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  • Writer's pictureFiona Appleton-Thorn

Are you Related to a Salem "Witch"?

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

At Halloween thoughts often turn to ghouls of the past and to witches. The town of Salem in Massachusetts has become synonymous with the word due to the unfortunate events that began to unfold in the spring of 1692. The unveiling of witches within the 1400 strong community continued until May 1693 by which time over 200 people had been accused, 30 found guilty, 19 hanged, and 1 pressed to death.

The only witches executed in Salem that you can definitely rule out of your ancestry are the two dogs. Yes dogs! However, these were not the only animals in the world to feature in Witch Hunts or their consequences. As recently as 2011 a monkey was hunted, tortured and killed in South Africa where according to published news article, this is not an isolated event.

Many of the accused in The Salem Witch Trials already had families or descendants in 1692. Being related in any way to those individuals was considered shameful and more than unfortunate. The stigma did not begin to dissipate until the 1950's when the State of Massachusetts issued legislature that exonerated the accused witches of Salem MA, 1692. Is this why your Granny didn't or wouldn't say?

Here's some brief information showing the possibility of living descendants.

The 19 people hanged were:

Bridget Bishop Had 2 sons and 2 daughters

Susannah Martin Had 8 Children

Sarah Good Had 2 daughters

Margaret Scott 3 of her 7 children survived to adulthood

Mary Parker Her daughter Sarah Parker was also accused of witchcraft

Rev. George Burroughs 50 pounds awarded in damages to his widow and children

Elizabeth Howe Had 6 Children

Alice Parker Alice was married and there were several "Parker" Families in the area

Samuel Wardwell Sr. His daughter was also accused of witchcraft (Per this episode of TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?," actor Scott Foley is a direct descendant of Samuel Wardwell.)

Rebecca Nurse Had 4 daughters and 4 sons and was a grandmother already

Mary Eastey Had 11 children

Sarah Wildes Had 1 son, but 8 step children

Martha Carrier Had 8 Children

John Willard Not noted any surviving children. His wife died in childbirth.

George Jacobs Sr. His son was also accused of witchcraft

John Proctor Fathered 18 children

Martha Corey She had 2 sons, her husband Giles Corey was pressed to death.

Ann Pudeator Had 5 children with her first husband Thomas Greenslade.

Wilmot Redd Not noted any surviving children, but not conclusive as she was married to Samuel Redd prior to her execution.

Living descendants could have been through the blood line of any of the 80 or more children listed above. Last names of the convicted witches are not the only indication of a genealogical link to Salem Witches. A great deal of the children mentioned were women, who in keeping with tradition changed their names at marriage. Higher mortality rates in the past also increase the chances of second and third marriages.

Where can you begin searching Salem records?

Salem was founded in 1626 just six years after the Mayflower arrived in New England. It was named with the Hebrew word for "peace" as most of it's settlers came in search of that. More than sixty years would pass before the notorious Salem Witch Trials, and some vital records do exist that cover the preceding years. See Records of birth, death, and marriage, 1644-1870; indexes to births, deaths, and marriages, 1658-1880 [Salem, Massachusetts]

There's also the list of Freemen 1630-1682, which is similar to a Census.

The initial settlement was Naumkeag at the mouth of the river, previously believed to be a Native American village or trading center. The settlers began their occupation in dug outs and wigwams, examples of which can be seen at the Pioneer Village, about ten minutes drive from present day Salem.

According to their website The Salem Pioneer Village is "America's first living history museum. The village sits on three acres of land and contains various examples of colonial architecture: dugouts, wigwams, thatched roof cottages, and the Governor's Faire House. Culinary and medicinal gardens and a blacksmith shop further interpret early 17th-century colonial life."

There's many records related to Pioneer families and their descendants in New England. Most Family Tree beginners can find the wealth of information daunting. Here's some friendly advice: start with your own birth records, parents and work back slowly recording the evidence and sources of information that verifies the facts. Don't have the time but the longing to know? Genealogy Search Services may be right for you.

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