This year for Mother’s Day, I thought I’d try something different when it comes to story telling. I was looking at my personal matrilineality–the tracing of kinship through my female line. In some cultures people are identified through their “matriline” (or their mother’s family tree) rather than through the paternal line that I am used to in European and United States family research. [See Matrilineality on for details of cultures who use matrilineality.]
My oldest female ancestor in the United States (in this direct line from my mother, to grandmother, great-grandmother etc.) is my 9th-great- grandmother, Jane, wife of Thomas Walford [Wilford, Wolford, Woolford] of England and Great Island, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (now New Castle). [Editor’s Note: four months after the posting of this story, mtDNA has confirmed that my matrilineal line shown here is correct. Jane’s (wife of Thomas Walford) haplogroup is K1a4a1b. I match up DNA-perfectly with a descendant of another of Jane’s daughters, Martha Walford mentioned below, and since then have found 4 more descendants of various lines.]
It is believed that Thomas and Jane probably immigrated to the American colonies with Robert Gorges (son of Fernando Gorges) in September 1623 on the ship Katherine–being Thomas, his wife Jane and his children Jeremiah and Jane. They settled in Weymouth and were the first settlers of what is now Charlestown Massachusetts, where they built “a fine house.”
Thomas Walford was a blacksmith, later a planter. They did not fit in with the Puritan immigrants who arrived en masse, soon after and who quickly forced out those who did not fit into their beliefs. Thomas Wolford and his wife Jane eventually left their original home in Charlestown, at the southerly end of Breed’s Hill, “a little way up from the Charles River.” The Walfords were forced out on 3 May 1631 when the Puritan-led Massachusetts Bay General Court ordered them, “under pain of confiscation of his goods.” He moved to Great Island in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where Thomas may have been in the employ of Robert Mason. They later lived at “Sagamore Creek,” in the area of Portsmouth NH [A 1782 map shows this creek as Witch Creek]. Thomas was a church warden in 1640, a juryman in 1654, and died in 1666.
Thomas Walford’s wife Jane, my matrilineal ancestor whose birth surname is not positively known (some think, without proof, it may have been Guy) was born in 1598. Her birth year is deduced from her deposition on 27 June 1667 that she was aged ‘about 69 years.’ Some time, probably before 1624 she married Thomas Walford. She died at Great Island (Now New Castle NH) before 7 September 1681 aged 83 years.
Her life had not easy. She was, over four decades accused of being a witch several times. In one of the cases she was accused of turning into a yellow cat. In 1648 Elizabeth Rowe who accused her of being a witch had to pay damages and apologize in public. In 1656 Elizabeth’s husband, Nicholas Rowe was one of the accusers who stated that she came to him when he was in bed, putting her hands on his chest and causing him pain and making him speechless. Jane again was acquitted.
On 28 June 1670 Jane charged physician Robert Couch for slander, after he called her a witch. ‘Goodwife Walford’ won this court case too, recovering five pounds and costs. [NH State Paper, Vol 40, pg 258]. This was the last time she was accused before her death.The children of Thomas & Jane Walford were Thomas; Jeremiah (who made his will 16 April 1662, widow Mary and children Jeremiah and Thomas, and two daughters. His widow Mary married John Amensene; Martha (b 1645 who m. Thomas Hinckson and 2nd, John Westbrook; Jane (who m. Thomas Peverly, 2nd — Goss; Hannah who m. Alexander Jones; Mary, b. 1635 who m. William Brookin and 2nd William Walker [this is my ancestor]; and Elizabeth who m. Henry Savage.
Jane’s troubles did not end at her death, for the stigma of witchcraft was passed along to her daughters. Daughter Hannah Walford,who had married Alexander Jones, unfortunately had land that George Walton apparently desired. Hannah was the daughter of a woman acquitted of witchcraft, but in the minds of some still suspicious. George Walton of Great Island (now New Castle NH) claimed that he and his house guests were afflicted by rocks and stones flying both against the outside of his home but also inside. Hannah Jones was the supposed perpetrator. In 1682 she begged the “advice and relief” of New Hampshire’s President and Council regarding George Walton’s treatment of her. [SEE New Hampshire Glossary: Lithobolia–The Stone Throwing Devil]. Thankfully things ended well for Goodwife Hannah (Walford) Jones.
Jane’s life and troubles have been highlighted in a great number of books including:
Provincial and State Papers, New Hampshire, Vol 1, 1867
Annal of Witchcraft in New England and Elswhere in the United States by Samuel G. Drake, 1869
Narratives of the witchcraft cases, 1648-1706 by George Lincoln Burr, 1914
The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England, by Richard Godbeer, 1994
The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen, 1998
Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, by John Putnam Demos, 2004
Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England, by David D. Hall, 2005.
The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England, by Emerson W. Baker, 2010
My New England Ancestors: Goodwife Walford the Witch
—MATRILINEAL ANCESTORS of J.W. Brown—
Jane 1598-1681 [wife of Thomas WALFORD]
Mary WALFORD 1635-1702 [wife of William BROOKIN/BROOKINGS]
Daughter of Jane
Mary BROOKINGS 1664-1717 [wife of Thomas LUCEY]
Daughter of Mary WALFORD
Elizabeth LUCY 1693- [wife of William CHANDLER Jr.]
Daughter of Mary BROOKINGS
Catherine CHANDLER 1732- [wife of Benjamin RAND]
Daughter of Elizabeth LUCY
Abigail RAND * 1755-1838 [wife of William SISCO]
Daughter of Catherine CHANDLER
Catharine “Cate” SISCO / Sacho * 1774-1830 [wife of Jules JUDD]
Daughter of Abigail RAND
Abigail JUDD 1809-1900 [wife of George Washington BROWN]
Daughter of Catharine “Cate” SISCO / Sacho
Emily Ann “Emma” BROWN 1846-1884 [wife of Patrick J. RYAN]
Daughter of Abigail JUDD*
Addia Cornelia “Addie” RYAN 1879-1968 [wife of Charles A. MANNING]
Daughter of Emily Ann “Emma” BROWN
Mary MANNING 1919-2007 [wife of B.H. WEBSTER]
Daughter of Addia Cornelia “Ada” “Addie” RYAN
It was only recently that I discovered Jane’s ‘troubles.’ She was not the only woman in my family tree who experienced these terrible accusations. In her case, Jane luckily lived to an old age and died of natural causes. Another direct ancestor of mine, my 9th great-grandmother Susannah (North) Martin, wife of George Martin, was put to death for witchcraft on 19 July 1692. I descend from her in both my maternal and paternal lines.