Intimate details about the private lives of the early American settlers have been uncovered by two historians who unearthed a treasure trove of church documents dating back to the 1700s.
The records were buried away in colonial-era Congregational churches across the state of Massachusetts, and include a number of confessions made by members of the congregation, giving a fascinating glimpse into life at the time.
They include one by a married couple, Joseph and Abigail Cheyney, from the town of Sturbridge, who “with shame, humiliation and sorrow,” admitted they had sex before their wedding day.
Another parishioner, Sarah Blanchard, apologised for skipping a worship service while a third, Sarah Wood, said she was wrong to have criticised the baptism of infants.
The historians, James Fenimore Cooper Jr, a professor at Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston, spent months travelling across Massachusetts persuading church leaders to hand over their records for safekeeping, amid fears that valuable documents were being lost or falling victim to damp and fires.