I was horrified to find an ancestor who had been a party to the Salem Witch Trials while I was rather idly prowling about in the Ancestry records...wasn't really looking for anything in particular, then his name cropped up and a sad tale about a woman accused of witchcraft...and he was ' in agreement as to the sentence of death'...
So I poked about a bit more and there he was...the one and the same already on my tree under the heading of 'The Americans'...my tree is sort of divided up you see...there are the Americans...and The Vikings...and The Victorians...etc. and they will...eventually...all sort of meet up. Mustn't forget the Normans and the Scots but I haven't sorted them out yet...and the Irish...who are in totally different tree but will eventually be joined by all the other foreigners...when I can work out just how to do it...which might take a while.
Anyway...back to this nasty man who thought it perfectly acceptable to sentence a woman to death for being a witch when she was nothing of the sort...it was her neighbours gossiping and making up stories about her. He'd been born in America but his relatives had travelled from Devon...the entire family had left England...parents, children, Aunties and Uncles and probably the family cat all sailed away on a rickety old wooden boat that no doubt leaked copiously and tossed about a bit in the waves of the Atlantic...
I haven't looked to see what happened to him...I do hope he died of something nasty which involved septic boils and a dose of the pox.
Then I found a more recent relative who'd married in Fleet Prison Chapel in the 1700's...it was what was called a Clandestine marriage which I've written of before. Fleet prison was mostly for debtors...and it was also a very wealthy prison indeed because the prisoners were charged money for absolutely everything...they wanted their leg chains taken off? Pay the gaoler...their chamber-pot emptied? Pay the gaoler ...a hot dinner?...pay the gaoler...
The prisoners were allowed out of the building itself so they could beg for alms from passers-by...there was also a grille on the main gate so those who didn't have enough money to bribe their way out onto the street could beg through the grille...it was all rather unpleasant.
But my relative and her husband-to-be were married there...probably by an unfrocked priest or someone who said they were a priest when they were nothing of the kind...it actually became fashionable to marry there. So much so that even society people went along with their pretty frocks and a bunch of sweet smelling herbs to tie the knot. The Inns and Taverns in the area did a roaring trade...the wedding parties could and did drink themselves under the table and there were plenty of upstairs rooms to spend your wedding night in. They even employed touts to roam the neighbouring streets...spying an obvious couple, probably looking slightly shifty...they'd encourage them to come and toast their future happiness in the Nags Head or The Dirty Duck just round the corner, and good rates for a clean room...
Towards the end of the 1700's the Marriage Act came into force and you needed to have the Banns said and be a resident in the area etc...so the Fleet Prison weddings were no more and the building itself was demolished in the early 1800's.
The term, Clandestine, also covered baptisms and burials...another relative was buried that way...but the meaning then simply meant the person was not a member of the Church of England and was buried or baptised the Baptist way...or they may have been Jewish or belonged to one of the many Non-Conformist churches. And those services...unlike the marriages...were carried out correctly with a bone fide member of the Church over-seeing the service.
It could be said my cousin Ginny had a Clandestine marriage when she ran away to Gretna Green at the age of sixteen with her Father in hot pursuit, up the Great North Road...Ginny and Dick were man and wife before my Uncle Alan finally arrived in Scotland...and they've now been married for fifty years. And Uncle Alan is one hundred years old.
But that is neither here nor there...