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Human remains found at pirate shipwreck site could be identified soon

Conservationists at the Whydah Pirate Museum said they found skeletal remains from the pirate ship Whydah Gally inside a mass of hardened sand and stone pulled from the wreck site near Wellfleet.Whydah Pirate Museum

Researchers are getting closer to figuring out whether human remains recovered from a centuries-old shipwreck are that of Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy.

They now have a DNA sample taken from a living descendent of Bellamy in England, which could hold the key to solving the mystery.

If it does turn out to be Bellamy, one of the most infamous — and wealthiest — pirates of all time will be able to return to his birthplace and have a traditional burial in his hometown.

Born in England in 1689, “Black Sam” Bellamy went on to become one of the most successful pirates in history (Forbes once called him the highest-earning pirate ever, as he out-plundered Blackbeard by many millions). But his career was short-lived, and his life was cut short when his pirate ship, the Whydah, wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod on April 26, 1717.

Casey Sherman, a bestselling author who’s developing a feature film and reality-based series about the shipwreck, recently traveled to England to get the DNA sample from Simon Bellamy, one of the pirate’s living descendents.

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“Simon was excited to participate in this quest,” said Sherman.

Bellamy’s DNA will be compared to the DNA from a human bone that was found at the site of the Whydah.

“Simon’s DNA sample is en route to the University of New Haven right now for comparative testing against the femur bone found in the shipwreck,” said Sherman.

While Sherman was in the United Kingdom during the last week of March, he traveled with Simon Bellamy to Hittisleigh, where “Black Sam” Bellamy was born.

Sherman described it as “an amazing journey.”

“The village is very small, a hamlet really, and has not changed much since 1689 when Sam Bellamy was born there,” said Sherman. “Several villagers came out to meet us and are fascinated by the story. They know the village’s link to Black Sam and celebrate him with a masquerade ball each year.”

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Sherman said they used old maps of the area to find out where Bellamy lived. They also visited St. Andrew’s Church, where Bellamy was christened and where his mother, Eliza Bellamy, is buried in an unmarked grave.

“They showed us the small cemetery behind St. Andrews where Eliza Bellamy, Samuel’s mother was buried shortly after giving birth to him,” he said.

Sherman said the locals that he met didn’t know much about Bellamy’s ultimate fate off the coast of Cape Cod, “and were touched to learn that our ultimate goal is to bring Bellamy’s remains back to Hittisleigh for burial next to his mother.”

Sherman said they hope to have results from the DNA testing within the next four weeks.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.