Blacksheep Sunday: Fined 20 shillings for THAT?!

John Galley (≈1605-1683) was my 9th-Great Grandfather, on the Crosby side.   He was born in England and emigrated to America in either 1634 or 1635.  John settled in the town of Beverly, Massachusetts and it was there that he had his first brush with the law.

John was a Puritan by faith and most likely left England for the religious freedom offered in America.  He migrated with the Puritans, settled with them and attended Puritan Churches. However, records that have survived the centuries paint a different picture of John.  John, at least for a little while, was a not-so-pure Puritan.

Though he arrived in Massachusetts in the mid-1630s, he and his wife (Florence) were not “admitted to the church” until December 8, 1667. It was almost three more years before John was chosen a Freeman on May 11, 1670.  As a Freeman, John was granted the right to vote for government leaders. So why did it take so long for John to be accepted into the church? Perhaps it was a single transgression that kept John from attaining acceptance into the church.

In 1635, John and Florence indulged in a youthful indiscretion.  They committed a sin-of-the-flesh and engaged in premarital sex [gasp!].  In the Puritan world such happenings, although not uncommon, were not tolerated.  John and Florence were most likely the talk of the town. I can picture pious puritans gossiping amongst each other, telling of John and Florence’s tryst. But public castigation was not the end for John and Florence.  On October 6, 1635, the Governor and Board of the Massachusetts Bay Colony addressed the issue of John and Florence’s fornication and fined John Galley 20 shillings for “knowing his wife carnally before marriage” (¹MBCR V1:63).  There is no indication that Florence was penalized.

Records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, October 6, 1635. Clicking the image enlarges it.

By today’s standards John and Florence’s conduct wouldn’t even be worthy of family gossip.  The fact that John was fined is more noteworthy than their actions. Besides, it appears that Florence became pregnant before marriage and their eldest daughter, Dorcas, went on to become my 8th-Great Grandmother. I have to wonder how things may have changed in my genealogy if John and Florence chose the “Puritan” thing to do, and married first.

This story is also noteworthy because it establishes the back-story for matters that would happen in the 1670s & 1690s, involving Dorcas.  Perhaps some of the Puritan neighbors of John and Florence would have argued that a child made from sin, could only grow up to do evil. This indeed is foreshadowing, because Dorcas is worthy of the title, Blacksheep and her infamy will be written about soon.

Aside: There is an interesting passage in the court record, above, pertaining to the handling of a thief — beginning at “Whereas”, on the 3rd line and ending 9 lines later. Puritan justice had some good points!

¹Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, 1628-1686, Volume 1, Page 63.

Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633 (Main source, cited throughout).


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One Response to “Blacksheep Sunday: Fined 20 shillings for THAT?!”

  1. December 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm #


    What a great find in these records! To have the whole story and details like that is something most family trees don’t have. I look forward to hearing the rest of the story of Dorcus.

    Thanks for sharing,


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