SALT LAKE CITY--()--On July 19, 1692, as the Reverend John Hale looked on with dismay, 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse and four others accused of witchcraft were taken to Gallows Hill outside of Salem, Massachusetts and hung.
“When I pass a stranger on the street I now realize that we could share ancestral ties. The world has become much smaller and the idea of family much larger.”
More than three centuries later, just in time for Halloween, GeneTree.com researchers have confirmed an ironic genetic and genealogical twist to one of the saddest chapters in American history: Amanda Gilbert, a 25-year-old Southern California woman and GeneTree.com customer, has found she is a descendant of both Rebecca, the victim, and the Reverend Hale, the later repentant persecutor of Salem Witch Trials infamy.
Using GeneTree.com’s uniquely comprehensive combination of top-quality genetic testing and genealogical consulting services, Amanda discovered that she not only is Rebecca’s tenth great granddaughter through her mother’s line – but she is also the eighth great granddaughter of Hale, through her father’s family.
“It was amazing to discover that I am related to both Rebecca Nurse and John Hale. It’s caused me to re-think the idea of family,” said Gilbert. “When I pass a stranger on the street I now realize that we could share ancestral ties. The world has become much smaller and the idea of family much larger.”
Historical sources revealed that Rebecca’s witchcraft conviction was especially controversial. Revered by her neighbors for her quiet, Christian piety, she was at first acquitted, only to have jurors reverse their decision under pressure from the chief justice. Years later, Rebecca—and 19 others executed during the hysteria born of superstition and jealousy—were declared innocent.
Hale, who had initially championed the witch hunts, ended up being one of the strongest voices in denouncing the tragic events he had himself help set in motion. In 1697, he wrote A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft, in which he exposed the religious and legal excesses of the Salem nightmare.
Amanda’s story may be only one instance where the pedigrees and/or genetic code of historical figures converge within the DNA of someone living today. In addition to the 20 people executed at Salem, nearly 100 others were initially accused of witchcraft; more than 1,000 of their descendants are members of the GeneTree.com (www.genetree.com) genetic and family history archives, research has revealed.
"GeneTree.com is all about satisfying that innate desire people have to know who they are at the most fundamental level,” said Scott Woodward, a noted geneticist and president of GeneTree.com. "During Family History Month, we want to showcase our unique expertise in providing unmatched DNA analysis with traditional genealogical research. Amanda Gilbert’s case is a perfect example of how interesting genealogy research can be, and the potential everyone has of being descended from unique characters in history."
How many more Americans are unwittingly descended from Salem Witch Trials participants or other historical figures? GeneTree.com clients benefit from the relationship with the company's parent, the non-profit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (http://www.smgf.org). SMGF has developed the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of genetic information correlated with multi-generational genealogical family pedigrees.
Through October 31, GeneTree.com customers will also receive a free “I Seek Dead People” T-shirt with the purchase of a DNA kit.
GeneTree.com is the leading provider of genetic and family history services that unlock people’s ancestral legacy. Powered by the world’s largest, most comprehensive repository of genetic and genealogical information, GeneTree.com’s best-in-class genetic testing, genetic genealogy consulting and family history research enable individuals and extended families alike to dramatically extend their family trees.