Salem Witchcraft Trials



witch-judges-houseIt was 1692 during which the notorious Salem witchcraft trials and sentences of death were held. Such an event over 324 years ago may not have any families ties or links to your family tree, but then again … who knows for sure. Not to say an ancestor was accursed of being a witch but an ancestor could have lived in Salem Village of Danvers during those times.

Note it was not the town of Salem for the trials but rather the nearby village of Salem now known as Danvers. So you may have been looking at the wrong location. Danvers is located seventeen miles north of Boston, and is bordered by the towns of Salem (present) and Beverly. The town of Danvers still has over a dozen houses dating from the 1680s to 1700.

Those involved were the accused witches’, ‘the accusers’ and those involved in the trials and carrying out the sentencing. Numbers of those executed for witchcraft was 20 people and all but one of these people were hanged, while the remaining one was pressed to death because he would not plead guilty or not guilty. Yes, ‘he’, so the accused were not just females; but a total of six males. Actually, only those who insisted they were not guilty were executed, with over 150 other people who were jailed and tortured, so quite a few possible family ties.  witch-rebecca-nurse

The male was Giles Cory who refused to plead guilty and was pressed to death because he did not want his home and land taken leaving his children with nothing. His wife, Martha, had already been hung a few days earlier. There is a case where the Cory children would have descendants.

Bloodlines of Salem is an online site whose purpose is to help identify ancestors from the Salem Trials. A listing of those executed, those jailed, those not guilty, those who escaped, along with the jurors’ names, and the ‘afflicted girls’ is very helpful in knowing who was involved in some manner. A timeline of the events running from January 1692 to May 1693 is also provided.

Yet, the Salem Trials and executions were not the first such witch hunts in the area. The first victim of witchcraft, in New England, was Margaret Jones of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Margaret was hanged, in 1648, for giving herbal cures. Margaret was a physician and some thought she had the “malignant touch” after some of her patients started vomiting or suffered violent seizures. Prison guards testified that they saw a small child run out of the witch’s cell into another room, and then vanished. This was enough to prove that she was under the influence of evil. Anne Hibbons, the sister of the Deputy Governor Bellingham of Massachusetts was hanged, in the words of John Norton for “having more wit that her neighbors”. She was “quarrelsome,” and had “supernatural” knowledge. She was accused in 1655, and was executed in 1656.

witch-femaleSo began in January 1692 when the seeds of the hysteria afflicted the Salem Village, in the colony of Massachusetts, were sown when a group of young girls began to display bizarre behavior. It was decided it was due to local residents practicing witchcraft.

By 1693 the Village of Salem realized they had been all wrong about witchcraft in the village. In 1702, the colonial court declared the trials unlawful and in 1711, the colony passed a bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused and granted £600 restitution to their heirs.

Photos: Judge Jonathan Corwin House in Salem – served as judge during the trials; Rebecca Nurse brought to trial; and female taken to trial.

Related FamilyTree.com genealogy blogs:

Location of Hangings in 1692

Female Ancestors of Salem

Sayings of the 17th Century

 

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