Posted by Crista Cowan on April 8, 2018 in Entertainment

When I think about Benjamin Franklin I think about bifocals, kites and lightening, his ambassadorship to France, and the fact that he was the oldest person to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  I most certainly don’t think about the Salem Witch Trials.  After all the witchcraft frenzy that gripped Salem Village happened almost 85 years before the American Revolution.

Benjamin Franklin’s mother, Abiah Folger was born in the summer of 1667 in Nantucket.  In the fall of 1689, she married English born Josiah Franklin in the Old South Church in Boston.  Within just a few years a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts sweeping many of the early settlers up in the ensuing confusion.

Abiah’s sister, Bethshua Folger Pope was an active and theatric participant in the events in Salem Village proper.  She suffered “hysterical blindness” and convulsions, and in the middle of one trial she threw a shoe at the accused’s head. Her accusations contributed to the death-sentence of at least one convicted witch, Martha Corey.

Tonight on Timeless, the Time Team finds themselves in Salem in 1692 where they meet Abiah Folger Franklin.  I’m excited to see how the show portrays her involvement in this story that has gripped the imagination of Americans for more than 300 years.

The series of trials and executions ended in May 1693.  A short 13 years later, Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston.  I wonder which parts of the story he was raised hearing and whether or not he knew about his family’s involvement.  Before now I hadn’t realized that one of the darkest chapters of our nation’s history was only a life span away from one of the brightest.

And, that makes me wonder about the involvement and awareness of my own Massachusetts ancestors.  Guess what I’ll be researching while watching Timeless tonight.

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at Ancestry.com since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Twitter

33 Comments

  1. My 9th great-grandfather, Thomas Farrar, Jr., was accused of witchcraft by Ann Putnam in May 1692. She said he pinched and beat her in her dreams and urged her to write in his book. He spent nearly six months in prison.

    • Jonne

      I am a descendant of Thomas Farrar Jr. as well. To be accused and jailed because of a dream is just bizarre????!!!!

        • Linda Whitmore

          I have a dozen Farrar cousins too! They date back to George, b. 1594. Others are Benjamin, 1639; Elizabeth, 1645; George, 1650; John; Joseph, 1643; Lazarus, 1635; Martha, 1646; Mary 1644; Phebe, 1650; Sarah, 1647; and Thomas, no birth date. Most are listed as 1st cousins 9x removed. Are we kin?

  2. Joanie Clark

    Any suggestions trying to find a great grandmother without the 1890 Census. Her last born child was my grandmother who was born in Dec 1897. No record that I can find from local county. I am mystified. Please HELP!

  3. Bonnie

    Aaron Way is my 8th GGrandfather. Aaron, Jr. and his brother, William Way, were opposed to the belief in witches. Aaron Jr. had been present at the examination of Martha Corey, who did not believe there were any witches, when the judge was questioning her, trying to get her to admit she was guilty of bewitching.
    Susannah Martin (North) is my husband’s 9th GGrandmother who was convicted and executed at Salem.

    • John

      Jeez, it really is a small world; one of my forebears, Ezekiel Cheever, who along with Edward Putnam, were the people that questioned Martha Cory.

      • Ted Hontz

        I am descended from my six greats grandfather Rev. Samuel Parris and his second wife Dorothy Noyes.

  4. Susan Winters

    One of my ancestors in the Saltonstall family in Massachusetts, got up and left the trial he was part of, as he did not approve of the hysteria that was being presented at the Witch Trials. A friend of mine up there’s husband was descended from Cotton Mather . . .

  5. Cindy

    How do you find out if any of your ancestors were involved in the Salem witch trials? I’ve often wondered about it.

    • Nina

      Cindy, here is a GREAT website which has just about everything you would want to know about the Salem hysteria. It is, oddly enough, hosted by the University of Virginia. If you click on the tab “PEOPLE” on the home page it will bring you to a listing of everyone known to be associated with the trials: people executed, judges, accusers, accused, etc. You can then research individuals as you desire. this site contains pictures of original documents, court transcripts, links, etc etc etc. Definitely respectable site worth visiting.
      http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/home.html

  6. Eileen Parker

    I have been unable to figure out which michail donoghue was my 2nd great grandfather. More than one married to Anne. Help!

    • Crista Cowan

      Eileen – Do you know if your ancestor ever became a U.S. citizen? If so, search online at Ancestry (and contact the county courthouse where they lived if you can’t find it here) to find the naturalization paperwork. Sometimes it will list the date, the ship, and the port your ancestor immigrated into.

  7. John F. James

    My parents families both came to North America after 1884, so I have no genealogical connection to Franklin (or to the Salem witch trials), as such. But my mother was pregnant with me when she was naturalized from Canadian to US citizenship; and so had been studying Franklin for that purpose. My middle-name is Franklin, arising from from her love of the multi-talented Founding Father.

    • Crista Cowan

      That is a really cool story, John. I hope you have recorded it in your own family history for your posterity.

  8. Walter Earl Hall

    I am WALTER EARL Hall
    Birthday April 15th 1971
    My father’s name was Bobby Joe Hall his birthday was December
    After Lee Hall
    1946
    His father’s name was Walter Woodrow Wilson Hall she passed away July 8th 1929
    His wife’s name was Eva Lee Hall
    She passed away March 2013?
    Her son’s name was Bobby Joe -hall he was the oldest passed away in 2002
    And Glenn Hall maybe passed away in 2007
    And there was Wendell Hall he was the first one to pass away maybe in 1997
    their sister Patricia Ann
    Bobby Joe Hall had two kids
    Katherine Rene Hall birthday the 2/8/1970
    AND ME
    WALTER EARL HALL
    Birthday 04/15/1971

  9. Georgen Charnes

    Abiah Folger Franklin’s parents were my husband’s 8th great-grandparents. I had no idea about the Salem Witch Trial connection. Small world!

  10. Angelia

    My 7th great grandfather is Richard Carrier and my 8th great grandmother is Martha Allen Carrier. She was the first person accused in Andover and executed with other residents of the town. They tortured her son Richard to confess by binding his feet to his head, or something. Richard is within enough generations for a DNA match. I keep patiently waiting for matches to him to pop up.

  11. Palijim

    My genealogy had the judge at the trials included brought up from Boston. Apparently the bread in the town was moldy, they drank out of lead cups, and the resulting insanity was subversive to the Christian culture of the town. There was no California or Bedlam to move the inflicted to, and order had to be restored for the greater good which was survival through he long winters.

  12. Rowland Gosling

    We’re related to Benjamin Franklin through his sister Mary – my seventh great grandmother. Thanks for the article!

  13. Ruby Oswald

    What would be the reason(s) a child’s birth would be recorded with the father’s name and not the mother’s name? My 2nd great grandfather was born in 1821 in Ft. Covington, Franklin County, NY, and recorded in this manner.

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