Using DNA to solve a family mystery

DNA is, from a genealogical viewpoint, the “glue” or “proof” one needs in solving a real family mystery.

The photo at left is my maternal Grandpa – Henry Stevenson.  He was a foundling – that is, an infant who is found after its unknown parents have abandoned it.  He was born in California in 1905 and was, to my knowledge found somewhere in California and turned over to an orphanage.  He was, per records to hand, found within a day after his birth.

There are plenty of mysteries surrounding all the circumstances, but my Grandpa, who passed away in 1973, had always wanted to know who his birth parents were.  I grew up hearing all his many ideas of who they might be.  He was, at one point, the Captain of Police for the City of Inglewood in California in the 1940s.  According to him, he went to the orphanage where he had been and discovered that there had been a fire and no records for him existed as they had burnt up.

I did find the original court records, which were stored in the Huntington Library, for his adoption in 1906 and they listed his parents as unknown.  Date of birth unknown. No place of birth listed.  The couple who adopted him (Henry Harrison and Mary Stevenson) had had him living with them for some months prior to the final adoption.  I did find that Mary had been making donations to a local orphanage society and therefore was likely to have gotten Grandpa through that society.  This society collected abandoned children and found them homes.

Here is a portion of one page of his adoption proceedings which tells the tale:

Since I could find no clues there, my next step was DNA.  I got as many blood relatives that I could to take a DNA test.  Some for inclusion and some for exclusion.  My mother and her brother had passed away by this time.

The only DNA samples who would share for sure my Grandpa’s DNA were mine and my two brothers.  For exclusion purposes, I got my Dad’s DNA.  I also got cousins on my mother’s mother’s side – they could be used for exclusion as well.  Not a perfect system due to the randomness of how DNA is passed, but what I had to work with.

As Grandpa had had several ideas of who his parents could be, I checked into every one of them first.  Physically, they could have been possible, but there was no DNA matches to support any of these stories.  I discarded them one by one.  Without all the DNA samples I would have just never gone any further.

Then I started making lists of those who shared DNA with my siblings and I but who did not share DNA with my Dad’s side of the family or my Maternal Grandmother’s side of the family.  Next was comparing the trees of those who were likely blood relatives of my Grandpa to see where they connected using surnames.  From this, I started making test trees.

Fortunately, when using DNA in ancestry, you also get a quantitative amount which you can use to loosely predict the closeness of the match – e.g., 1st cousin, 3rd cousin, distant cousin, etc.  This gives you where to look in someone’s tree for a possible match and where to place that possible relative in your test tree.  Also having more than my own sample, I had more matches from my brothers as DNA is sometimes shared by one member and not others of the same family.  When using DNA to solve a family mystery, the more samples gotten, the better.

I have done these steps many times to help people find their birth parents and other relatives.  It helps greatly when you have live people to talk to.

Solving an old mystery where no one is alive to verify anything you find and where the story was likely covered up so many years ago, is a bit trickier.  This leaves you with DNA and digging through records to whittle down the possibilities.  You are helped greatly if you can find photos and old news articles.

If you are lucky, you will get DNA matches for 3rd cousins and closer.  I was lucky in that regard.  Not everyone posts a tree, makes their DNA easily accessible or is willing to help. However, when I explained that I was trying to solve the mystery for Grandpa, I got quite a bit of enthusiastic help.  After many, many, and I mean many, hours of research, and with the help of a fantastic Historical Society volunteer, I believe I solved the mystery.  I have also gained some new cousins, as well — all who are DNA matches and all helped with this.  DNA does not lie.  Family is family.

The story, as best as I can piece together was this:

William Schneckloth, a resident of Pomeroy, Washington, who was a Farmer, town Sheriff, fairly wealthy and who also owned race horses had recently had a betrayal by his wife of their marriage vows.  Oma Tidwell, a young woman who was a servant in his home, likely caring for his two young children, and he had an affair.  She got pregnant.   To cover up this scandal and to save Oma’s reputation, a young man named Henry Hitchcock, was paid to marry her.  As announced in the newspaper in Dec 1904, they went off to California for their wedding trip.   My Grandpa was born during this trip and left on a doorstep.  This is the article from that time.

My conclusion was reached after studying my DNA matches as well as the histories of all possible combinations of people involved.  Quite a bit of thought went into it.  Yes, it is possible that I have it wrong.  However, there are many pieces of information that helped me come to this conclusion.  So many that it would make this a booklet and not an article.

The above photo is of William Schneckloth on the left and my Grandpa as a boy on the right.  The resemblance is remarkable.  And here are two other eerie facts — my Grandpa grew up to be a Police Detective and then Captain of Police AND he then later worked at the Hollywood Park Race Track.  Definitely not traits passed on by DNA.

Like father, like son?

Do not be afraid to communicate!

One big lesson I learned in 1980, was to communicate.  I always ask myself first: “why not”? And I think of a 20/20 TV show from the Spring of 1980 which featured Frank Serpico.  He was in America and was risking his life, being here and speaking out.  I had admired him, his honesty and guts ever since I saw the movie about his story.  I wrote the TV station and asked them to forward my letter to him letting him know I admired him for what he did (and no, I did NOT have him confused with Al Pacino).

A week or so later, I got a phone call from a man saying, “Hello, this is Paco….”.  Now, THAT is another story for another time, but I had a very memorable day at a southern California beach and heard all about his sheepdog Alfie, who was still alive at that time.

Why am I bringing that up?  Lesson:  Communicate!  Nothing to lose.  Adventures await.

A little over two years ago, I was contacted by Maggie who lives in Northumberland, England asking me to help find a Danish sailor from World War II.  He had been stationed in Newcastle at that time.  Seems that this sailor, August Jensen, had fathered a son (born in 1945) with an English woman named Madge.

August had stayed in touch for a few years, but something happened where he stopped. Madge died not knowing what happened to him and the son grew up not even knowing what his father’s name was until he received a letter his mother wrote to be given to him upon her death.  She told him what little she knew. Unfortunately, when she died in 1996, the chances of finding August were remote.

Now….back to communication…..

In January 2014 I wrote an article on finding Danish ancestors as I had just finished a job and had learned a lot and wanted to share my knowledge.  In July 2014, a friend of Maggie’s who lives in Sweden told her about my article she saw on the Internet.  Maggie, thinking I was in Denmark, thought perhaps I could help solve the family mystery.  She was surprised to find I was an American, but nevertheless sent me every clue she had.  Some letters, a photo and bits of other things.  Not much.  Hmmmm, I DO love a challenge!

Now finding a Danish sailor, unknown date or city of birth, with such a common name as August Jensen from World War II appeared daunting.  In early 2015 I had August’s son and two of HIS adult children take DNA tests and I followed up every single possible lead.  Nothing found that I could connect the dots with.

A week ago, I went back over every clue I could find.  I started communicating.  I wrote to a woman named Kirsten in Denmark who had a World War II veteran named August Jensen in her family.  It turned out, it was not our August, but from one of the clues I sent her, she said to check into an August Jensen who was in another family.  She spent many hours helping me research in Danish records.  We found a family tree with that August in it.

I wrote to a Danish cousin (Martin) of the new August.  Funnily, enough, he currently lives near London, England.  However, he dug in and found more clues.  Yep, this was the correct family.  I now had a full name – August Ejner Jensen – AND birth date, birth place and his parents’ names!  AND there were definite DNA matches amongst this family with my Northumberland friends.  Now, I could connect those dots.  A family tree was formed.

Wow!!  On top of that, I found ANOTHER cousin in Denmark (Kjeld) who KNEW this August while he was growing up, and then, as Maggie said, “the flood gates opened”.  We now have a huge Danish family, lots of talking and picture exchanging, stories galore, and a happy sailor’s son who now knows who his father was and what happened.  There is closure and peace.  You can feel it.

No, not everything about this story is happy, but that is not the point.  This is an article to encourage open, honest and friendly communication.  It is about not giving up.  If you DO NOT take that chance and stick your neck out, you will never know.  All these things are important in my line of work and in life.

And, as I sit here at my desk in northern Nevada, I am satisfied that I have restored another family.  Nothing makes me happier….

Happy Holidays!


PS – And as you can see, from the photo above (while in Northumberland), Maggie and I became friends for life!

Celebration of Life — and one’s Heritage…

It is sad when a close friend or relative passes.  They are missed.  I was honored to have the opportunity to research the heritage of a person who recently passed.  I was able to create a nice tribute to give to family members as a way to help them remember.

This will, hopefully, give them some solace and give them an insight into her life and their own heritage.  — Lisa

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Wild West Ancestors

My Wild West Ancestors, the Richards.

Some of the Richards Ranch Cowboys.

One thing is for certain, in researching a family history, you are likely to find anything and everything you see in a movie. While flipping through TV channels the other day, I caught a few scenes from Pale Rider starring one of my all-time favorite actors, Clint Eastwood. This particular scene was the fact that some crooked men had cut off the creek supplying water to some other settlers and now this meant drastic action had to be taken. You just cannot sit back idly when your livelihood is being threatened. Hmmm, this is all too personally familiar…my families wild west ancestors story follows:

One of my great-great grandfathers, Ephraim West Richards was born in 1850. He was the fifth of thirteen children born to the rough and tumble and very successful Richards family in Texas. The Richards family had a large cattle ranch in Texas – but that story will be told at another time.

In around 1883, Ephraim traveled with his wife Hattie and their two children on a 450 mile trek from Coleman, Texas to near White Oaks, Lincoln County, New Mexico and started his own cattle ranch, reportedly called The Moon Ranch. Hattie gave birth to their third child there in November 1883.

It just so happens that Lincoln County was the same place Pat Garrett was elected Sheriff in Nov 1880, and the Lincoln County Court House was where Billy the Kid was being held and where he shot and killed his two guards in 1881 while escaping.

This was pretty wild territory at the time and the ranchers there fought over various things, one of them being water. According to the Albuquerque Journal of 16 August 1884:

Wild West Ancestors are intersting to find.

Ephraim West Richards

“DOUBLE MURDER – TWO RANCHMEN WAYLAID AND KILLED NEAR WHITE OAKS: Yesterday morning, while E. W. Richards, a prominent stockman of this county, living some ten miles east of here, and one of his employees, Henry Lackey, were going to Lackey’s ranch, some five or six miles south of Las Tablas. They were fired upon by George Dickey, James M. Bennett and Edward T. Bennett, lying in ambush. Richards was killed instantaneously and his horse shot in the head. Henry Lackey was shot in the bowels and lived several hours. Long enough to tell who his murderers were. Lackey’s horse was killed. Richards’ horse after being wounded, came to the ranch, some five or six miles distant and so brought the news that something was wrong. Henry Pringle immediately went in search of Richards and Lackey, and found the latter wounded, and immediately started for White Oaks for a physician, but Lackey died before his arrival. Dickey is said to have remarked to Lackey that he killed Richards. After the killing, the three assassins rode off saying they were going to Lincoln to surrender themselves: The affray occurred over some water location that Dickey had made, shutting the water off of Richards’ location below.”

Another article from the Lincoln County Leader, dated 23 August 1884 states:

“FEARFUL KILLING – TWO SOULS SENT HENCE WITHOUT WARNING: On Friday afternoon of last week, after the Leader had gone to press, a courier rode into town after Dr. Lane, and reported that 32 miles East from White Oaks, and 4 or 5 miles up the Capitan mountain side from Las Tablas, two well-known men named E. W. Richards and Henry Lackey, had been waylaid and killed. Of course excitement surged high, and suspense attending the receipt of particulars was painful to those acquainted with the victims. The report proved but too true. Richards and Lackey had ridden out, doubtless, apprehending no harm, and while Richards was sent without notice to meet his maker, Lackey lingered only about an hour, but sufficient to tell who ambushed them and the manner of killing. The assassins were George Dickey and James and Thomas Bennett. After the killing, the men named went to Lincoln, where they gave themselves up to the authorities and were brought back to the scene of the unfortunate event, where an examination was had before Esquire Aguayo of Lincoln.

“The witnesses for the Territory were – Paxson, – Green, Josh Cummings, George Pringle, – McBride and others. Those for the defense were George Dickey, Thomas and James Bennett, Melvin Richardson and John Hurley.

“The witnesses for the prosecution testified that at the time of the killing they were employed by Richards to build a house on the spring located by Henry Lackey, and upon which was a cabin occupied by Richards’ men while building said house. That on Friday morning about 8 or 9 o’clock Richards rode up with McBride, where they were at work. Henry Lackey told Richards that the water had been partly cut off that morning. Cummings remarked that the steers broke through where he had been hauling logs, and perhaps choked off the water. Richards told Lackey to mount his horse and together they would ride over to see what was the matter, which the proceeded to do. A short time after they left firing was heard, but the men supposed R. and L. were shooting game, but within half an hour Richards’ horse was seen unmounted and was discovered to be wounded, which excited suspicion that something was wrong, and the men started up the cañon. A mile and a half up they found Lackey’s horse dead in the neighborhood of a cabin owned by Tom Bennett situated on his ranch, when they heard Lackey’s groan and 30 steps distant they found him, and asked him who did the shooting? Lackey replied: ‘George Dickey, Thomas and James Bennett.’ ‘Where is Richards?’ was the next question. Lackey replied, ‘He is killed.’ ‘Where is he?’ ‘Right over there,’ but was not able to point the direction. ‘Who shot you?’ ‘The Bennett Boys; they waylaid and killed us.’

“DEFENSE – George Dickey said that the Bennetts and himself went up to Tom Bennett’s ranch Thursday evening and worked until night – that on Friday morning about 8 or 9 o’clock, after re-staking their horses for fresh grass, they were returning to their camp and heard firing down the canon, as the supposed about the cabin, and about the time they got to their camp Richards hove in sight, on horseback, with gun presented at him. He, Dickey, instantly fired both barrels of his shot gun at him, and R. returning the fire, one shot wounding the skin between the thumb and for finger, producing some numbness of his hand. The Bennett Brothers, armed with Winchester rifles, fired almost simultaneously at Richards and Lackey. After they had fired the second shot Lackey shouted: ‘O, boys, don’t shoot any more.’ Dickey and one of the Bennett boys went to him and found him lying down with cocked revolver in his hand, which he, Dickey, took from him, let down the hammer, and put it in Lackey’s holster, Lackey exclaiming, ‘Boys, we did wrong. We came here to jump ranches. Boys we’ve done wrong. For God sake do something for me or let me die.’ They then moved him close up to their camp, and were proceeding to take him to his camp, but he turned so sick when they raised him up that he said: ‘Lay me down, boys.’ They placed him on a pallet made of a pair of Tom Bennett’s blankets, and then went to within sight and hearing of where Richards’ men were building his house, but could see or hear no one at work. They went to a Mexican’s, near Tablas, but could not prevail on the Mexicans to go up to the woods, as they were afraid of Richards, he having threatened to kill anybody who came to the water and timber where his hands were at work. They then went home and immediately proceeded to Lincoln and surrendered.

“Both Bennetts testified to the same effect, except that Richards had before warned them that he didn’t want to kill them, but if they didn’t give him a wide berth he would do so – that he was going to jump Mell Richardson’s ranch at the troughs as he didn’t believe he was holding it lawfully.

“Melvin Richardson testified that he heard a conversation, during court week, about a year ago, between George Dickey and Richards, in which Dickey stated to Richards: ‘Richards I don’t want to kill you, but I don’t want any more of your shot gun practices about me.’ Richards replied: ‘You, or I, one have got to bite the dust.’

“John Hurley testified to the same conversation, which was affirmed by Dickey. This had reference to Richards driving Dickey with a shot gun from jumping one of his, R’s, middle ranches over a year ago.

“Richards was killed instantly, his body being perforated by 12 buckshot, which entered his right shoulder and breast, George Dickey firing the weapon. His right arm was also broken.

“Lackey was hit by a rifle ball from a Winchester rifle, the ball penetrating the left side of his abdomen between the navel and edge of hip bone, and lodging in the body. He lived half an hour after being discovered. Lackey’s horse was killed by Winchester and shot guns, and found 30 yards from where Lackey lay.

“Seventeen steps from where Richards fell was an ambush with evident traces of a man’s footsteps behind it, and the tops of the brush, 3 feet high, bore evidence that they had been shot off by shot. Thirty-two steps southerly from Richards was found another ambush, with foot-marks behind of two persons, as reported by Sheriff Poe, Dr. Lane and other witnesses. A rifle ball was lodged in a tree from the direction of the two men in ambush. Richards’ horse was wounded on the right side of the forehead by buck shot. A rifle ball, evidently fired at the horse, lodged in an intervening tree. Lacky was found within a few steps of Dickey and Bennett’s camp, and Richards about 50 yards east from the camp.

“The justice held the prisoners to answer before a Grand Jury in bonds of $1,000 each, which bonds were at once given and the prisoners went at large.

‘Richards was 33 years and 1 day old, and Lackey was aged about 20. Richards leaves a widow and 3 children, the oldest about 5 years old, and the youngest at the breast. Lackey was unmarried.

“The prisoners are all young men ranging in years among the 20’s and 30’s.”

There is another article from that time, going into more or less similar accounts of what happened. The bottom line here is that all three of the men who ambushed and killed my great-great grandfather and Henry Lackey were acquitted of their crime.

Now….you may think that is the end of the story, but it is not.

Wild West Ancestors leave descendants.

Lisa and cousin Mike Crisp

After about a year, Hattie got re-married the Ranch Foreman, John William Crisp and they had two sons. They ended up moving to southern California. I recently met their descendant – my ½ second cousin and we swapped stories.

Secondly, there is another story floating around in the Richards family from those cousins who are still living in Texas. The story goes like this: That two of Ephraim’s brothers, Tom and Bill, hearing that their brother had been murdered, went to Lincoln County and purchased back some of his horses and other things from his estate. Not much else was mentioned by them, except that it has been passed down through the generations that when Tom and Bill got back to Texas, there was some statement to the effect that “there was no SOB in New Mexico alive that killed any Richards.”

I looked into this last statement and found an article that one of the Bennett brothers went out one night, as he thought he heard some rustlers, and he was murdered. The murder was never solved.

Salem Witch Hunts Convict Grandmother

Salem witch hunts occured in late 1600's

Salem witch trial.

In researching family history, you often run into very interesting stories that give you a glimpse into the lives of people in the past. Such is the case with a recent family history search. I discovered one of my clients great grandmothers was convicted during the Salem witch hunts in Salem Massachusetts and was hanged. Her name was Rebecca Nurse. It turns out that 14 years later one of her main accusers apologized for wrongly accusing her of being a witch. The incredible story of Rebecca Nurse goes like this:

She was born on 21 Feb 1621, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. The daughter of William and Joanna Towne (née Blessing). Her family settled in Salem Village, (which is now known as Danvers, Massachusetts) in 1640. She had three sisters – Susan, Mary, and Sarah, and three brothers – Edmund, Jacob, and Joseph.

Around 1644, she married Francis Nurse who was also born in England. Francis was a “tray maker” by trade, who probably made many other wooden household items. Due to the rarity of such household goods, artisans with those skills were esteemed. Rebecca and her family lived on a vast homestead which was part of a 300-acre grant given to a man named Townsend Bishop in 1636. Francis originally rented it and then gradually paid it off throughout his lifetime.

Together, the couple bore eight children: four daughters and four sons. Their names were Rebecca, Sarah, John, Samuel, Mary, Elizabeth, Francis and Benjamin.

Rebecca frequently attended church and her family was well respected in the Salem Village. Francis was often asked to be an unofficial judge to help settle matters around the village. In 1672, Francis served as Salem’s Constable. It was later written that Rebecca had “acquired a reputation for exemplary piety that was virtually unchallenged in the community,” making her one of the most “unlikely” persons to be accused of witchcraft.

However, she was brought to trial as a witch and was hung by the neck until dead on 19 Jul 1692. Her sisters Mary and Sarah were also accused of witchcraft, with Mary found guilty and executed.

The story of how she went from being an outstanding member of the community to being convicted of being a witch during the Salem witch hunts and executed is quite incredible. Below is some of the information and for those interested, I have included the transcript of the trial below this data. The trial is written in the language of the time period and some of the spellings and statements are hard to follow, but it’s very interesting reading.

Salem Witch Hunts data and the trial

Salem witch hunts picture

Rebecca Nurse at her trial.

The Nurse family had been involved in a number of bitter land disputes with the Putnam family during their time in Salem. On March 23, 1692, a warrant was issued for Rebecca’s arrest based upon accusations made by Edward and John Putnam. Upon hearing of the accusations the frail 71-year-old Rebecca, often described as an invalid, said, “I am innocent as the child unborn, but surely, what sin hath God found out in me unrepented of, that He should lay such an affliction on me in my old age.”

There was a public outcry over the accusations made against her, as she was considered to be of very pious character. Thirty-nine of the most prominent members of the community signed a petition on Rebecca’s behalf. At age 71, she was one of the oldest accused of witchcraft. Her ordeal is often credited as the impetus for a shift in the town’s opinion about the purpose of the witch trials.

Her trial began on June 30, 1692. In accordance with the procedures at the time, Mrs. Nurse, like others accused during the Salem witch hunts, represented herself since she was not allowed to have a lawyer represent her. Due to the respect others in the community had for her, many members of the community testified on her behalf including her family members.

One of her main accusers was Ann Putnam Jr., who was 12 years old at the time. She, along with three of her friends, Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris had recently been behaving strangely – babbling, convulsing and staring blankly. They testified against Rebecca claiming that she was the cause of their afflictions. Ann’s mother and father also said they were afflicted, as did others of the Putnam family. They claimed they would break into fits and that Rebecca Nurse was tormenting them. Such so-called “spectral evidence” was allowed into the trial to show that Satan was afflicting others in the community at the behest of the accused. In response to their outbursts Rebecca stated, “I have got nobody to look to but God.” Many other supposedly afflicted girls were hesitant to step up and accuse Rebecca.

In the end, the jury ruled Rebecca Nurse was not guilty. However, due to public outcry and renewed fits and spasms by the girls, the jury asked the magistrate that the verdict be reconsidered. The jury changed their verdict, sentencing Rebecca Nurse to death on July 19, 1692.

Many people labeled Rebecca “the woman of self-dignity”, due to her dignified behavior on the gallows. As was the custom, after Rebecca Nurse was hanged, her body was buried in a shallow grave near the gallows along with other convicted witches, who were considered unfit for a Christian burial. Rebecca’s family secretly returned after dark and dug up her body, which they interred properly on their family homestead.

Salem witch hunts monumentOne of her accusers, Ann Putnam Jr., accused many others during the time that this witch hunt hysteria went on in Salem. She ended up personally accusing 62 people of witchcraft. Her parents Thomas and Ann Putnam also accused several dozen people as well, many of whom were enemies of the influential Putnam family. In all, over the period of almost 1.5 years that this witch hunt went on, more than 150 people were jailed for being witches. Of these, 19 people refused to confess, were convicted and hanged, 4 died while in prison and one was crushed to death for refusing to make a plea.

Ann Jr, however, did something that no one else involved with this did. She publicly apologized 14 years later for wrongfully accusing people of witchcraft. Her apology read thus:
“I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father’s family in the year of 1692; that I, then being in my childhood, should by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several persons of a grievous crime, whereby their lives were taken away from them, whom now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear that I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood… .

In 1711, the government compensated the Nurse family for Rebecca’s wrongful death. The Nurse family homestead fell into the hands of a Putnam family descendant, Phineas Putnam in 1784. The Putnam family maintained control of the property until 1908. Today, it is a tourist attraction that includes the original house and cemetery, on 27 of the original 300 acres.


Nurse Homestead


In July 1885, her descendants erected a tall granite memorial over her grave in what is now called the Rebecca Nurse Homestead Cemetery in Danvers (formerly Salem Village), Massachusetts.


Nurse's Salem witch hunts monument

Rebecca Nurse Monument


In 1892 a second monument was erected nearby recognizing the 40 neighbors, led by Israel and Elizabeth (Hathorne) Porter, who took the risk of publicly supporting Nurse by signing a petition to the court in 1692. One signer was General Israel Putnam’s father.

That is pretty much the end of my data on the Salem witch hunts.  Much more information can be obtained if you search the internet. One good site is here: Salem Witch Trials.  There quite a lot of information if you are interested.

There is some other interesting information that has come to light about what could possibly have caused the “afflictions” the people of Salem were experiencing. Modern day forensic professionals have determined that the grain produced at the time in these areas contained a toxin producing chemical when it was ingested. This chemical was very similar to LSD and it would have caused hallucinations and other actions that would have lead people to believe they had been be-witched. These people were not the victims of witches, but were merely poisoned by their own bread or foods made from that particular grain or rye. Pretty wild, eh?
Here is the transcript of the trial of Rebecca Nurse. Check it out – it is quite interesting.

The Trial
(Examination of Rebecca Nurse)

Mr. Harthorn. What do you say (speaking to one afflicted) have you seen this Woman hurt you?

Yes, she beat me this morning.

Abigail. Have you been hurt by this Woman?


Ann Putman in a grievous fit cryed out that she hurt her.

Goody Nurse, here are two Ann Putman the child & Abigail Williams complains of your hurting them. What do you say to it?

Nurse: I can say before my Eternal father I am innocent, & God will clear my innocency.

Here is never a one in the Assembly but desires it, but if you be guilty pray God discover you.

Then Hen: Kenny rose up to speak

Goodm: Kenny what do you say

Then he entered his complaint & farther said that since this Nurse came into the house he was seizd twise with an amaz’d condition.

Here are not only these but, here is the wife of Mr. Thos Putman who accuseth you by credible information & that both of tempting her to iniquity, & of greatly hurting her.

Nurse: I am innocent & clear & have not been able to get out of doors these 8. Or 9. Dayses.

Mr Putman: give in what you have to say

Then Mr Edward Putman gave in his relate

Is this true Goody Nurse?

Nurse: I never afflicted no child never in my life.

You see these accuse you, is it true?

Nurse: No.

Are you an innocent person relating to this Witchcraft.

Here Thos Putmans wife cryed out, “Did you not bring the Black man with you, did you not bid me tempt God & dye How oft have you eat and drunk y’r own damaon What do you say to them Oh Lord help me, & spread out her hands, & the afflicted were greviously vexed

Do you not see what a solemn condition these are in? When your hands are loose the persons are afflicted.

Then Mary Walcot (who often heretofore said she had seen her, but never could say or did say that she either bit or pincht her, or hurt her) & also Eliz Hubbard under the like circumstances both openly accused her of hurting them
Here are these 2 grown persons now accuse you, w’t say you? Do not you see these afflicted persons, & hear them accuse you.

Nurse: The Lord knows I have not hurt them: I am an innocent person.

It is very awfull to all to see these agonies & you an old Professor thus charged with contracting with the Devil by the [a] effects of it & yet to see you stand with dry eyes when thee are so many whet—

Nurse: You do not know my heart.

You would do well if you are guilty to confess & give Glory to God

Nurse: I am as clear as the child unborn.

What uncertainty there may be in apparitions I know not, yet this with me strieks hard upon you that you are at this very present charged with familiar spirits: this is your bodily person they speak to: they say now they see these familiar spirits com to your bodily #[spirits com to your bodily] person, now what do you say to that

Nurse: I have none Sir.

If you have confess & give glory to God I pray God clar you if you be innocent, & if you are guilty discover you And therefore give me an upright answer: have you any familiarity with these spirits?

Nurse: No, I have none but with God alone.

How came you sick for there is an odd discourse of that in the mouths of many—

Nurse: I am sick at my stomach—

Have you no wounds

Nurse: I have none but old age.

You do Know whither you are guilty, & have familiarity with the Devil, & now when you are here present to see such a thing as these testify a black man whispering in your ear, & birds about you what do you say to it

Nurse: It is all false I am clear.

Possibly you may apprehend you are no witch, but have you not been led aside by temptations that way

Nurse: I have not.

What a sad thing it is that a church member here & now an other of Salem, should be thus accused and charged
Mrs Pope fell into a grevious fit, & cryed out a sad thing sure enough: And then many more fell into lamentable fits.

Tell us have not you had visible appearances more than what is common in nature?

Nurse: I have none nor never had in my life.

Do you think these suffer voluntary or involtary

Nurse: I cannot tell.

That is strange everyone can judge

Nurse: I must be silent.

They accuse you of hurting them, & if you think it is not unwillingly but by designe, you must

Nurse: I cannot tell what to think of it.

Afterwards when this was som what insisted on she said I do not think so: she did not understand aright what was said
Well then give an answer now, od you think these suffer against their wills or not

Nurse: I do not think these suffer against their wills.

Why did you never visit these afflicted persons

Nurse: Because I was afraid I should have fits too.

Note: Upon the motion of her bots fitts followed upon the complainants abundantly & very frequently
Is it not an unaccountable case that when you are examined these persons are afflicted?

Nurse: I have got no body to look to but God.

Again upon stirring her hands the afflicted persons were seized with violent fits of torture
Do you believe these afflicted persons are bewitcht

Nurse: I do think they are.

When this Witchcraft came upon the stage there was no suspicion of Tituba (Mr. Paris’s Indian Woman) she profest much love to that child Betty Paris, but it was her apparition did the mischief, & why should not you also be guilty, for your apparition doth hurt also.

Nurse: Would you have me bely myself—

She held her Neck on one side, & accordingly so were the afflicted taken

Then Authority requiring it Sam: Paris read what he had in characters taken from Mr. Thos Putman’s wife in her fitts
What do you think of this?

Nurse: I cannot help it, the Devil may appear in my shape.

This a true account of the sume of her examination but by reason of geat noyses by the afflicted & many speakers, many things are pretermitted

Nurse held her neck on one side & Eliz Hubbard (one of the sufferers) had her neck set in that posture whereupon another Patient Abigail Williams cryed out set up Goody Nurses head the maid’s neck will be broke & when some set up Nurses head Aaron Wey observed that Betty Hubbards was immediately righted

Salem Village March. 24’th 1692

The Rever’t Mr. Samuell Parris being desired to take in wrighting the Examination of Rebekah Nurse hath Returned itt as aforesaid

Upon heareing the afores’d and seeing what wee then did see together with the Charge of the persons then present—wee Committed Rebekah Nurse the wife of Francis Nurse of Salem village unto theire Majest’s Goale in Salem as pa Mittimus then given out, in order to farther Examination

John Hathorne }
} Assists
Jonathan. Corwin}

(Petition for Rebecca Nurse)

We whose names Are hearunto subscribed being desired by goodman Nurse to declare what we knewe concerning his wives conversation for time past: we cane testfie to all whom it may concerne that we have knowne her for: many years and According to our observation her: Life and conversation was According to her profession and we never had Any: cause or grounds to suspect her of any such thing as she is now Acused of

Israel Porter, Daniell Andrew, Elizibeth Porter, Sara Andrew, Edward Beshep Aen, Jonathan Putnam, Hana Beshep, Lydia Putnam, Joshua Rea, Walter Phillipps Senior, Sara Rea, Nathaniel Felton Sen, Sarah Leach, Margaret Philips, John Putnam Sen., Taitha Phillipps, Rabeckh Putnam, Joseph Houlton Junior, Joseph Hucheson Sen, Sam’ll Endecott, Leda Hucheson, Elizabeth buxston, Joseph holten sen, Samuel aborn senr, Sarah holten, Isaack Cooke, Benjaman Putnam, Elisabeth Cooke, Sarah Putnam, William Osborne, Job Swinerton, Hanah Osborne, Ester Swinerton, Daniell Rea, Joseph Herrick Sen, Sarah Putnam, Samuell Sibley, Joseph Putman, Hephzibah Rea

(Nathaniel Putnam, Sr. for Rebecca Nurse)

Nathaniell Putnem Senior being desired [TORN] by francis nurse sen’or to give & informa[TORN] of what i could say concerning his wifeS [TORN] and conversation: if the above sayd [TORN] known this sayd above sayd woman fou [TORN] years & what i have observed of her human [TORN] frailtye excepted: her life and conversation hath [TORN] been acording to her profession: & she hath [TORN] brought up a great family of children & educated [TORN] well soe that there is in some of them apparent s’ [TORN] of godliness: i have known her differ with her neig [TORN] but i never knew nor heard of any that did accus [TORN] of what she is now charged with

(Israel Porter, Elizabeth Porter, Daniel Andrew and Peter Cloyce for Rebecca Nurse)

We whos nams Are under written being desiered to goe to goodman nurs his house to speeke with his wife and to tell her that several of the Aflicted persons mentioned her: and Accordingly we went and we found her in A weak and Lowe condition in body as shee told us and had been sicke allmost A weak and we asked how it was otherwis with her and shee said shee blest god for it shee had more of his presents in this sickness then sometime shee have had but not soe much as shee desiered: but shee would with the Apostle pres forward to the mark: and many other places of scriptur to the Like purpos: and then of her owne Acord shee began to speek of the Affliction that was Amongst them and in perticuler of Mr Parris his family and how shee was greved for them though shee had not been to see them: by Reason of fits that shee formerly use to have for people said it was Awfull to:behold: but shee pittied them with: all her harte: and went to god for them: but shee said shee heard that there was persons spoke of that wear as Innocent as shee was shee believed and After much to this purpos: we told her we heard that shee was spoken of allsoe: well she said if it be soe the will of the Lord be done: she sate still awhille being as it wear Amazed: and then shee said well as to this thing I am as innocent as the child unborne but seurly shee said what sine hath god found out in me unrepented of that he should Lay such an Affliction upon me In my old Age: and Acording to our best observation we could not decern that shee knewe what we came for before we tould her

(Israel porter, Elizabeth porter)

To the substance of what is Above we if caled there too: are ready to testifie on: oath Daniell Andrew Peter Cloys

(John Putnam, Sr. and Rebecca Putnam for Rebecca Nurse)

the testimony of John Putnam and Rebecke his wife saith that our son in law John Fuller: and our daughter Rebecke Shepard did both of them by #[a most] (a most violent death and did acting vere strangly at the time of ther death) farder saith that wee did Judg then that thay both diead of a malignant fever and has no suspiction of wichcraft of aney nether Can wee acues the prisner at the bar of any such thing

(Sarah Holton v. Rebecca Nurse)

The Deposition of [Sara Holton] Reluque of Benjamine Holton Deceased who testifieth and saith that about this time three years my deare and loveing usband Benjamine Holton Deceased: was as well as ever I knew him in my life: tell one saterday morning Rebekah Nurs who now stands charged for wicthcraft. came to our house and fell a railing at him because our piggs gott into hir field: tho our piggs were sufficiently yoaked and their fence was down in severall places: yett all we could say to hir could no ways passifie hir: but she continewed Railing and scolding agrat while together calling to hir son Benj. Nurs to goe and git a gun and kill our piggs and lett non of them goe out of the field: tho my poor Husband gave hir never amissbeholding word: and within ashort time affter this my poor Husband goeing out very early in the morning: as he was a coming. in againe he was taken with a strainge fitt in the entery being struck blind and stricken down two or three times so that when he came to himself he tould me he thought he should never have com into the house any more: and all summer affter he continewed in a languishing condition being much pained at his stomack and often struck blind: but about a fortnight before he dyed he was taken with strange and violent fitts acting much like out poor bewicthed parsons when we thought they would have dyed and the Doctor. that was with him could not find what his distemper was: and the day before he dyed he was very chearly but about midnight he was againe most violently sezed upon with violent fitts tell the next night about midnight he departed this life by a cruel death Jurat in Curia (Reverse) Sarah Holton

(Ann Putnam, Sr. v. Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, Bridget Bisho, and Elizabeth Cary)

The Deposition of Ann Putnam the wife of Thomas Putnam who testifieth and saith that on the first day of June 1692. the Apperishtion of Rebekah Nurse did again fall upon me and almost choak me and she toald me that now she was come out of prision she had power to afflet me and that now she could for she tould me she had kiled benjamine Holton and John fuller and Rebekah Shepard: and she also toald me that she and her sister Cloyes and Ed: Bishop wife of Salem village had kiled young Jno putnams Child because yong Jno putnam had said that it was no wonder they were witches for their mother was so before them and because they could not aveng themselves on him they did kill his child: and immediatly they did appere to me: six children in winding sheets which caled me aunt: which did most greviously affright me: and they tould me that they ware my sisters Bakers children of Boston and that gooddy Nurs and Mistris Cary of Charletown and an old deaft woman att Boston had murthered them: and charged me to go and tell these things to the magestrats or elce they would tare me to peaces for their own blood did crie for vengance also their Appeared to me my own sister Bayley and three of hir children in winding sheets and tould me that gooddy Nurs had urthered them

(Rebecca Nurse Petition to the Court)

To the Honour’d Court of Oyer and Terminer now sitting In Salem this 28 of June An’o 1692 The humble petission of Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village humbley Sheweth That whareas sum Women did sarch your Petissioner At salem, as I did then conceive for Sum Supernaturall Marke, and then one of the s’d women which is known to be, the Moaste Ancient Skillfull prudent person of them all as to Any such Concerned: Did Express hirselfe to be: of A contrary opinion from the Rest And Did them Declare, that shee saw nothing In or Aboute yo’r Honors poare pettissioner but what Might Arise fron A naturall Cause: And I then Rendered the said persons asuficient knowne Reason as to My selfe of the Moveing Cause thereof: which was by Exceeding weakness: decending partly from an overture of Nature and difficult Exigences that hath befallen me In the times of my Travells: And therefore Yo’r pettissioner Humbley prays That you Honours would be pleased to Admitt of sum other women to Enquire Into this Great: Concerne, those that are Moast Grand wise and Skillful: Namely Ms: Higginson sen’r Ms Buckstone: Ms: Woodbery two of them being Midwives: Ms: Porter together with such others, as may be choasen, on that Account: Before I am Brought to my triall: All which I hoape yo’r Honours: will take Into yo’r prudent Consideration, And findit requisute soe to doe: for my Lyfe Lyes Now In yo’r Hands under God: And being Conscious of My owne Innocency – I Humbley Begg that I may have Liberty to Manifest it to the wourld partly by the Meanes Abovesaid. And yo’r Poare pettissioner shall Evermore pray as In duty Bound &c//

Rebecca Nurse
hir marke

(Declaration by Thomas Fisk, Juryman)

July 4, 1692. I Thomas Fisk, the Subscriber hereof, being one of them that were of the Jury the last week at Salem-Court, upon the Tryal of Rebecka Nurse, etc., being desired by some of the Relations why the Jury brought her in Guilty, after her Verdict not Guilty; I do hereby give my reasons to be as follows, viz. When the Verdict not Guilty was, the honoured Court was pleased to object against it, saying to them, that they think they let slip the words, which the Prisioner at the Bar spake against her self which were spoken in reply to Goodwife Hobbs and her Daughter, who had been faulty in setting their hands to the Devils Book, as they have confessed formerly; the words were “what, do these persons give in Evidence against me now, they used to come against us.” After the honoured Court had manifested their dissatisfaction of the Verdict, several of the Jury declared themselves desirous to go out again, and thereupon the hounored Court gave leave; but when we came to consider the Case, I could not tell how to take her words, as evidence against her, till she had a further opportunity to put her Sense upon them, if she would take it; and then going into Court, I mentioned the aforesaid, which by one of the Court were affirmed to have been spoken by her, she being then at the Bar, but ade no reply, nor interpretation of them; whereupon these words were to me principal Evidence against her.

Thomas Fisk.

There you have it.  Some of the stories you run into doing family history research are amazing, and that is what keeps me going.

Uniting families turns up an amazing story

I get great joy out of uniting families in my genealogical research.  The trail of research is sometimes unbelievable in the way that things come together.  I’m going to give you a brief run down of recent research I did that connected two half-sisters.  They didn’t even  know the other one existed before this.  One lives in northern Nevada and the other lives in Western Australia – and how they’re sisters and how I found them goes like this:

I was hired by a women here in Nevada to help her find her family.  She had never known her father and wanted to find out any information about him.  In searching the internet, I stumbled upon a posting on an ancestry message board from 2001.  It asked if anyone had any information about an Orville Bane.  This was the name of my client’s father, so I wrote back to the email address at this post.  I wasn’t sure if the  email was still valid – as it had been 13 years since the post.  I was pleasantly surprised when Sandra Smith from Queensland, Australia answered my email right way.  All those long years ago, she had been trying to help another lady whose father was Orville Bane.  We exchanged information about our clients back and forth, as well as what we knew of their possible common father.  In comparing the one and only photo we have of Orville Bane, it is clear they are related.  From everything we now know, we are convinced that they are half-sisters.  We are looking for more records to show actual proof and may even end up using DNA to confirm.  In the meantime, both of these women are very happy to have found each other.

sandra loves uniting familiesIt turns out the woman I originally contacted in Australia, Sandra Smith, has an amazing story of her own. She spent years searching for information about her birth-father, an American soldier stationed in Australia during World War II.  Through an incredible string of events, she finally found what happened to him.  The whole story of this amazing search and its conclusion can be found here.  It is an incredible tale, so check it out.

Sandra dedicates herself to helping others and uniting families and she is truly an incredible and caring individual.  I am honored to call her my friend.

Lisa Hamilton

Uniting families by finding Sandra father

Sandra’s father Joseph Thompson

Funerals are often uniting families

Joseph Thompson going to his final resting place

“A Taste of Family History” – Holiday Special

Holiday_gift_picIn celebration of this holiday season, which to my mind is a season that should bring families closer together, I am offering a “Taste of Family History” holiday special from now until the end of 2014.

This is my holiday gift so that you can give yourself, or someone you know, a taste of genealogy at a very affordable price. The special is 2 hours of genealogy research for $50.00.  You never know what I might dig up in 2 hours!

I love introducing people to their family ancestry.  I often find that once people get a taste of their family history, they get great joy out of finding out about their roots and the interesting stories that are there to be discovered.

You or the person you give this gift to, will receive any and all documents found in the 2 hours of research on a CD as well as a copy of the started family tree. It’s a unique gift of family for the holiday season.

Click on the RESEARCH PACKAGES tab in the menu above to purchase, or contact me via the WRITE ME tab in the above menu for more information.

Expansion at Personal Pedigree

Personal Pedigree personelIn the interest of improving the quality of service to my clients (and also because I sort of like him and like working with him) my husband is officially joining the Personal Pedigree team.

Mark, or as I call him, “Hamilton”, has been working behind the scenes for some time. He is the one who designed and set-up my website in the first place and has been maintaining it over the years.  He has contributed with ideas and postings and such – but he now is full-time taking over all administrative functions so I can concentrate on research.

This is very needed as there is a strong, grass-roots movement in society to build strong family ties, which means I have been having a heck of a time keeping up with all my research.  And what better way to build strong family ties than to discover your roots? Read More…

Family of 96-year-old father united for first time

Persistence does pay off in finding a “lost” relative. Unless there are just no records whatsoever, you can always find a family member.


Betty Family (2)


The recent and happy story goes like this (real names not given): Get the whole story here…

Gifts for those interested in their family heritage

I am letting you know about an interesting website which offers unique and fun items for those interested in their family ancestry or family heritage.

There are many different gifts you can get for someone interested in their family history.

John Lehman will help you get your family blazon researched and put on a mug, laptop cover, shirt, mouse pad, towels, etc. He says that even if you don’t have a blazon for your family, but would like to make your own unique one, he will help you design one appropriate for your needs. He has a heraldrist working with him, so you will get something authentic. Read More…