“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
Orlando Bagley III is number eleven in my line of ghosts. He was a constable in Amesbury, Massachusetts in 1690. In his position as a rural policeman he was at the center of a terribly sad situation involving his parent's friend, Susanna North Martin.
Susanna was born in England and met her future husband, George Martin (a blacksmith) on the voyage to North America. Her father was the town crier and bell ringer for the tiny church on the green in Salisbury, Massachusetts when Susanna and George married 11 August 1646.
For a time those who were accused were of the lower classes, but later people of rank and character were seized and imprisoned. Symptoms of menopause, depression, Alzheimer's disease and other conditions probably contributed to the behavior society condemned. Superstition and gossip were a deadly combination.
Constable Orlando Bagley, age 35, was told of accusations towards Susanna and ordered to arrest her. Unwilling to follow through with this responsibility, he was assured by the judge that she would receive a fair and civil trial which would exonerate her, and "make citizens aware of the peril of such slander." Amesbury town records say "Constable Bagley knocked on his old friend's door reluctantly to take her to Salem where she was tried."
There's a little Nancy Drew in me. (Maybe she's an ancestor!) Ferreting out primary sources and obscure details to fill in the blanks, traipsing through wet graveyards to verify dates, digging through old books to meet ghosts from my past—that's my detective work. And now there's a TV show about what I do!
The other night I was played by Sarah Jessica Parker on a new show called Who Do You Think You Are? (I'm being played by Susan Sarandon in a couple of weeks. That's brilliant casting.) A show about people (celebrities in this case) who are searching for their roots, it's an example of why it's fun to find out where we come from. Sarah Jessica was practically in tears (she is an actress, or course) when she found out her ancestor was accused as a witch, astounded that her line didn't start in Cincinnati in 1850.
We all started before 1850, and you don't have to be a celebrity to find yourself inside historic times. Where were your ancestors in 1776? Somebody was alive then, even if they lived in China. And something interesting was going on. Look it up.
For instance, I have ancestors that went on the Crusades. I haven't found out many details, but it suddenly makes reading about the Crusades more relevant. My ancient kin lived in London when the plague was rampant. Where were yours? Was someone on a slave ship? Why? You're probably illegitimate somewhere along the line—is there a passionate love story revealed somewhere in the family scrapbook?
Look for the stories in your personal hiSTORY. Picture your name, birthdate and place of birth typed on a piece of paper. What if that was the only information your grandchildren ever had about you?
Imagine listening to some 3rd cousin of your niece's mother-in-law saying to your grandson, "We've got your grandma's info already written on the chart. Don't worry about her anymore." Wouldn't you want to shout out your story, and tell him what happened between the day you were born and the day you died? Tell him you were shy, too, and loved music, too, and hoped that he'd have curly hair like your husband? There's more to genealogy than dates.
Who do you think you are? Do a little digging and find out.