Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mary Bliss Parsons, is that you?

Yipes!

I was looking through my archives and realized I never corrected a major error. In this post, I attached an image that I identified as a painting of my ancestor Mary Bliss Parsons. It’s not! (and one of the commenters references another painting of her with a child, which also cannot be the case.) The image was posted at the UMass website with no caption. Because the site is about MBP and because (I must say it) the woman looks VERY MUCH like members of my family, I made the hopefully-understandable assumption that it depicts her.

I got in touch with the UMass webmistress to request permission to possibly use the image in The Witch’s Trinity, which has an extensive afterword about Mary Bliss Parsons. She informed me that there are no images of MBP. The UMass people had simply noticed the website was devoid of images and cast about to find some. The painting is of the same era, illustrating “Colonial America,” so they used it. They ran out of time and funding to properly caption the image.

(But I hasten to say the website is in all other regards completely amazing. Where else would I have been able to see—handwriting and all—the testimony in Mary Bliss Parsons’ witchcraft cases, without traveling all the way to Massachusetts? It also has a very in-depth analysis of my ancestor’s circumstances versus her accuser’s.)

The funny thing is, the woman in the image is basically a dead-ringer for my mom dressed as a Colonial woman. I’m blown away that this doesn’t depict our ancestor! (By the same token, it initially amazed me that after eleven generations, faces could still be so similar).

Interesting crinkle #1:
There was a second painting on the website (the one I think the commenter on my original post was referring to). I have to give my mother credit for questioning it. She said that she had seen it somewhere before (no, not in our attic!). With a strong interest in Colonial painting/furniture/antiques, she recalled that this portrait was unusual for that era in its use of yellow for the woman’s garment. I googled while she pulled out her books. And I was able to locate the painting, which identified the sitter as the wife of someone—not a Parsons. I just now tried to again locate the image; why didn’t I bookmark it? Can’t find it now.

Interesting crinkle #2:
I just went back to the Umass website and am unable to locate either painting. Looks like they took them down. And added some new content: nice work, guys!

20 comments:

L.C.McCabe said...

:scratches head:

Was there supposed to be an image or text to accompany the headline?

Linda

Erika M said...

Yes, Blogger was being obstreperous, so after four tries I decided to wait until the next day.

Anonymous said...

Mary Bliss Parsons is an ancestor of mine, so I was interested in the content on the site you mention, and thrilled at being able to add "her" portrait to my family history file. To be certain, I tried e-mailing them to get some verification on the painting and never got a response. (I'd still like to know about the painting, even if it's not Mary). The mother and child portrait is a late 17th century anonymous oil of Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary - see the Worcester Art Museum's website.

Anonymous said...

I am also a direct decendant of
Joseph and Mary (Parsons that is..)
i come down through Abigail
m. John Colton dau Ann who m.
Griswold dau Ann Griswold who m
Gideon Moore then a straight
run to myself. Cornet Joseph
and Mary Bliss are my 9th
gr. grandparents

schohn said...

I am a descendant of Mary Bliss Parsons as well, though their son Jonathan. I suspect there are a lot of us.

Heather Rojo said...

I'm a descendant of Mary Bliss's brother Nathaniel Bliss who married Catherine Chapin in 1646. That portrait looks just like my aunt Barbara.

Nancy "Camille" Cole said...

Well as long as we're all identifying ourselves, I too am a descendent of Mary Bliss Parsons, through the line of their first son, Joseph. I am currently writing a book about my great Aunt, Marion Parsons, who led an interesting life, starting a schoolhouse in a chicken coop in her father's cherry orchard (Willis Parsons) in 1926. Today Cherry Road School is one of the premier schools in New York State.

Anonymous said...

I too am a descendent of Mary. I think that there are so many of us because her father Thomas had like..30 children by three different wives! You go boy.

Anonymous said...

I am a descendent of MBP as well. My grandfather and mother strongly resemble the portrait so I am surprised to discover it is not authentic. Do we know who it is?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this information! I am still seeing this portrait image everywhere as MBP :-(. Just learning of her story. I am descended from her little brother John Bliss (b.1635), who crossed over from England with her in 1638. -- Dr. Lynn Job, composer

Pixyled13 said...

Whilst researching my recently-discovered MBP (my 8th G-GM via her son Jonathan m. Mary Clark).. I found this delightful blog! Now I am quite curious about your books, Erika, and hope to read them soon.
Is there a Mary Bliss Parsons Descendents society or group? Such a reunion of kindred folk would be telling, to say the least! ;)

Erika M said...

Hello Pixyled13! Yes, there are Parsons Family organizations throughout the country (making note of descendancy from Cornet Joseph, though, not Mary his wife). In fact, I've several times attended the Western States Parsons Family Reunion and you too would be welcome.
My description of attending the first time: http://erikamailman.blogspot.com/2010/09/my-peeps.html

Nice to hear from you! :)

NK Herhold said...

I also am a descendant of Mary Bliss & Joseph Parsons, Cornet via the Joseph Parsons, Esquire & Elizabeth Strong line (my mothers side). There is also a Parsons Society in New York. Check the Findagrave.com site to see the memorial tombstones they have put up. They have lots of pictures and information. Mary Bliss Parsons is my 7th great grandmother (also John Waynes!).

jen10mi said...

Just ran across this image on Ancestry.com, Google imaged it, and came to your blog. I notice it's all over the web identified as Mary Bliss Parsons. Sigh. Don't see it on the UM link, but it appeared here just last October: http://www.gazettenet.com/news/townbytown/holyoke/2126906-95/mary-talk-williams-bliss

Thanks for the correction! I'm still trying to figure out who the woman in the hat is. The mother-and-child painting is "The most famous 17th century American portrait," titled Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby. It's at the Worcester Museum of Art.

Erika M said...

Jen10, it's frustrating that the UMass site--which is otherwise SO excellent--will not identify the portrait as NOT being MBP. It seems it is causing a lot of confusion, and all they need to do is add a caption that this is simply a portrait of a woman of that era for illustrative purposes. Thanks for your link. I will share it with them.

jen10mi said...

Me again - after running into this picture being misattributed once again, I thought I'd come back to your post. Looks like UMass finally took it off their site! Can't remember if we ever got this straight, but according to a note left at MBP's Findagrave Memorial by Grace Bliss Smith (secretary of Bliss Family Society) the painting is actually of a "Mrs. Baker," circa 1675, by an anonymous artist, in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Erika M said...

Jen, that's fantastic! And thank you so much for updating me. I'm really glad they have resolved the issue.

Erika M said...

PS, two mins later: I just looked at the UMass site and they still have the image there, without a caption....grrrrr.

jen10mi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jen10mi said...

oh, no! And apparently someone has used it as the COVER IMAGE on a reissue of Drake's "Annals of Witchcraft"! Aaaargh.

http://www.americanancestors.org/Product.aspx?id=28804