Thomas Oliver - Mary Leman Family Group

Parents   Parents
Thomas Oliver Mary Leman
b. 1601 in England b. 1603 in England
d. 1679 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts d. before 1666 in Norwich, Norfolk, England
Relationship Events
Marriage 29 Jan 1626 Thomas Oliver to Mary Leman at Saint Andrews Church, Norwich, Norfolk, England
Marriage 13 Apr 1660 Bridget Playfer to Samuel Wasselbe, Church of Saint Mary in Norwich, Norfolk England
Marriage 26 Jul 1666 Thomas Oliver to Bridget Playfer Wasselbe in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Marriage 1687 Bridget Playfer Wasselbe Oliver to Edward Bishop in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Known Children of Thomas Oliver and Mary Leman
Mary Oliver b. 1627 and d. Apr 1635 in England
  Thomas, Jr. bef. 1637 in England; no further records
  John Oliver b. 1635 in England; no further records
David Oliver abt. 1645-50 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts; m. abt. 1672 Grace Parker (b. abt. 1650 on Parker's Island, d. bef. 1717 in Georgetown, Maine); two children: David Jr. and Thomas Oliver; d. 29 Jan 1723 on Parker's Island, Maine;
  Mary Oliver b. abt. 1640 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts; m. 1 Apr 1661 in Salem Job Hilliard (abt. 1636 in Salem, d; Mar 1670 in Salem; four children: Sarah, Abigail, Benjamin, and Job Hilliard
  Abigail Oliver b. abt. 1640 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts; m. Hooper; no further records
  Elliner (Eleanor) Oliver b. abt. 1640 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts;m. Jones; no further records
Known Children of Thomas Oliver and Bridget Playfer
  Christian (Christean) Oliver b. 8 May 1667 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts m. 1687 in Salem Thomas Mason; one child: Susannah Mason

What We Know About This Family


Thomas Oliver was the father of six known children and one possible child, David, who unfortunately for the proof of relationship in this family tree is the direct ancestor. His first two sons, Thomas and John, are documented in the passenger record for the family in their immigration record when they sailed on the Mary Anne from England with their listed destination as Salem in 1637. Two sons (unnamed) and four daughters are named with their married names in the final distribution of his estate that was made in 1692 following the execution of his second widow for witchcraft. Two of those daughters, Mary and Christian, have marriage records in Salem. David married Grace Parker of Parker's Island, Maine, and is the ancestor of many, many descendants. I and others attribute his parentage to this couple, but I have not been able to find substantiated evidence of that parentage. If you have any, please contact me. For that reason, I have designated the research on this family and that of David Oliver as incomplete. I have included their entry as a family group in this tree as I believe the chances are good that evidence may one day be found and also because their story is one of the more interesting and reflects some of the horror of that time. At least one of Thomas's wives was the first victim executed for witchcraft in Salem, and the possibility exists that his first wife may have been burned as a witch when they returned to England after being exiled from Salem.

An Overview of Their Lives

Thomas Oliver and Mary Leman, his first wife and mother of all but his last child, were born probably between 1601 and 1610. They were married January 29, 1626 at Saint Andrew's Church in Norwich, Norfolk England. They were born and lived during the Puritan migration to America, and their lives were profoundly affected giving us an opportunity to write about the Puritans in Massachusetts. Being unceasingly threatened by Charles I in England, many decided to emigrate.

The Mayflower‘s Pilgrims in Plymouth and the Boston-area Puritans, often confused, were two different colonizing groups. The Puritan settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony outnumbered Plymouth’s Pilgrim settlers by about 10 to 1 and absorbed them in 1691. It is mainly the Puritans and their descendants, such as the Minutemen of Concord, who form the popular image of America’s early settlers. Ronald Reagan, for example, famously borrowed the wish that “we shall be a city upon a hill” – to be a “new Jerusalem,” God’s light to the nations – from the speech leader John Winthrop gave aboard the Arabella, the ship taking the first Puritan settlers to the New World. Thanks to the records the colonists left behind, the influence of Massachusetts, and the visibility of their descendants (Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Adams, and so on), we know a lot about the Puritans of the 17th century, more “than any sane person should want to know,” according to historian Edmund Morgan (cited here). We know that they were atypical of Early American settlers. For example, they lived in compact villages rather than spread out in homesteads; they were relatively isolated from world commerce; they were homogeneous; and they were sternly religious. Most distinctively, they lived in tightly-controlled communities, in what historian Michael Zuckerman has called “a totalitarianism of true believers.” -- Claude S. Fischer Made in America "Pilgrims, Puritans, Americans?" 2010.
Like the Pilgrims, the Puritans were English Protestants who believed that the reforms of the Church of England did not go far enough. In their view, the liturgy was still too Catholic. Bishops lived like princes. Ecclesiastical courts were corrupt. Because the king of England was head of both church and state, the Puritans' opposition to religious authority meant they also defied the civil authority of the state. In 1630, the Puritans set sail for America. Unlike the Pilgrims who had left 10 years earlier, the Puritans did not break with the Church of England, but instead sought to reform it. Seeking comfort and reassurance in the Bible, they imagined themselves re-enacting the story of the Exodus. Like the ancient Israelites, they were liberated by God from oppression and bound to him by a covenant; like the Israelites, they were chosen by God to fulfill a special role in human history: to establish a new, pure Christian commonwealth. Onboard the flagship Arbella, their leader John Winthrop reminded them of their duties and obligations under the covenant. If they honored their obligations to God, they would be blessed; if they failed, they would be punished. Arriving in New England, the Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in a town they named Boston. Life was hard, but in this stern and unforgiving place they were free to worship as they chose. The Bible was central to their worship. Their church services were simple. The organ and all musical instruments were forbidden. Puritans sang psalms a cappella. John Winthrop understood that people were bound to disagree and was willing to tolerate a range of opinion and belief. But he also recognized that if dissent were not kept within bounds, it would undermine the community. And that is precisely what happened. Two members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, challenged the religious authority of the Puritan commonwealth and threatened to destroy Winthrop's vision of "a city upon a hill." The colony survived, but over time its religious fervor diminished. Scholars disagree about when and why this happened. The Puritans themselves found it difficult to maintain a society in a state of creative uncertainty. In 1679, a Puritan synod met to deliberate the causes of widespread spiritual malaise. Blame was assigned to an increase in swearing; a tendency to sleep at sermons; the spread of sex and alcohol, especially in taverns, where women were known to bare their arms and, upon occasion, even their breasts; and, most telling, the marked increase in lying and lawsuits. - PBS God in America

The Mary Anne was fitted out in Yarmouth to convey the persecuted to New England. Mary Oliver "had the faculty of speech to an unpleasant excess, and had suffered in England for neglect of some custom of trifling importance in the solemnities of the church. (Church of England)" and so they set sail with their two sons and two servants on the Mary Anne, which left Yarmouth in May 1637 and arrived in Massachusetts in 1637. (Also aboard this sailing of the Mary Anne was the Greenfield family, who may have been related to Peter Greenfield of this tree).

When he arrived in Salem, Thomas was a "calender" (one who listed documents). They settled there and had four more children. Mary's complaining did not cease, and she was sufficiently outspoken in defense of Roger Williams, who was banished from Salem because of his extremism. She was punished in 1638 for taking his side. That still not silence her, and in 1648, the couple returned to England leaving the property they had acquired in Salem behind. Mary died in England and Thomas returned to Salem by July 26, 1666 when he married the widow Bridget Playfer Wasselbe. Bridget had married her first husband Samuel Wasselbe in Norwich, England on April 13, 1660.

Genealogical sources all agree that Thomas returned from England as a widower. I've discovered three sources about Mary's death in England. I discovered a note on my Ancestry record for Mary Leman from a user, Phil Oliver,

"Death: Mary Leman Oliver, was still in Massachusetts 'til 1649, confessed to witchcraft, shipped back to England in 1649, was placed in a cage outside Norwich Guild Hall, burned at the stake as witch in 1659 at Norwich."

This tidbit definitely sounded worthy of further research. (Some of the interesting articles found appear in the Documents section. I found the following entry in a list of persons executed for witchcraft:

The name and place are significant, but we know she did not murder her husband because he returned to Salem and married again. Further research discovered interesting information about the Olivers. Thomas and Bridget's daughter Christian was born in the year following their marriage. At some time prior to 1692, Bridget had been accused in Salem of bewitching her husband to death, but was acquitted for lack of evidence (-Mark Mower), The similarity in these two records is notable, and it must be supposed that the cause of punishment for Mary Oliver may have been incorrectly recorded long after the fact based on the record for his second wife.

The second marriage for Thomas and Bridget brought them both domestic turmoil. In 1678, she was ordered to court for calling him bad names on the Sabbath, and both she and her husband were ordered to stand back to back and gagged for an hour in the market place. In 1679, they were both sentenced to being whipped or fined for fighting. During their marriage, Bridget's face often appeared bruised and battered.

Thomas Oliver died intestate later in 1679 , and administration of the estate was granted to his widow, Bridget. She paid 20s each to his two sons by a previous marriage, and their daughter, Christian. The other daughters by his first marriage were not mentioned at this point. Bridget was left with only a small part of the estate, much of it taken by creditors, and her step-children accused her of bewitching their father to death. In 1680 she was accused for the first time of witchcraft, but nothing seems to have come of the accusation. She married Edward Bishop in 1687, the same year she was accused of stealing brass objects. She was the first person to be tried for witchcraft in 1692 and the first executed, hanged on June 10.

After her execution, her second husband's estate was finalized and his three married daughters by his first marriage were mentioned by name.

Proof of Relationship

The baptism and marriage records and the wills are our best proof of relationship for our direct ancestors in this family.

What Else We Need to Learn

The goal of this project is to trace every line of ancestry to the arrival of its first immigrant to America. The basic information of each couple is considered complete when we know the dates of birth, marriage, and death for both spouses. their parents' names (or whether they were the immigrant), and the child or children in our ancestry line.

The research on this family is NOT complete. Still in question is the date and manner of Mary Leman's death plus proof of the relationship of David as son of Thomas and Mary Leman Oliver.



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