As I’ve been poking around my family tree, I’ve been mostly focusing on my direct ancestors, but not their siblings. But as I looked into the records of Deacon George Alcock and his wife Anne Hooker Alcock, parents of my 9th great-grandfather Dr. John Alcock, also had a daughter named Ann. Ann Alcock Foster was my 9th great-aunt, and she was accused and convicted of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.
I was intrigued by the short version of her story as it was told on her Find a Grave page, which inspired me to seek out the transcripts from her trial. Ann was accused of being a witch, but she initially refused to confess. Her daughter (Mary Lacey) and her granddaughter (also Mary Lacey) had also been accused of witchcraft. The elder Mary Lacey, Ann’s daughter, accused her mother of witchcraft during her testimony in July 1692 – after her own daughter, the younger Mary Lacey, had accused her.
The Story Within the Salem Witch Trials Transcripts
When I quote the transcripts of the court testimony, I am translating into modern English as best I can. The original text is very difficult to read.
During her testimony, Ann’s 15-year-old granddaughter said to her, “O Grandmother, why did you give me to the Devil? Why did you persuade me, and o Grandmother,do not you deny it! You have been a very bad Woman in your time…But as for you, Old Woman, though you have Shown Something of Relenting. Yet you retain a lie in the mouth. We desire You therefore to be free in the appearance of God and tell us the truth in this Matter!”
The “lie” Ann told was that she was not a witch. We know, of course, that she spoke the truth. None of them were witches.
Ann was tortured for days before confessing. She stated that the devil had come to her as a bird, and that it was the devil that told her to bewitch others in the town. In defense of her family, Ann testified in this way:
“Goody Foster! you remember we have three times spoken with you, and do you now remember what you then confessed to us? — You have been engaged in very great wickedness, and some have been left to hardness of heart to deny; but it seems that God will give you more favor than others, inasmuch as you relent. But your daughter here hath confessed some things that you did not tell us of. Your daughter was with you and Goody Carrier, when you did ride upon the stick.”
“I did not know it.”
“How long have you known your daughter to be engaged?”
“I cannot tell, nor have I any knowledge of it at all.”
“Did you see your daughter at the meeting?”
“Your daughter said she was at the witches meeting, and that you yourself stood at a distance off and did not partake at that meeting; and you said so also; give us a relation from the beginning until now.”
“I know none of their names that were there, but only Goody Carrier.”
“Do not you acknowledge that you did so about 13 years ago?”
“No, and I know no more of my daughter’s being a witch than what day I shall die upon.”
Her daughter was then brought in. She ranted against her mother, “Oh! mother! How do you do? We have left Christ, and the devil hath got hold of us. How shall I get rid of this evil one? I desire God to break my rocky heart that I may get the victory this time.”
It was then that the court again turned on Ann.
“Goody Foster! you cannot get rid of this snare, your heart and mouth is not open.”
“I did not see the devil, I was praying to the Lord.”
“What God do witches pray to?”
“I cannot tell, the Lord help me.”
Ann’s confession precluded any sort of punishment being levied against her daughter and granddaughter. She signed her confession on July 21, 1692 and was sentenced to execution.
It’s been suggested that Ann, as an aged widow, did not have all her wits about her. She was 75 years old during the trials, and she may have been highly suggestible. If dementia had set in, she may have been convinced that she had, indeed, done all of the things the other villagers have accused her of – consorting with the devil and flying around on sticks. Her memory couldn’t recall the events, but if her daughter and granddaughter said she’d done them, maybe she had.
Ann Foster’s Name Cleared
After she died in jail on December 3, 1692 – 21 weeks after her trial – her son Abraham would come to petition for her exoneration. Her name was, indeed, cleared – alas too late to save her life. He was reimbursed for the expenses incurred for her incarceration and burial, cold comfort after his mother’s unjust death.
After taking the time to piece together this story, I happened upon a narrative of the Salem Witch Trials via Google Books, which is worth a read.
There is a chance that my lineage is incorrectly traced back to the Fosters, on account of some missing records from the early 19th century that may later find the wrong parents attributed to one Calvin Blanchard. But if the information I have is accurate, I can trace the line from Blanchard > Hunt > Alcock - Foster. I’ll be disappointed if the connection is disproven in the future, but I still feel richer from having discovered this story. And I wish I’d paid more attention when we rented The Crucible on DVD.
Tags: ancestry, family