FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Story Pages

I’ve talked about adding color to personal histories and family stories in earlier posts. Recently, I created a Story Page on Footnote about one of my ancestors, Susanna North Martin, who was hung as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.

The court documents related to her trial and eventual execution for the mythical crime are full of her own words. They also include both the imagined and false statements of her accusers and the unimaginable mindset of the local government at that time. Reading them gives us a unique insight into the social conditions that existed in Salem, Massachusetts over 300 years ago.

My wife and I have visited the spot where grandma, along with a number of other innocents, was hung. From our current day perspective, I was both saddened and angered as we walked around gallows hill thinking of that sad event.

However, without the accusations, subsequent trial and hanging, grandma Martin’s record would consist of little more than a name and associated dates and places in my database. Her story would have no ‘flesh’ on it… No ‘color’.

Have you been able to add ‘color’ to the life stories of your own ancestors? Start with those closest to you and then work back in time. The key to success is to ‘just do something’ or as the old Nike’ ad said, “Just Do It!

Begin at the beginning by writing your own life history. Then add photos, documents and related memorabilia associated with ‘your’ story. Next, write the stories of your parents lives. Remember to include some of those old family favorite stories that you heard while growing up. Add photos and other pieces of ‘color’ to bring your stories to life.

When we read grandma Martin’s Story Page on Footnote … complete with the transcripts associated with her arrest, trial and conviction, … it helps us understand her ‘world’ and society. The old stories become fact in our minds as we view the original pages and handwriting. ‘Color’ fills in between the rows of facts and engages our mind and imagination.

Her tale of legal woe begins with an arrest warrant. It lists her crime, accusers and officers of the court. Click here to read it.

Her story does have a semi-happy ending though. Grandma was pardoned by the legislature of the State of Massachusetts on 31 Oct 2001 …. 309 years after she was hung for being a ‘witch’.
Susanna Martin - Arrest Warrant - Accused of being a Witch - 1692 Salem, MA

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18 October 2007 - Posted by | Histories

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