey, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, also named Mary Lacey, were accused as well. Ann’s daughter panicked at the thought of her daughter being slain and she finally pointed to her mother Ann as the “real witch”. Ann, realizing she could either confess or doom both her daughter AND granddaughter to death, chose to give in and “confess”.
Ann languished in jail for 21 weeks and died there on December 3, 1692. One might say that that, at least, might have been better than the way some of the other women died.
Here’s the transcript of Ann Foster’s interrogations:
Ann Foster Interrogations
There are a wealth of descendants whose family members were impacted by those Salem Witch Trials. Sarah Jessica Parker descends from Esther Elwell, one of the other accused women. Oddly, while Wikipedia’s page on Sarah lists that name, the page on the Salem Witch Trials doesn’t list Esther amongst the accused. Another famous descendant is Ray Bradbury, who is descended from Mary Bradbury. Luckily, the trials ended before she was executed.
Our line traces through the third child, Sarah Foster. We don’t know when she was born, but she married Samuel Kemp on May 23, 1662. They had Abigail Kemp on Mar 27, 1665. Abigail married James Blood and they had a son, also named James Blood, on August 12, 1687. That son married Catherine ?? and they had Simeon Blood on September 15, 1723. Simeon married Sarah Gilson on June 17, 1746. They had Lois Blood, who married Joseph Brown on April 28, 1773. Lois and Joseph had a son also named Joseph Brown, born around 1779. He married Hannah Arms on August 6, 1803. Joseph and Hannah had many children including Almira Brown, born August 30, 1806. She married George Brown (didn’t need to change her name! 🙂 ) on April 23, 1826. They also had oodles of children including Francis Carleton Brown, born Feb 13, 1839. He married Emma Wells on Feb 21, 1864 in Illinois. This is the first time this line leaves Massachusetts. She quickly died, and he then married Helena A. Fitzsimmons on May 20, 1866 in Chicago. They had two children, the eldest being Francis William Joseph Brown, born August 7, 1867. He married Bertha Mae Smith on Sep 28, 1889. They had three children – the middle was Elizabeth Lillian Virginia Brown, born on February 12, 1894. She married George Frederick Carl Waller on June 10, 1916. George was my great-grandfather, and he died at my grandfather’s wedding.
So Ann Foster is 13 generations removed from me.