Saturday, March 6, 2010

What I Have in Common with Sarah Jessica Parker

Along with the thousands of viewers of the first episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?", I was intrigued by the story revealed to Sarah Jessica Parker of her 9th (?) great grandmother Esther Elwell, who was convicted as a witch during the witch hysteria in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts in 1692. Sarah J. Parker was relieved to know that her ancestor was not executed, however. As I watched her story unfold, I realized that Sarah and I have this in common: my 9th great grandmother, Mary Perkins (Mrs. Thomas) Bradbury (1614-1700) was also convicted, but not executed as a witch during the Salem trials in 1692.

This is my descendency from Mary Perkins Bradbury:
1. Thomas and Mary Perkins Bradbury to their son William (b. 1649) 
2. William and Rebecca Wheelwright Bradbury to their son William (b. 1672)
3. William and Sarah Cotton Bradbury to their son John (b. 1699)
4. John and Hannah Greeley Bradbury to their son Rowland (b. 1725)
5. Rowland and Mary Stevens Bradbury to their daughter Molly (b. 1760)
6. John and Molly Bradbury Burbank to their daughter Mary Burbank (b. 1779)
7. Onesiphorus and Mary Burbank Flanders to their son Jesse (b. 1813)
8. Jesse and Elizabeth Phelps Flanders to their son Lewis (b. 1849)
9. Lewis and Sarah McMillan Flanders to their son Milo (b. 1883)
10. Milo and Nannie Becker Flanders to their daughter Ruby (b. 1924)
11. Ernest and Ruby Flanders Margheim to ME, Mary Rebecca Margheim Jamison (b. 1947) 

The following brief article explains the events better than I can.

Mary Perkins Witch Trial Information
Source: "The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Massachusetts", by Geo. A. Perkins, M.D., Salem, 1882

"In 1692, Jacob Perkins’s sister Mary Perkins Bradbury was placed on trial for witchcraft. At the time, she was living in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Richard Carr's father had been a suitor of Mary before she married Thomas Bradbury. This led to a fifteen year disagreement with Mary and he probably influenced his sons’ and his son's friend in their testimony. Her reply to the indictment was as follows:

"I plead not guilty. I am wholly innocent of such wickedness through the goodness of God that hath kept me hitherto. I am the servant of Jesus Christ, and have given myself up to him as my only Lord and Saviour, and to the diligent attendance upon him in all his holy ordinances, in utter contempt and defiance of the Devil and all his works, as horrid and detestable; and have endeavored to frame my life and conversation in accordance with His holy word and in that faith and practice, resolve, by the help and assistance of God, to continue to my life's end. For the truth of what I have to say as to the matter of practice, I humbly refer myself to my brethren and neighbors that know me, and to the searcher of all hearts, for the truth and uprightness of my heart therein, human frailties & unavoidable infirmaties excepted, of which I bitterly complain every day."

All of the depositions against Mary were recorded in Seargent Thomas Putnam's handwriting except one. Richard Carr and Zarubabel Endicott testified that they had seen a blue boar come from and re-enter her yard and window. This was spectral evidence. Samuel Carr, Richard's brother also testified that he had seen Mary perched on the capstan of a ship at sea when things were going badly. William Carr testified that there was nothing he knew against Mary and referred to a broken love affair between the families.

Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury were prominent citizens and signatures of 118 of her friends and neighbors of a statement
"Concerning Mary Bradbury's life and conversation, we, the subscribers, do testify, that it was such as became the gospel: she was a lover of the ministry, in all appearance, and a diligent attender upon God' holy ordinances, being of a courteous and peaceable disposition and carriage. Neither did any of us (some of whom have lived in the town with her above fifty years) ever hear or ever know that she ever had any differences of falling-out with any of her neighbors, man, woman or child, but was always ready and willing to do for them what lay in her power night and day, though with hazard of her health or other danger. More might be spoken in her commendation, but this for the present."

This written testimony was not enough, as she was convicted anyway. By this time the Court of Oyer and Terminer had agreed not to execute any who plead guilty, but Mary had pleaded not guilty. She was convicted of witchcraft on 9 Sep 1692 and sentenced to be executed on 22 Sep 1692. Her husband and friends, including Jacob, broke her out of the Ipswich jail and she fled to Amesbury where she died two years later. The last convicted witch execution took place on 22 Sep 1692. Any remaining convicted witches (those that had plead guilty) had their sentences commuted by the governor. This was the end of the trials.

On 17 Dec 1711, the governor and council authorized payment to twenty-three persons condemned at Salem. Mary’s descendants received twenty pounds in compensation."

Now if I can just figure out how to get an all-expense-paid trip to the Massachusetts Historical Society and view all the original documentation regarding my great-grandmother's trial like Sarah Jessica Parker was privileged to do! But if anyone asks me "Who do you think you are?" after researching my family's history for the past decade, I can tell them, "I don't have to Think who I am, I KNOW who I am."


Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski said...

Terrific post, Becky! Not only is this a great read, but I enjoyed getting to know you better. If I ever find myself on the east coast I hope we can meet face to face.


DianaR said...

How fascinating ~ thanks so much for sharing this! It would be great of all of us who are already so interested in our ancestors could have a SJP-type budget for travel. :-)

Debbie Blanton McCoy said...

Thanks for writing this, Becky! Very interesting story. (I'm behind in reading blogs, as you can tell.)

Heather Rojo said...

I just found your blog. I'm descended from Jacob Perkins, Mary Perkins Bradbury's brother. He married Elizabeth Whipple about 1648. I enjoyed this episode of WDYTYA very much, too, because I was born in Beverly, right next door to Salem. I have other ancestors involved with the witch trials, but thank goodness some escaped, were released or dismissed, or where would we be today?!

Anonymous said...

Hi.......I just found this blog. We are some sort of relative (very distant cousins). I am also a descendant of Mary Perkins Bradbury ahd Capt. Thomas Bradbury, their son William who married Rebecca Wheelwright Maverick on March 12, 1672 and grandson William Bradbury who married Sarah Cotton on April 5, 1670. My direct line link is William and Sarah's son, James Bradbury, born May 9, 1701, married Elizabeth Sanders on June 16, 1726 at Haverhill, Mass. I am curious to know if you would have any information as to where our 10th. generation grandmother, Mary Perkins Bradbury is buried. I know that her family lived in Ipswich, Mass. before her marriage to Thomas and that she died in Amesbury, Mass. at the age of 80 yrs. My maiden name is Bradbury, I grew up in Mass. Nice to meet you! I also saw the episode with Sarah Jessica and foound it so interesting that she would have a Salem connection as well. Nice to meet you!