Mad In Pursuit Notebook

Doll #4, Part 2: Bethiah


1.12.2014. [cont'd. from 1.1.14] About the time I am adding herringbone stitches to Doll #4's leggings, the spirit of Bethiah (beth-EYE-uh) enters her. When the TV is off and the lights are low, when the newspapers are stacked in the recycling bin and Hermanita is asleep in her cage, Bethiah visits. A tot of whiskey and she's ready for a chat. One of her favorite topics is family history. "Knowing your ancestors," she tells me, "doesn't make you special. There are millions of Mayflower descendants walking around today." She sends me to Google. She's right.

And Bethiah should know. The channel to Bethiah opened up when I got a couple messages from a guy investigating the Leonard family. Who? I had to dig. Turns out Jim's maternal line Spicer blended with the Howard line in the early 1800s, when Nathan Spicer married Marietta Howard. Marietta's great grandfather was David Howard, who married Bethiah Leonard in 1728 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Bethiah! She snagged me. I had to know more.

I discovered that the Leonards were one of the early families to settle Taunton, Massachusetts, which was founded in 1637 by members of the Plymouth Colony. Bethiah was born in Taunton in 1707 and married Howard when she was 21. She had seven children, who all lived into adulthood. Unfortunately, Bethiah suffered from consumption [TB] and died at 37, when her children ranged in age from 18 to 2.

Bethiah stuck with me. When I looked her up again, I came across an page that said Bethiah was listed in 1,433,125 family trees. Jeez, one distant great-grandmother gives Jim a million cousins.

Bethiah. Her name means "daughter of God." I doubt it is the ghost of Bethiah Leonard who enlivens Doll #4. I suspect that poor woman was too young, too worn out to have much in the way of philosophy to offer on a chilly evening. My Bethiah is an old soul.

"Like I was saying," my Bethiah goes on, "a great family history find in the 17th century doesn't make you special. That ancestor 'only' makes you connected -- to history, to a place, to a society struggling to secure a better future. And doesn't that connection make you curious? And doesn't that curiosity make you learn? And doesn't learning make your world a richer, deeper place?"

Yes, my Bethiah. Meeting characters like you expands my perspective, helps me understand the world through a new pair of eyes. Your eyes tonight. Welcome to my living room. Would you care for another drop of whiskey?