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.
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.