Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do I Really Descend from Him?

I believe the majority of us would never assume something bad about a ancestor without a lot of proof? After all we share some DNA.

Usually I try to abide by the rule that there are two sides to every argument. Still what should I believe about an ancestor's bad deeds when they are historically documented--records which include court documents and other esteemed articles.

My father has a side of his family which goes back to the early Puritan days of Massachusetts. He has an ancestor named Ezekiel Woodward who was born in England in 1624 and lived his life in Wenham, Essex County, Massachusetts.

My line follows Ezekiel's first wife, Ann Beamsley of Boston, Massachusetts. After her death, Ezekiel married Elizabeth Solart the widow of John Solart sometime after 1672.

John Solart had been a prosperous Wenham, Massachusetts innkeeper. He left many debts after his death. John Solart and his widow, Elizabeth had nine children--seven daughters and two sons. After his death, the court awarded Elizabeth 165 pounds and her oldest son 84 pounds. Two daughters had received shares at their marriage and the other six children including Sarah [the infamous Sarah Good of the Salem witchcraft trials] was to receive 42 pounds when they turned 18.

When Elizabeth Solart married Ezekiel Woodward, he came into possession of her 165 pounds and the children's unpaid portions. More than a decade later, the surviving daughters, including Sarah Solart Poole, petitioned the court for the inheritances left them by their father. By that time their mother and both brothers had died.

The girls claimed that Ezekiel refused to pay their portions to them. Sarah was then the wife of indentured servant, Daniel Poole. The court said that the children should receive their rightful money but made no provision for them to do so. 

By 1686, Sarah's first husband, Daniel Poole, had died leaving debts for which Sarah and her second husband, William Good, were held responsible. Ezekiel Woodward went to court and testified that one month earlier he had delivered to William Good three acres of the Solart land that the Goods should have had many years before. Then the court ordered that the Goods pay the debts of Sarah's first husband, Daniel Poole. When the couple could not pay, they put William Good in jail and seized 9 pounds worth of his property.

From then on Sarah and her husband were reduced to begging work, food and shelter from their neighbors. By the time of the 1692 outbreak of witchcraft accusations, Sarah and William were living in Salem and she was one of the first persons to be accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. 

In 1692 Sarah Good was homeless and described by the people of Salem as being filthy, bad-tempered, and strangely detached from the rest of the village. She was often associated with the death of residents' livestock and would wander door to door, asking for charity. If the resident refused, Good would walk away muttering under her breath. 

Sarah Good was accused of witchcraft on February 25, 1692, when Abagail Williams and Betty Parris claimed to be bewitched under her hand. The young girls asserted they had been bitten, pinched, and otherwise abused. They would have fits in which their bodies would appear to involuntarily convulse, their eyes rolling into the back of their heads and their mouths hanging open. When Reverend Samuel Parris asked “Who torments you?” the girls eventually shouted out the names of three townspeople: Tituba, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good.

On March 15, 1692, Sarah was tried for witchcraft. She was accused of rejecting the puritanical expectations of self-control and discipline when she chose to torment and “scorn children instead of leading them towards the path of salvation." Even her husband testified against her, stating he had seen the Devil’s mark on her body, right below her shoulder. He also told the court he had reason to believe she was either presently a witch, or would soon become one. Sarah was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth to a daughter Mercy Good in her cell in Ipswich Jail. Mercy died in the jail a short time later.

At the age of 39, on July 19, 1692, Sarah Good was hanged along with four other women convicted of witchcraft. Sarah Good firmly proclaimed her innocence.

It certainly makes me wonder if my ancestor Ezekiel Woodward, a carpenter by trade and said to have been disfigured from a fire, would have given Sarah what her father had intended her to have, perhaps her circumstances would have been different. It is hard to estimate, but 42 pounds back in the 1670s would have purchased about 400 lbs. of bacon. Not a fortune but certainly something.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such an interesting post. I have just recently stumbled upon the fact that Sarah Good was my 7th Great Grand Aunt. I've been discovering the same information as you.