…what do I discover?
That my 7th great-grandmother, Sarah Hood Bassett, was accused, convicted, imprisoned, and eventually released in the hysteria that was the Salem witch trials.
I had seen her name in some family papers several times, but because of how the information about was worded, I made the (faulty) assumption that she was an in-law, cousin, or another very distant relative.
But, no. Direct ancestor. When the penny finally dropped, I was stunned, to the say the least. The witch trials had been an interesting, if sad, bit of ancient history to me. But, now… this was my family.
This is what genealogy does: makes distant history suddenly very real and very personal.
Here are the generations between Sarah and me:
Sarah Hood Bassett, born 1657, died 1721
Her daughter, Ruth Bassett Allen, born 1690, died 1756
Her daughter, Ruth Allen Breed, born 1724, died 1811
Her son, Abraham Breed, born 1752, died 1831
His daughter, Eunice Breed Thompson, born 1788, died 1869
Her son, William Dimond Thompson, Jr., born 1823, died 1911
His daughter, Lydia Ann Thompson Keene, born 1850, died 1938
Her son, Charles Lawrence Keene, Sr., (the mariner) born 1883, died 1959
His son, Charles Lawrence Keene, Jr., born 1919, died 1996
…and then me.
When Sarah was 35, and the mother of six children, she was brought from Lynn for trial in Salem May 23, 1692. A servant girl in her brother-in-law’s household had accused her of giving her an “ointment.” She was immediately convicted and sent to the Boston jail, taking with her her little 2-year old, Ruth.
She was jailed with her brother-in-law, Richard Proctor, and his wife, Elizabeth, who were both sentenced to hang. Both Elizabeth and Sarah were pregnant. Richard was sent to his death in August, but Elizabeth’s sentence was postponed until after her baby was born.
However, during Sarah’s 7-month imprisonment, the hysteria calmed down and cooler heads began to prevail. Sarah was released December 3, 1692, and her son, Joseph, was born two weeks later. She had a daughter in August 1695 and named her Deliverance. Appropriate, I think.
Sarah was later paid £9 in recompense.
Salem Village Witchcraft Victim’s Memorial, Danvers, Mass, 2013. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks