When a family researcher shakes their family tree, sometimes unexpected ancestors tumble out. That's what happened to me in July 2009, when I searched "Rebecca Elsing Mudge" on Google and was confronted with a screen full of links to witchcraft books and articles.
I read the first one and then, stunned, paced around my home with a hand clapped over my mouth for over five minutes, reeling. My 11th great grandmother Rebecca Elsing, who'd remarried a man named Nathaniel Greensmith after Jarvis Mudge's death, was not only accused of witchcraft; she was tried, convicted and executed for the crime in Hartford, Connecticut, in January of 1662/3 after having made a remarkable confession including having had intimate dealings with the devil himself. Mudge Memorials, the book that catalogues the lineage of the descendants of Jarvis Mudge, said nothing about what had become of Jarvis's only known wife and mother of his two sons, Moses and Micah. Now I knew why.
But then there's that saying about life giving you lemons. I'd done a considerable amount of prior research at LongIslandGenealogy.com, where I'd found a list of various genealogical societies one might join. The one that really caught my eye that fateful day was The Associated Daughters of Early American Witches (ADEAW), a genealogical society for females aged 16+ years who can trace their lineage back to a woman or man who was accused, tried, convicted and/or executed in the American colonies prior to 31 Dec 1699. Now that would be a cool society to join, I'd thought.
There's no need to ask you to guess what I did next.
Membership in the society is by invitation only, which was problematic; I didn't know a single member who might nominate me. So, I took a chance and emailed the society. Thankfully, then Registrar General Dr. Kim Nagy instructed me about how to go about procuring an invitation from the President General Shari Kelley Worrell. A few emails later, I had an application in hand and was ready to apply. I became a member of ADEAW in April 2009. Since then, I've been honored with an appointment as Editor of The Black Swan, the society's national newsletter. I feel blessed to have found such a wonderful group of ladies who share this unique American heritage.
Founded in 1987 by Mrs. Caroline Engle, ADEAW is a small but growing society with a current membership of just under 500 members. The society meets once a year in Washington DC during mid-April. There, the ladies have the opportunity to get acquainted, hear a speaker discuss topics near and dear to their hearts, and honor their ancestors with a lovely closing memorial ceremony.
Are you a woman who has a "witch" in your family tree? If you have New England roots, you just might. Take a look at ADEAW's Approved Ancestors list. If you think you've found one, ADEAW might be the genealogical society for you!