Scott Foley – Who Do You Think You Are – “God Knows I Am Innocent”

Scott Foley is featured on Who Do You Think You Are this Sunday, April 10 on TLC at 9/8c.

This episode is truly interesting, focusing on two defining periods in American history – and little known aspects of both – The Salem Witch Trials and the American Revolution.  If you’re a history junkie you won’t want to miss this episode.

I am innocent

Actor Scott Foley has been married to his wife, Marika, since 2007. They have three young children and he credits them as being a huge reason why he wants to learn about his own heritage. Marika is Polish-American, and her family has a rich history in Poland. As a patriotic American, Scott would like his children to understand their American ancestry too.

Since Scott’s tree is virtually a blank page, he’d like to investigate the only family lore he’s heard. There’s always been a rumor that his paternal grandparents’ side has ties to the Revolutionary War, but Scott isn’t sure how or why. Scott decides to sit down with his father to see if there’s any other clues he can glean to start his search.

Scott’s father Hugh has a few vague leads for his son; he believes the Revolutionary War story is connected to his mother Evelyn Fogg’s line, who died before Scott could meet her. From what he can remember, her mother’s maiden name was something like Wadworth. Curious about the Revolutionary War story, Scott and Hugh go online to the DAR website and search for anyone named Wadworth – which returns zero results. Scott tries “Wadsworth” instead and hits 50 listings. Scott figures he should head to the DAR itself for more answers – and it’s a good thing he did, because Wadworth isn’t the right name at all.  Thankfully, Scott teams with a professional genealogist.

Scott meets with genealogist Kyle Betit at the DAR in Washington, D.C. Kyle has dug into records and compiled a family tree for Scott on ancestry.com to see if he could get back to an ancestor who was alive during the Revolutionary War.

Pouring over the tree, Scott discovers that the family name was actually “Wardwell,” and confirms through the tree and DAR website that his 5x great-grandfather Simon Wardwell is in fact recognized as a Patriot. But who was this ancestor, and how was he associated with the War? Simon Wardwell’s pension file reveals that he enlisted around the start of the Revolutionary War in 1776 and revealed something truly amazing about his service. Scott heads off to Washington’s former headquarters in Cambridge, MA to find out more.

At Washington’s Headquarters, Scott meets with historian Scott Stephenson. And learns that his ancestor, Simon would’ve witnessed incredibly significant events in American history, including an attempt on Washington’s life, and the reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Having finally discovered the truth behind his family’s Revolutionary War story, Scott is still curious if he can trace his ancestors back to colonial times in America. He travels to the New England Historic Genealogical Society to do some more digging.

At the NEHGS in Boston, Scott meets with historian Mary Beth Norton, who presents him with a large family tree. Scott confirms that the Wardwells stretch back generations in Massachusetts, all the way to his 9x great-grandfather, the immigrant. But Mary Beth reveals that Scott’s 8x great-grandfather Samuel Wardwell is well known to certain colonial historians. Scott discovers that in 1692, Samuel was caught up in the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Scott learns the Salem Witch crisis started when two young girls from Salem began suffering from bizarre fits. Soon a local doctor declared they were under the influence of evil. This sparked great fear and hysteria; accusations of witchcraft exploded. The mainly Puritan community felt God was punishing them, and sought to reaffirm their religious beliefs by going after those they believed in league with the devil. They aggressively pursued anyone accused, including Samuel Wardwell. Mary Beth suggests that to find out what happened to Samuel, Scott head to Salem.

At “The Witch House” in Salem, MA, Scott talks with Salem Witch Trials historian Margo Burns. Curious about his ancestor’s trial, Scott uncovers testimony from a teenage girl who accused Samuel of “afflicting” her, and a man who claimed Samuel could predict the future and witnessed him reading palms.

Scott discovers the date of his ancestor’s death, September 22, 1692 – and the details. Wanting to pay his respects, Scott heads off to the Salem Witch Trial Memorial.

Scott takes a moment to reflect on the incredible lives of the men he’s discovered. Scott is pleased to know his family has deep roots in some of the most iconic events in American history; true stories for his children.

8 thoughts on “Scott Foley – Who Do You Think You Are – “God Knows I Am Innocent”

  1. I found my 10th g-grandmother Alice (Alyce) Stokes Young was the very first woman executed in North America as an accused witch in Connecticut, many years before Salem. What I have read is that women in families with no male heirs were more likely to be accused so they would be eliminated as heirs. Alice’s daughter, Alice Young Beaman, was also accused of being a witch, but her husband successfully defended her.

  2. Great story, Roberta, although a very tragic and sad time in our history. Another early North American witchcraft trial from the 1660’s, involves my eighth great grandfather, Rene Besnard dit Bourjoly of Montreal, who was held responsible for making one Pierre Gadois sterile, by chanting over a string tied into three knots. Rene had previously been a suiter of Pierre’s wife, Marie Pontonnier and had openly declared that the marriage to Pierre would be forever sterile. When Marie had still not conceived a child a year after the marriage, Pierre brought charges of witchcraft. Rene eventually admitted his misdeed and was convicted by magistrate Sieur Chomedey de Maisonneuve. The marriage between Marie and Pierre was annulled, and Rene was jailed, fined 300 livres, then banished to a distance of 300 leagues from Montreal. He went to Trois-Rivieres where he was appointed corporal of the garrison. In 1665 he took the oath as deputy public prosecutor and in 1668 he was warden of the church. Rene also married and had several children. So, Rene was very fortunate and had a better outcome with his life! Joan

  3. This Scott Foley episode was one of the most interesting shows in the whole series, to date, in my opinion. I learned a little history, and I completely enjoyed watching Scott’s amazement and enthusiasm as he learned some of his family stories.

    We, the ordinary people, have to work a lot harder than Scott did, to find our stories, but if we keep at it with enthusiasm, we, too, can be amazed, delighted, and saddened by what we learn.

  4. Sounds like you have begun an adventure into genealogy—very time consuming but much fun. I have reams of data and an almost complete tree going back to Richard Wardwell in 1515., be careful facts sometimes get obscured. I don’t have a Simon in my direct tree from Samuel–Thomas tree—however Simon might be sprung from Thomas brother William. Brothers Thomas and William arrived in Boston from Lincolnshire, England as indentured servants on the Ship Griffin in 1639.

  5. I was very excited to see this information. My 9th great -grandfather was Samuel Wardwell. Any additional information on the Wardwell line would be much appreciated.

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