Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Tale of the Timeline : Sarah Good of the Salem Witch Trials




Salem Witch Trial Engraving, unknown artist;
source: Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes it is rather exciting to discover that an ancestor or relative had a brush with history. Other times, it can cause sadness, discontent, and questioning. The latter has been the case for me as I have learned more about the life and death of my 8th Great Aunt, Sarah Solart, for she was one of those accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.

Several months ago I posted about what I had learned about her father John Solart and the financial problems caused by his death. Even ten years after John Solart's death, his surviving children had not received any money from his estate. The property and money all appeared to remain in the hands of Ezekiel Woodward whom John's wife Elizabeth had married shortly after John's death. While her other sisters did not seem to have fallen onto hard times, this was not the case for Sarah.

The basic facts of Sarah Solart's story are told in a variety of sources ranging from Wikipedia to scholarly books and journals. Each source seemed to give very similar information. Once again, putting facts found from a variety of sources into a timeline helped to present a clearer picture of what happened to Sarah and her role in the Salem Witch Trials.

For the time period, Sarah married somewhat late in life, not marrying for the first time until she was about 28. Her husband was Daniel Poole, a young man considered to be a poor laborer.(1) Poole apparently died soon after their marriage, leaving Sarah to assume his debts. Several years later, Sarah married for the second time, this time to laborer William Good of Salem Village.(1) Sarah and William then had two daughters, Dorcus (sometimes referred to as Dorothy) Good and Mercy Good.

Sarah and William never seemed to have the financial success enjoyed by Sarah's father. Instead, they began to be regarded as annoying beggars. Books make reference to William sending Sarah out to beg, carrying baby Dorcus, as she visited neighbors seeking food or money. Marylynn Roach describes Sarah was "a woman at the lower end of the social scale ... pipe in her mouth, an infant in her arms and a four-year-old girl in tow ... reduced to begging for her children's sake."(2) As neighbors grew tired of the Good family and their begging, Sarah became what Emerson Baker described as a "poor, disaffected women, known for her sharp tongue and outbursts hurled even at those who offered to help her".(3) And so, the downward path for Sarah continued.

By February, 1692, the rumblings which soon erupted into the Salem Witch Trials were gathering and Sarah, according to Emerson Baker, was the "stereotypical view of a witch".(3) The records concerning all aspects of Sarah's trial are extensive. These include the various complaints against her, her arrest, examination, imprisonment, evidence entered against her, the grand jury indictment, her jury trial, her conviction and execution and even restitution for William Good.(4) Below is a timeline of Sarah's last five months as documented by A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials.(4)

29 Feb 1692warrant for Sarah's arrest
1 Mar 1692examination of Sarah, William Good said she was "an enemy to all good"
5 Mar 1692William Good's testimony about a mark on Sarah's shoulder
5 Mar 1692Sarah transferred from Ipswich to Salem
7 Mar 1692Sarah transferred from Salem to Boston
23 Mar 1692warrant for arrest of daughter Dorothy Good
24 Mar 1692examination of Dorothy Good
4 Apr 1692Dorothy Good accused of witchcraft
12 Apr 1692Dorothy Good sent to Boston
23 May 1692more testimony against Sarah
25 May 1692warrant to imprison Sarah
2 Jun 1692physical exam ordered for Sarah and others
28 Jun 1692Grand jury considered the case of Sarah Good
      29 Jun 1692Sarah arraigned on indictments for witchcraft
12 Jul 1692judge signed death warrant against Sarah
19 Jul 1692Sarah's death by hanging
unknown dateSarah's daughter Mercy died while in prison with Sarah

A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials also sheds some light on the life of young Dorcus/Dorothy Good. Dorothy, at age five, was the youngest person accused on witchcraft during the trials, but she was finally released in December of 1692 on a recognition bond posted by Samuel Ray. I have not been able to establish a relationship between Ray and young Dorcus. Ray was not married to any of Sarah Solart's sisters, and the recognition bond does not provide any information as to why Ray was involved in that action. Admittedly, it seems puzzling that her Dorcus/Dorothy's father, William Good, did not post that bond. Perhaps he was too impoverished to assume that obligation for his only known remaining child.

Little more is known about Dorcus/Dorothy Good or her father following Sarah's execution except for one legal document that William Good signed in 1710. At that time the Massachusetts legislature had passed the Reversal of Attainder which nullified the trial judgments against 22 of the convicted witches, one of whom was Sarah Good.(5) In response to the legislative action, William Good filed a petition for restitution on 13 Sep 1710.(6) Below is a transcription of William Good's petition.
To The Honourable Committee
The humble representation of Will'm Good of the Damage sustained by him in the year 1692, by reason of the sufferings of his family upon the account of supposed Witchcraft
1 My wife Sarah Good was In prison about four months & then Executed.
2 a sucking child dyed in prison before the Mothers Execution.
3 a child of 4 or 5 years old was in prison 7 or 8 months and being chain'd in the dungeon was so hardly used and terrifyed that she hath ever since been very chargeable haveing little or no reason to govern herself.--And I leave it unto the Honourable Court to Judge what damage I have sustained by such a destruction of my poor family
And so rest, Your Honours humble servant William Good
Salem. Sept 13, 1710
Further records indicate that 30 pounds was proposed to be given to William Good. These records are also the last I was able to find concerning either William Good or his daughter Dorcas/Dorothy.

Lessons Learned

  • So, why celebrate the story of Sarah Solart Good, one of the first accused of the Salem witches? For starters, she was a relative. All of us have questionable individuals, those we don't particularly care for or agree with within our families. Sarah and her story just happens to be more public and well documented in a number of sources. 
  • Her story reminds me that the lives of our ancestors and relatives are shaped and influenced by the time period in which they live as well as the geographical area of their home. Had Sarah exhibited her behavior in another time or place, she might well have been regarded simply as being a strange individual, one who might have been labeled "insane" on a 19th century census record. Living in another time or place, the actions of William Good might not have been seen as the norm.
  • I was amazed at the quantity of digitized records online relating to the Salem Witch Trials. Without them, learning more about Sarah would have relied primarily upon resources available through area libraries. As an aside, I appreciate the way none of the staff at my local library seemed concerned when I would check out an armload of books about the Salem Witch Trials each visit over several months this past winter.
  • The story of the Salem trials may not be over. As I was working on this post, I came across two new bits of information relating to the trials in Salem. Recently an original deposition from the Salem Witch Trials was sold by Christie's for $137,000.(7) In this document from August of 1692, Mary Daniel was accusing Margaret Scott of sorcery. References to this accusation are available on several online sources, but until Christie's included a photo of the document in the sale information, reading the original text online was not possible because the document was owned by a private collector. Perhaps other primary source documents will surface in the future. In addition, an interesting post by AncestralFindings reported that "ground penetrating sonar revealed no bodies at the presumed gallows site" on Proctor’s Ledge.(8) This raises an interesting question. What happened to the bodies of those executed? Where they removed in secret by family members? Were they taken to an as yet unknown site? Were they buried on family owned property? New information continues to lead to more questions.
  • Because of researching Sarah Solart's life, the Salem Witch Trials are more to me than the old televised episode of You Were There: the Salem Witch Trials or a production of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. There is now a personal connection. And with it, personal questions as to how we regard those who are different from us, those with mental health issues, those on the fringes of society as well as concerns that we do not let mass hysteria contribute to future dark periods in our history.

(1) Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co, 1985.
(2) Roach, Marilynn K. Six Women of Salem: the untold story of the accused and their accusers in the Salem Witch Trials. Boston: DaCapo Press, c2013.
(3) Baker, Emerson W. A Storm of Witchcraft: the Salem trials and the American experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, c2015.
(4) "People Accused of Witchcraft in 1692", A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials. accessed http://www.17thc.us/primarysources.
(5) Roach, Marilynn K. The Salem Witch Trials: a day-to-day chronicle of a community under siege. Taylor Trade Publications, 2004.
(6) "Reversal of Attainder and Restitution Files 1710-1750", Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. http://salem.lib.virginia.edu.
(7) Martinez, Alanna. "Christie's Sells Rare Deposition From Salem Witch Trials for $137K", www.observer.com, posted 15 Jun 2017.
(8) "Site of Salem Witch Trial Hangings Discovered: Why It's Important to Genealogists", www.AncestralFindings.com.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Month 5


"Winner" from pixabay
Winner from pixabay

Sometimes you just end up amazed at what a positive change something has caused. That's the way I feel about my genealogy bullet journal after five months. And here are three reasons why.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Virtually all of my genealogy research is done solo. By myself. At my own pace. When I decide to do it. The simple act of writing down one or two weekly genealogy to-dos has helped me be more accountable to myself. It is one thing to think I might try to look for a new record, check out the validity of a shaking leaf, or search for a death date. I've found that writing it on a weekly to-do list has made me much more likely to do it and to do it in a timely manner. Amidst travel plans, family visits, and life, I have that visual reminder of what I am trying to do. It is written right there in my bullet journal.

PLANNING: On page three of my bullet journal is a list of five genealogy related goals I hope to accomplish in 2017. I wrote about having goals in my Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1 post. Two of them had been ideas that I just hadn't gotten around to for several years. Once again, seeing something written in my bullet journal has reminded me that this really is something I feel is important to do.

One of my 2017 goals was to study some documents housed at the Calvin M. McClung Collection of the Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was especially interested in looking at the  Parham Papers, a collection of documents, records, and notes by genealogist Will E Parham that documented many families who had been part of East Tennessee's history. I particularly wanted to view those papers related to my husband's Bogle family ancestors. In my bullet journal I had already recorded information about the collection as well as the library's address and hours.

In April we were near the Knoxville area so I let this become my time to finally see the Bogle folder of the Parham Papers. Seeing available time was something I had discovered and mentioned in a previous Bullet Journal post and now was the time to see those Bogle papers. It was a worthwhile two hour visit. I saw much that confirmed what I had already learned on my own. I was able to have photocopies made of new information. I even enjoyed reading Mr. Parham's letters to genealogy clients quoting rates for his services, even requesting approval of a $2-$2.50 cost for a hotel room in Nashville if the client wanted him to conduct additional research at the state capital in the 1930s. Had I not listed a visit to the McClung Collection in my 2017 goals, I would probably still be planning to do it someday, later, eventually, one of these days.



PROGRESS: Another goal for 2017 was to finally compile a small scrapbook of the stories associated with some family heirlooms. My bullet journal has proven to be a good place to record my progress on this project. I started with a burst of activity back in February, taking a lot of photos and looking over previous blog posts to see what I wanted to include in the scrapbook. I actually started putting the scrapbook together during one of those periods when I needed a break from research. Before long I had completed 20 pages in my Family Treasures And Tales scrapbook. This much was completed in time to share with our children and grandchildren during recent visits.

The scrapbook is still a work in progress. Notes in my bullet journal help me keep up with these additional things that I want to include in the scrapbook. Now I when see an item related to family history, perhaps a quilt on a bed or a 100-year old wooden planer sitting on a bookcase shelf and realize that its story needs to be included in the scrapbook, I make a note in my journal. My mother's collection of souvenir spoons hangs on the wall in my dining room, and my notes remind me that I need to polish those spoons, take pictures, and write a short story about some of them.



So, for me, my Genealogy Bullet Journal continues to have a special role in my genealogy research. It has made a difference to be more accountable to myself and to actually carry out plans that had previously just been rolling around in my thoughts. My journal isn't fancy or elaborately decorated. It is minimal in design, but it has helped to encourage me and has enabled me to be a better researcher and family historian. That makes my Genealogy Bullet Journal a winner for me.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amazing What You Find When You Do a Little Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning in the Vondelpark; source Wikimedia Commons.


Like so many, I have been anxiously awaiting the upcoming release of Family Tree Maker 2017. Having been a Beta tester for several library software products and revisions, I know that it can take time for all aspects of new or revised software to work consistently and in the intended manner so I don't mind waiting until FTM 2017 is 100% (or at least 99%) ready to go before my copy is ready to download.

I agree with Russ Worthington that the waiting period is a great time to do some neglected database clean-up. His post on 14 April 2017 presented a number of areas we can look into and steps we could each do to improve the quality of our database before we tried to sync it with an Ancestry tree. If you use Family Tree Maker, his post is definitely worth reading. A clean-up like Russ suggests is what I've been doing the last two weeks, and each day I am amazed at what I find in my personal clean-up.

My first round of clean-up involved looked at FTM sources that were not attached to anyone in my FTM tree. Probably 95% were for a source which, upon closer reading, turned out to not have information related to any one in my tree. These had come about because I have gotten into the habit of creating a new source when I find a record or other information that seemed, at first glance, to belong to someone in my family tree. Then, as I read the entire record or document, it was clear that the record involved someone who was not connected to my tree. Some of these sources remained like dead leaves on my tree as I tried to see if the information applied to someone else in the family; some remained because I just forgot to delete the source at the time. Now, after reading a lot of source records and following the web link in the citation, I was able to delete all that didn't belong in my tree. The great part was finding those few sources that did belong but somehow I had not actually connected them to the specific person. Who knows why, the phone rang, time to cook dinner, my phone buzzed that it was time to leave for an appointment. But now, all those previously unattached sources are either attached to someone or else have been deleted. I also have a new resolve to study a document more thoroughly before I consider it as a source for my tree, saving creating a source citation for when I know the source actually provides information about someone in my family tree.

Next I turned to looking at people in my database who had no source attached to them. Again, I was chagrined to realize that I had about 40 names attached to my family tree with no supporting documentation. Just a name, and that was all.

For example, in trying to find documentation (beyond personal knowledge) for the husband of a second cousin, Alice Northcutt Dean Felton. I stumbled upon a treasure trove of family information in Alice's obituary.(1) I had documentation of her death through an e-mail I had received, but this obituary found online from a small, local newspaper provided information about her husband, children, and something I had never heard before, that Alice had polio as a child. This one fact added another dimension to her rich, full, active life.

Another just-a-name-cousin became more real to me just be googling his name. I found information about his college years at Davidson College, an address for him from the 1960s through an alumni directory, and a record of his marriage to the previously named Joan xxx (my method for recording an unknown part of a name). The college information supported what I already knew about this first cousin once removed and where he had lived for many years, but now I had something besides a family directory from the 1970s that I had never bothered to cite as a source for him.

Other names without a source turned out to be very removed from my family tree. That included people people like George Glasscock, the brother-in-law of an 8th Great Uncle, and living in the 1600s. Looking at the information about my 8th Great Uncle, I could not find any connection to George (beyond that of being the brother of his wife), so George was among the names I decided to just delete from my family tree.

Then there are people like William Good, the husband of Sarah Solart (about whom I will be posting later). All I can find are the numerous statements in books that refer to William as the husband of Sarah, nothing more. I had early on added him as her spouse but never sourced it, hoping to easily find a record of their marriage. After several months, I staill have found nothing more that William Good's name, but at least I realized that I needed to document that it was recording in several books. After all his life was a large part of Sarah Solart's story.

The real thrill came as I tried to find a source for Weldon Perkinson, a 4 Great Uncle, the son of my 4 Great Grandfather David Perkinson. I had found sources to verify that David had a son William and a daughter Phoebe/Phebe, just no source to connect Weldon beyond having seen his name written somewhere, some time. There were a number of online trees that listed Weldon as the son of David, few with birth or death dates only Union County, South Carolina as his place of death, I knew I had to approach this from a different angle. David Perkinson's death was listed in many online trees as occurring about 1807 in Union County, South Carolina, so I spent an hour looking at unindexed probate records for Union County on FamilySearch.(2) Finally I find a link between David and Weldon. David had died intestate, so his son William was appointed by the Union County court as administrator of his father's estate on 17 Aug 1807. Pages later in the packet, the final payments from the estate were made to the Martha Perkinson (presumably a daughter), Weldon (presumably a son), Phoebe Perkinson Bevis, Polly Perkinson Dickens (presumably a daughter) and Elizabeth Perkinson (presumably a daughter), the amounts to each person being essentially the same amount as is frequently the case with children in an estate. This certainly started chipping away at a brick wall.

Lessons learned: All in all, my Spring cleaning has kept me busy while I wait for the actual release of Family Tree Maker 2017. During this time, I was able to find sources for several relatives, possibly poke a few holes in a Perkinson brick wall, and locate helpful information using online obituary and college sites. Plus I removed a few people about whom I found nothing. It also became clear that I need to tweek exactly when I create a source and attack it to an individual. Maybe I need to do Spring cleaning a little more frequently than every four or five years.

(1) "FELTON, Alice Dean", Tribune Ledger News, Canton, GA, 24 Jan, 2017; http://www.tribuneledgernews.com.
(2) South Carolina, Probate Records and Loose Papers, 1732-1964, Union, Probate Court, Probate records 1777-1961, Box 5, package 24, estate of David Parkinson/Perkinson; accessed www.familysearch.org.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of William Brooks Willingham, Walton County, Georgia

"Power of Words" b y Antonio Litterio,
via Wikimedia.org

Each will or probate record of an ancestor who owned slaved provides the opportunity to learn the names of enslaved individuals. This was definitely true when examining the records for William Brooks Willingham who died in 1838 in Walton County, Georgia.


William's will is not presented in the online records, but the probate records for his estate provide a great deal of information. The inventory of his estate recorded in September of 1838 listed 12 slaves.(1) The inventory was especially informative as it provided the name, sex, and age of each of Willingham's slaves. Records from the 1839 sale of these slaves provides information as to where they moved as the estate was settled.(2) The information provided in these two lists has been combined and is recorded below. These individuals were each listed in the 1838 estate inventory. There was one girl, however, a girl named Lucretia, aged 15 months, who was listed in the estate inventory but whose name did not appear in the 1839 sale. One possible reason might be that she was the unnamed one-year-old child who went to Mary Willingham. The ages given are those recorded in the 1839 sale.


  • Charles, a man age 45, to John T Pool
  • Mary, a woman age 35 and child age 6 months [not listed in the estate inventory], to Wm Lacky
  • Eliza, a girl age 4, to Wm Lacky
  • Henry, a boy age 3, to Charles Huff
  • Sarah, a woman age 36 and child 1 year of age, to Mary Willingham [wife of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Rose, a woman age 19 and child 2 months of age, to R S Willingham [son of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Allen, a boy age 2, to R S Willingham
  • Sanday, a girl age 15, to Jessee Moon [brother-in-law of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Ebeline, a girl age 3, to Jessee Moon
  • Sally, a girl age 5, to Louis S Moon, Jr
  • Sam, a boy sold by the Sheriff to Jessee Moon in October 1838

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

(1) Georgia, Will and Probate Records, 1742-1992, Walton County, Estate Papers, 1820-1915, image 1194 of 1295, estate of William Brooks Willingham; accessed on www.ancestry.com.
(2) Ibid, image 1207 of 1295; accessed on www.ancestry.com