Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


Narrowing the Research to Salem

books-56As I indicated in a recent post, I am exploring some of the genealogical research done by a family member in relation to the American Revolution .  As I stated, I am not so concerned about names and dates so much as I am about who these ancestors were and what they did, and to that end I am searching for primary source material that speaks to their lives in the context of their historical setting.

Last night my research jumped backward even further  in time to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.   I have long known that some of my ancestors were a part of that dismal page of history, and I never really wanted to know what part they played.   But I took a breath and went forward to where the research took me.  To my astonishment and relief, I found out an amazing thing:  The Feltons, my 8th great-grandparents and my 7th great-uncles,  were out-spoken advocates for two of the accused, the Proctors. They were not the finger-pointers that I had feared.

Here is the transcript of a petition they and others in the Salem community signed stating that they did not see any evidence that the Proctors were practicing witchcraft:

Enlarge ManuscriptSWP No. 106.8
(Petition for John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor )

We whose names are under witten havinge several yeares knowne John Procter and his wife do testefy that we never heard or understood that they were ever suspected to be guilty of the crime now charged apon them and several of us being their neare neighbours do testefy that to our aprehension they lived christian life in their famely and were ever ready to helpe such as stood in need of their helpe

Nathaniel Felton sen: and mary his wife
Samuel Marsh and Prescilla his wife
James Houlton and Ruth his wife
John Felton
Nathaniel Felton jun
Samuell Frayll and an his wife
Zachriah Marsh and mary his wife
Samuel Endecott and hanah his wife
Samuell Stone
George Locker
Samuel Gaskil & provided his wife
George Smith
Ed Edward: Gaskile

( Essex County Archives, Salem — Witchcraft Vol. 1 Page 28 ).  Here is the link.

From this pleasing discovery, I have decided to narrow the focus of my research to these people in the context of this historical event, with the goal of possibly writing about them for future publication.



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Casting About in History

books-56For a couple of months, I have been casting about for a new project to engage.  The reason is that my short story well seems to have gone dry.  There are only so many “woman-has-paranormal-experience-and-reader-wonders-if-she-is-crazy” stories that one can write.   Writing Japanese poetry?  Meh….  And art-making?  My place is already a mess, I don’t need to make it even messier with paint and whatnot.    So what to do?

When I was in high school, I read a lot of James Michener novels.  Recently, I decided that I wanted to re-read The Source which is novel about the history of an archaeological site in Israel.  I have always enjoyed historical novels, though I would probably never write one myself — just too much research involved.  But then again…..  I do have a background in history and I was trained to do research.  When was the last time I engaged in any research?  So am thinking maybe I could at least flex some of my researcher muscles again even though writing may be limited to research notes jotted in my journal.

Ah, but where to start?

Last year a relative shared a list of my ancestors who had served as soldiers during the American Revolution.  (I wrote about this last year).  I don’t actually care so much about names and dates of a genealogy.  I do care about what these people did.   So I am thinking — even if I don’t actually write anything — it would be interesting to see if there are any written records that speak about these individuals.  What can I glean from the historical record?  Who were these people and what part did they play in history?

I don’t know where this will lead.  Like I said, I am not up to writing an epic history about anyone, let alone my ancestors.  But at least for a little while, I will get my lazy creative butt off the couch and into the book stacks.



Resources, Reference, and Inspiration


“Spring”, Lawrence Alma-Tadema [Dutch, 1836 – 1912], Oil on canvas, 1894

I have always relied upon images seen in museums, art books, or online to jump start my creative impulses.  Because of this, I was so pleased to find out a few days ago that the J.P. Getty Trust is now allowing the download and free use of nearly 5000 high quality digital surrogates of its collection.  The plan is to eventually add more of the Getty collection over time.   Here is what they say on their blog:

Today the Getty becomes an even more engaged digital citizen, one that shares its collections, research, and knowledge more openly than ever before. We’ve launched the Open Content Program to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible….     To read the entire post and access the Open Content collection, go HERE.

 So I am taking advantage of this opportunity and posting one of my favorite paintings in the Getty collection.  It is “Spring” by Dutch/British painter, Lawrence Alma-Tadema. It is a fairly large painting (70 1/4 x 31 1/2 in).  Here is what the Getty says about it:

A procession of women and children descending marble stairs carry and wear brightly colored flowers. Cheering spectators fill the windows and roof of a classical building. Lawrence Alma Tadema here represented the Victorian custom of sending children into the country to collect flowers on the morning of May 1, or May Day, but placed the scene in ancient Rome. In this way, he suggested the festival’s great antiquity through architectural details, dress, sculpture, and even the musical instruments based on Roman originals.  Alma Tadema’s curiosity about the ancient world was insatiable, and the knowledge he acquired was incorporated into over three hundred paintings of ancient archeological and architectural design. He said: “Now if you want to know what those Greeks and Romans looked like, whom you make your masters in language and thought, come to me. For I can show not only what I think but what I know.”   Alma Tadema’s paintings also enjoyed popularity later, when his large panoramic depictions of Greek and Roman life caught the attention of Hollywood. Certain scenes in Cecil B. De Mille’s film Cleopatra (1934) were inspired by the painting Spring.  (See this text HERE)

Each time I go to the Getty, I spend more time with this painting than I do with most of the others.  There is a story in every face in this painting.   This painting alone could generate ideas for several stories.  I could use it as a reference for drawing exercises.  I could excise parts of it for use in a digital constructions. My point here is simple.  You probably already know this, so use this as just a reminder:  Look at what other artists and writers have done and use it as a jumping off point for your own work. If any of the Getty folks are reading this, THANK YOU so much for making your collection available to us.   What a fantastic contribution to creative persons everywhere.  — ljgloyd Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.


Time Travel

mummy caseYesterday, I had the unexpected privilege of being taken on a private tour of a museum attached to a university’s archaeology department. The tour was different from other museum tours in that we were guided by the museum’s curator, a preeminent scholar in middle eastern antiquities, who actually let us touch some of the artifacts.

At one point in the tour we were examining a collection of stones that had been shaped into primitive hand axes. The curator casually remarked. “This one is about a million years old.”

I was not sure I had heard him correctly. “Wait, what? You said ‘a million years’?”

“Yes” The curator held the axe in front of him.

“May I hold it?” I asked.

“Of course.”  He handed it to me.  As I ran my fingers over the stone’s cool rough surface,  I noticed a quizzical look on the face of the woman standing next to me.

I said to no one in particular, “I am touching something that was made and used by a sentient hominid — one of our ancestors– a million years ago.”  I saw the light come on inside her when she caught on to the significance of what I said,  and she then reached out and took the stone from me.

As the tour continued we had the opportunity to handle other artifacts.  Finally, towards the end of the tour, we came to a display case of first century Roman objects.   The curator slid open the glass door of the case and pulled out a rectangular piece of fired clay.

“This is a piece of tile from the floor of the Praetorium in Jerusalem.  The Praetorium was the building where criminals were tried, the one mentioned in the New Testament gospel accounts.”

There was a slight pause as his words sank in.  Then a woman from the group quietly stepped forward and gingerly touched the tile with the tips of her fingers.  Several others of us followed suit.

There I was in an office building in 21st century North America touching a piece of the floor where Jesus Christ had walked.

I think our desire to touch these artifacts was an intuitive attempt to connect with the energy of the past. We cannot physically time-travel, but our consciousness can — and it did yesterday afternoon.

Lgloyd (c) 2014