We all have skeletons in our closets (not counting those in the cemeteries…..sorry…..genealogy humor). And we hope that when we research our ancestors, we are related to swashbucklers, Egyptian queens, famous inventors or the like.
I’m a little bit of an exception because, as you know, I have a burning desire to be part Neanderthal.
What I never thought of in my wildest dreams, was to find out that my 1st cousin, 10x removed, is infamous for having given fire to the Salem, Massachusetts Witch Trials.
me: Did you find out anything interesting doing your DNA and family tree?
friend: Yes, my 3rd great-grandparents opened a new school in their village. How about you?
me: Well my 1st cousin, 10x removed burned people alive.
I made this discovery late last night. As soon as the name Mather came up, I said to my husband “You don’t think this will lead me to Cotton Mather, do you?” He responded “That would be crazy.”
But there you have it. Cotton Mather and I share a grandfather. Richard Mather, a famous minister in his own right, was Cotton Mather’s grandfather, and my 10th great-grandfather.
Besides reading The Crucible and reading about the Salem Witch Trials in high school, I knew nothing else about Cotton Mather. So here are few facts from that very excellent source, a Wikipedia article. It’s just a quick overview, because teaching you about Cotton Mather is not the point of this blog post.
1. He was a prolific writer, publishing over 400 books/tracts/pamphlets on many subjects.
2. He was an avid scientist, pioneering the science of hybrid crops and something else important that I’ve forgotten but will look up later. Oh I just remembered. He fought for the development of, and use of, inoculation against smallpox.
3. He was a Puritan minister, graduate of Harvard, and son of Increase Mather, who was the President of Harvard.
4. He was obsessed with the idea of witchcraft as the work of the Devil and is credited for setting up the court for the Salem Witch Trials and fueling the flames, metaphorically speaking, by his writings on a previous case in Boston where witchcraft was prosecuted. But also wrote against the trials.
Ok, folks, don’t crucify me on any of the above material. I have been reading about this for less than 24 hours. I will find out more because I’m interested. I will continue to avidly research my antecedents. But I’m kind of hoping the next one up will be a carpenter or tavern keeper.
Here’s to finding no one else who sets people on fire.