Wayne's geocaching involves finding items hidden by others, often by solving a puzzle to get the clue. I have my own version: family history. There are plenty of puzzles to solve to reveal the clue and, in this case, the hidden items are new people and stories for the family tree. So while he spent a day traipsing around with the mosquitoes and ticks, I was buried in books in an air conditioned library. And this was the result:
That's roughly 250 pages of copies I made over the course of nine hours...a stack that's about 2" high on the unfolded side. And since some of those pages are 11"x17" (each holding two facing pages from a book), it's even more in terms in content. To say I found a lot would be an understatement but then I went prepared. I knew the books I wanted, knew the call numbers for them and all I had to do was locate my ancestor within the pages. Mary Francis Snider, my high school librarian, would be proud of how much I remembered of the Dewey Decimal System.
I'm happy to have documentation for names and dates I could discover online but never accept as truth without outside sources. But more than that, I love finding the stories that bring these people to life. Like the story of Thomas Kimball, my ninth great-grandfather, who was killed in an Indian raid on May 2, 1676. His wife Mary and their five children were taken captive and carried forty miles into the wilderness. Twice fires were lit to burn them at the stake before a friendly chief intervened and set them free some 41 days later.
Even more exciting, however, was the discovery of a relative convicted in the Salem Witch Trials. I've been fortunate to find a good number of ancestors who came to America in the 1600's, settling in the small towns of Massachusetts and while a connection to the witch trials was a possibility, it's exciting that it finally became a reality.
Rebecca Blake Eames, my ninth great-grandmother, was a resident of Boxford, Massachusetts, was among those assembled in Salem on August 19, 1692, at the execution of Rev. George Burroughs and four others convicted of witchcraft. A nearby woman claimed she felt a pinprick on her foot and accused Rebecca of bewitching her. In the hysteria of the day, she was immediately arrested and put on trial. She confessed, testifying that the devil had appeared to her as a colt and had persuaded her to follow him. She also testified that she had allowed her son Daniel to be baptized by the devil. She also confessed to afflicting Timothy Swan. Examined again on August 31, 1692 she repeated her earlier confession as well as also implicating the "Toothaker Widow" and Abigail Faulkner as fellow witches. Two weeks later, on September 15th, Mary Walcott, Mary Warren and Ann Putnam Jr. gave testimony that they, too, had been afflicted by Rebecca Eames. On September 17, 1692, Rebecca Eames, along with nine others were condemned to die. One aspect of her judgment described her as outspoken and unashamedly contemptuous of public authority, and a degree of impertinence not in keeping of her station. Four of the nine convicted with her were executed just five days later on September 22nd.
In October the tribunal which had conducted the Salem Witch Trials was dissolved and there were no more hangings. Shortly thereafter Rebecca recanted her confession, saying she had been "hurried out of her senses" by those around her who convinced her she would be hanged if she did not confess. Her husband, who had stood by her during this ordeal but suffered immense stress as a result, had died just months before and there was no one to take care of her seven children. In March 1693 she was released from prison and her civil rights were subsequently restored in 1711, along with 21 others accused during those times.
The story itself is fascinating...a personal connection to an era in our nation's history that demonstrates the dangers of mass hysteria, false accusations and lapses some of the foundations on which our country was built. Even more fascinating is the fact that the actual written records of these proceedings still exist. You can find these handwritten documents here, if you're interested, or read a typed verbatim transcript here. Those documents aren't part of the stack I showed at the beginning but I have other similar accounts of the events from a local history book or two.
All in all, my day of following clues and finding treasures was quite rewarding. I think getting all of this into my family tree software is going to keep me busy for a while.