Monday, October 15, 2007

The Witch in my Ancestry

The topic for the current Carnival of Genealogy is Halloween and the Supernatural! Jasia provided lots of possible questions (see here), only one of which I can identify with.

I'm too old (or too senile) to remember favorite Hallowe'en costumes, parties, carnivals or pranks from my childhood. I don't recall spooky places in my neighborhood, although the house that Austin and Della Carringer built at 2115/2119 30th Street in about 1895 in San Diego, that I grew up in, might qualify. We always had cats, but they were usually gray and often flattened on 30th or Fern Streets. No bats. No scarecrows in the city. My grandmother served Squirt! as a drink, not a magic potion.

I have hoped for visions or dream(s) with ghosts or messages (even obscure hints would be nice!) from my brick wall ancestors (Thomas J. Newton, Elizabeth (Dill) Smith, Hannah (Smith) Sawtell, John Richman, William Knapp, Ranslow Smith, etc.) giving me leads to their parentage - but, alas, either my tweeter and snoozer aren't working or these elusive ancestors are happy staying hidden from me.

I have visited cemeteries where some of these people are buried, and have even lain on the ground near their resting place in the sun hoping to fall asleep and be visited by these folks in my daze, but, alas, no luck. The sprinklers went off once, though, which may have interrupted any message I was about to get. I scared the heck out of another cemetery searcher once by getting up off the ground behind a large stone once.

Ah, a witch! My entree to the Carnival this time! There is one person in my ancestry who was hanged as a convicted Salem witch -- my 9th great-grandmother Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was accused in 1692 and hanged after a trial in Salem. I visited the Francis and Rebecca Nurse house in Danvers MA back in 2004 and it was an interesting place to visit and see - especially the house itself with period furnishings and a docent who told stories about the house and the family.

But then, she wasn't really a witch - just accused of being one. She was found not guilty by the jury, but the magistrate sent them back to reconsider. Her statement to the court was:

"I am innocent as the child unborn, but surely, what sin hath God found out in me unrepented of that He should lay such an affliction on me in my old age."

The gravestone inscription on her plot at the Nurse Homestead reads:

"Rebecca Nurse, Yarmouth, England 1621. Salem, Mass., 1692.

"O Christian Martyr who for Truth could die
When all about thee owned the hideous lie!
The world redeemed from Superstition's sway
Is breathing freer for thy sake today."
(From the poem "Christian Martyr," by John Greenleaf Whittier)

Do you think that poor, ancient, hard-of-hearing, decrepit and sinful Rebecca would ever think that she would be famous over 300 years later? Poor Francis Nurse died three years later, probably of a broken heart, likely wondering about the family tragedy that had ruined the lives of himself and his family.

Since Rebecca wasn't really a witch, perhaps this post doesn't qualify me to enter it into the Carnival of Genealogy. Ah well, maybe no one will read down this far and notice my disqualification!

Reading the Wikipedia entry for Rebecca, I found out that Mitt Romney is also a descendant of Rebecca (Towne) Nurse - so now I have another Presidential candidate that I'm related to (besides Barack Obama). Maybe cousin Mitt will invite me to be part of his campaign?


Bill West said...

Hi Randy,
Looks like we have a connection here. I'm descended from Rebecca's
sister Mary Towne Estey(Eastey)
through her son Joshua.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Hi Randy,
We're related too. Mary Towne Esty was my 7th great-grandmother. My descent is through her daughter, Sarah.

I was going to write about her for this edition of the CoG but decided to stick with my family stories theme for Family History Month.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I think you qualify :)

This - "I scared the heck out of another cemetery searcher once by getting up off the ground behind a large stone once." - really made me chuckle! I'd have loved to have seen that! :D

Have a good weekend.

Janice said...


Did you really think we wouldn't read your entire article!! When pigs fly!