For quite a few people, discovering their heritage and history comes later in life. School, career, and raising children will often take precedence over the time and resources necessary to pour over genealogy charts, family bibles or even old photographs. Our extended families becomes scattered geographically and generations tend to live apart. Older relatives, repositories of a wealth of details of life gone by, pass away, and when the storyteller is gone, often, too, is their story.
I was incredibly fortunate then that my grandparents gave to me at an early age family stories about Martha Carrier, my grandmother back nine generations and one of the nineteen men and women hanged as a witch in
in 1692. Some of those stories were taken from documented history of the trials, but some of them were a recounting of rustic life in 17th century Salem New England, passed down through generations of Carriers for over three hundred years. In both my novels The Heretic’s Daughter, and the newly published The Traitor’s Wife, I incorporate many of those tales in tribute to my colonial ancestors.
The first time I remember hearing about Martha was when I was a child, visiting my grandparents’ house in
for the summer. I sat at the kitchen table listening to my mother and grandmother talking about family members, some of them long dead. I hadn’t been paying them much attention until I heard my grandmother say something about a relative who had been hanged as a witch. Intrigued, I asked her if Martha Carrier was truly a witch, and she said, “Sweetheart, there are no such things as witches, merely ferocious women.” Pennsylvania
From that moment on, at every family gathering, I asked my grandparents and great aunts and uncles for stories about Martha Carrier, and of her husband, Thomas, who has his own fascinating history. From them I learned that Martha was indeed a ferocious woman; courageous, outspoken and steadfast in denying being a witch. She is perhaps the only person recorded during the witch trials who called her judges to task for giving credence to the accusing girls’ testimony by saying, “It is a shame that you should listen to these folks who are out of their wits.”
Thomas Carrier, Martha’s husband, was a man who, according to my grandparents, lived to 109 years of age, stood seven feet tall and was one of the executioners of King Charles I of
. My book research substantiated the first two claims. As to the rumor that Thomas was involved in a king’s death, the story may never be proved, but it has, to date, not been disproved either. Following the publishing of The Heretic’s Daughter, I was contacted by many fellow Carrier descendents, most of whom I had never met before, who told me that they also had grown up hearing the same legends about this remarkable man. England
Embracing my family history from such an early age helped define who I am. It instilled in me pride in the bravery and steadfastness of the family that came before me, who suffered and overcame so much injury from social intolerance and superstitious dread. Looking at the “ferocious women” in my family helped to nurture my own sense of the value of passionate hard work and perseverance. It also gave me a profound love for history, especially early American history, and for the settlers who risked so much for the ideals of individual freedoms. Those family stories were a gift; a gift which I hope to pass on to the generations that come after me.
Now for the giveaway!
I will be giving away one book for every 10 entries with a maximum of three books to give away. The first name drawn will also receive a copy of The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.
Winners will be subject to the one copy per household, which means if you win the same title on another blog you will receive only one copy of the title.
To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and live in the U.S. or Canada. No PO Boxes please.
For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.
For another entry share something interesting about your personal family history.
For two additional entries, blog about this contest or add the link to your sidebar.
Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as myemail.address AT gmail DOT com or myemail.address [at] gmail [dot] com.
You will have until October 16th to enter and I will draw for winners on or after October 17th.
Good luck everyone!
**This giveaway is closed**
**This giveaway is closed**