16 August 2017

Remembering Salem: Symposium on the Lessons and Legacy of 1692

Salem's Trials symposium
One of the reasons why the Salem witch trials of 1692 still resonate today is the quest to understand why it happened. Plenty of theories abound to answer that question. Yet we’re still trying to learn the lessons today.

On June 10, 2017, the 325th anniversary of the first witch trials hanging, people gathered for a special symposium, Salem’s Trials: Lessons and Legacies of 1692, sponsored by Salem State University’s history department, the Salem Award Foundation, and the Essex National Heritage Area. Fortunately, C-SPAN recorded four sessions. If you didn't attend this great symposium, here's your chance to learn from a stellar group of speakers.

⏯ Emerson Baker, Salem Witch Trials 101 (includes symposium opening remarks)

A professor of history at SSU, Tad Baker is the author of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience.

Project manager for the Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, Margo is a popular speaker, particularly in October.

⏯ Panel Discussion, The Making of Witch City

Emerson Baker; Donna Seger, professor of history, SSU; Bethany Jay, associate professor of history, SSU; Steve Matchak, professor of geography, SSU; and Marilynne K. Roach, author of The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege.

A professor of geography at the University of Connecticut, Ken Foote is author of Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy.

Two other breakout sessions were not recorded: Teaching the Trials with Brad Austin, Amanda Prouty, and Jacqueline Robichaud; and The European Context for Salem 1692 by Donna Seger. (Amazingly enough, Donna packed a lot of information into one hour. I've got several pages of notes.)

22 April 2017

Using the Essex Institute Historical Collections

Essex Institute, Salem, Mass., circa 1910s
The Essex Institute of Salem, Massachusetts, was formed in 1848 by the merger of the Essex Historical Society and the Essex County Natural History Society. This literary, historical, and scientific society had a deep interest in Essex county, 

In 1992, the Essex Institute merged with the Peabody Museum to become the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM).

One hundred years of the Essex Institute Historical Collections (EIHC) is available online through the Internet Archive. The journals contain family genealogies, histories, probate records, and other miscellaneous records of interest to genealogists.

Vol. 1 Essex Institute Historical Collections

Vol. 2 Essex Institute Historical Collections

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19 April 2016

Using restitution lists from the 1692 Salem witch trials to rebuild Dorcas Hoar’s family

After the Salem witch trials were over and the victims were released from prison, some families petitioned the government for restitution and reversal of attainder. These records are useful for rebuilding families.

A Bittersweet Homecoming

When Dorcas Hoar was accused of witchcraft in April 1692, she was a recent widow in her late 50s, no doubt struggling financially to survive in her humble abode in Beverly. After many months of imprisonment, she came home to find what little she had was confiscated, even her bed. In 1696, her husband’s estate was probated, showing William’s assets, including five acres and the remainder of an old house, were worth less than his debts, so everything went to his creditors. Without a reversal of attainder, Dorcas probably was not entitled to her widow’s third since legally she was still guilty of witchcraft, a capital crime.

Settling Debts

On 13 September 1710, John and Annis King petitioned for restitution on behalf of Dorcas Hoar. Besides providing acknowledgment of a wrongful imprisonment (and, in some cases, death), this act allowed some victims and their families to receive money for associated costs. In the case of Dorcas Hoar, her family was paid for jail costs, travel expenses, and items taken from her home, including two cows, an ox, a mare, bedding, curtains, and household stuff. We know Dorcas was dead by this date because the full amount of £21 17s was split between her heirs.

By the time the heirs received the money, there were some changes in the family, as shown in the following chart.

13 Sept. 1710 list
19 Feb. 1711/2 receipts
Wm. Hoar 3 children
William Hoar Dec’d left 3 daughters
Mary Birtt
Mary Burt widow
Eliz Reed
Elizabeth Read wife of Christopher Read
Annis Kinge
Annis King wife of John King
Joanna Green
Johanna Green wife of widow
Tabath Slue 3 children
Tabitha Slue dec’d left two children her Leonard & R[a]chel

Using the two lists gives us extra details, providing more information to create a basic genealogy.

The Family of Dorcas (Galley) Hoar

Dorcas Galley, daughter of John Galley (b. abt. 1605, d. 1683) and Florence (d. 1686), was born about 1635 in what is now Beverly, Massachusetts. She married, about 1655, fisherman William Hoar (b. abt. 1628, d. winter 1691/2). They had at least eight children, though no birth dates are recorded in the Beverly vital records:

1. Mary Hoar married in Beverly (1) on June 30 1671 Samuel Harris (probate 1682). In 1710, she was called “Birtt” and in 1712 “Mary Burt widow,” suggesting her husband may have died within those 17 months, however no death or probate records were found. It's possible she married in Marblehead (2) 4 Sept. 1684 as Mary Harris and John Bush, “both inhabitants at Basriner” [Bass River, a.k.a. Beverly]. A “___ Burt, widow,” died before May 1732 in Beverly. She had at least one child, Daniel Harris, born 31 March 1672 in Beverly.

2. Elizabeth Hoar married in Beverly (1) on 13 Nov. 1676 Jonas Johnson and (2) Christopher Read in 1682. Six Read children were recorded in Beverly. Christopher Read was the sexton in Beverly from 1715 to 1727. He may have died in 1727, since Elizabeth was his widow when she died between September 1736 and June 1737.

3. Tabitha (“Tabbie”) Hoar married Leonard Slue/Slew about 1677 as her wedding is mentioned in the 1678 court case. She was baptized as an adult a week after her sister-in-law Sarah (Ross) Hoar, on 22 Dec. 1695, in Beverly. In 1700, Leonard Slue had land in Purpooduck (Cape Elizabeth), Maine. On August 10, 1703, 26 people in Purpooduck were killed by Indians, including Leonard Slue, his wife, and three children. (However, “__ Slue” appears on a 1710/1711 list of persons still being held captive.) Three children were living in 1710, but only two in 1712. (1) Mary Slue married Joshua Beans in Salem on 23 June 1701 and died before he married, second, Mary Fuller on 7 June 1704. (2) Leonard Slue married Abigail Johnson in Beverly on 23 Nov. 1703. He was the sexton in Beverly from 1727 to 1737 and died in 1744. (3) Rachel Slue died unmarried in Beverly in 1734.

4. William Hoar Jr. was born about 1661. He married 3 June 1685 in Beverly Sarah Ross. His wife was baptized and admitted into full communion with the Beverly Church on 15 Dec. 1695 and their four daughters were baptized 2 Feb. 1695/6. William and one of his daughters died before the September 1710 list. Children: (1) Mary married in Marblehead on 18 Nov. 1708 Moses Pitman Jr. (children born 1711-1723); (2) Rebecca Hoar married in Marblehead 22 Dec. 1712 Benjamin Carder; (3) Abigail Hoar married John Grover on 8 Dec. 1715 in Beverly; leaving (4) daughter Sarah Hoar the one who died by September 1710. William's widow, Sarah (Ross) Hoar married James Taylor Sr. in Beverly on 21 June 1720.

5. Annis (“Nancy”) Hoar married in Salem on 10 Sept. 1688 John King (1661-1718) and had at least six children. She was still living in 1731.

6. Samuel Hoar was in court in July 1678 with his father for “neglecting the public ordinances.” No further record; he died before September 1710 list.

7. Simon Hoar was in court February 1678/9 with sisters Elizabeth Johnson and Annis Hoar, for “abusing Mr. Hale’s cattle,” probably in retribution for the burglary ring charges of 1678. No further record; he died before September 1710 list.

8. Joanna Hoar married in Salem (1) on 25 April 1694 Moses Parnell (b. 1670) and (2) on 27 Oct. 1699 to Benjamin Green (b. 1678). Joanna was widowed by 12 Feb. 1712. No children recorded.


Bernard Rosenthal et al, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt

Robert Charles Anderson, Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634-1635 (AmericanAncestors.org)

Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (AmericanAncestors.org)

Torrey's New England Marriages to 1700 (AmericanAncestors.org)

Essex County MA: Probate File Papers, 1638-1881 (AmericanAncestors.org)

'Where Thieves Break Through and Steal': John Hale versus Dorcas Hoar 1672-1692 by Barbara Ritter Dailey in Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. 128, (1992). 

Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts

Sidney Perley, History of Salem, Massachusetts

George Walter Chamberlain, Descendants of Michael Webber of Falmouth, Maine and of Gloucester, Massachusetts 

13 April 2016

Dorcas Hoar really was a witch

Image: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons
It could be an omen that John and Florence Galley were fined by the Essex Quarterly Court in 1635 for fornication before marriage. Born shortly thereafter, their daughter Dorcas had several confrontations with the law and clergy throughout her married life. Growing up, however, she lived a comfortable but not overly religious life. Her father was admitted to the church in Beverly, Massachusetts, in his early 60s, so it’s likely the Galley household was not as God-fearing as their neighbors. And, at his death in 1683, John Galley, planter, left an estate worth £200.

Living in a Puritan church-state and believing in its teachings are not one and the same. After settling into married life about 1655 and having children, Dorcas and her husband, fisherman William Hoar, strayed from the gospel. In 1661 and 1662, William was brought before the court for “allowing tippling” and celebrating Christmas at his house. All along, Puritans discouraged holidays as pure popery—especially Christmas, which not only had no celebratory date in the Bible, it also usurped a pagan solstice festival. In fact, from 1659 to 1681 the Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed Christmas.

Around the same time, Dorcas started dabbling in the dark arts.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live

Dorcas admitted she learned witchcraft from a book of palmistry and from a practicing healer. She and her daughters married poor men, and her skills at fortunetelling and predicting illnesses (even death) supplemented a meager income, not only for her household but for her grown children’s households too. Even though Puritan theology denounced divination as trespassing on God’s all-knowing plan, people still wanted to know what the future held for them. Badgered by the local minister, Mr. John Hale, in 1670 Dorcas repented for her sins.

Unfortunately, the good reverend didn’t understand her needs.

People in Beverly started noticing small things went missing, like an apron or a pillowcase of flour. After a while, John Hale realized the criminals in their midst were specifically targeting him and his house of plenty. At first, blame was placed on his servant, Margaret Lord, but stolen items appeared throughout Dorcas Hoar’s extended family, making her the mastermind behind the burglary ring. (Margaret Lord threatened the Hales' daughter into silence by telling her Dorcas Hoar was a witch.) In 1678, Dorcas was in court listening to a catalog of the bushels of foodstuff, the yards of cloth, the items of apparel, coins, and jewelry that were stolen, most of which was bartered off to keep the Hoars fed.

The court records don’t provide a verdict. Two years later, however, William Hoar was put in charge of sweeping the Beverly meetinghouse, keeping the time (using an hourglass!), and ringing the bell at nine o’clock every night. In recompense, he received one peck of corn yearly from every family in Beverly.

Escaping the Noose

Not surprisingly, in 1692 widow Dorcas Hoar was convicted of witchcraft and condemned to hang on September 22. She confessed and received a reprieve, with supporting testimony from none other than Mr. Hale. Given a month to prepare her soul for death, she fortunately survived the witch hunt and was set free. 

* As a footnote to Dorcas Hoar’s story, Deodat Lawson claimed she had an “elf-lock,” a matted section of hair different from the rest that was four feet and seven inches long—further evidence of being a witch. 

See also: Using restitution lists from the 1692 Salem witch trials to rebuild Dorcas Hoar’s family


'Where Thieves Break Through and Steal': John Hale versus Dorcas Hoar 1672-1692 by Barbara Ritter Dailey in Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. 128, (1992). 

Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts

Deodat Lawson, A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village (1704)

Bernard Rosenthal et al, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt

31 March 2016

If my genealogy research is solid, how could my DNA results be wrong?

At seminar talks and on her blog, Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, suggests taking autosomal DNA tests at more than one company because each company presents data in different ways—and, more importantly, you expand your pool of potential cousins. Having tested at FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe, I decided to follow Judys advice and try AncestryDNA.

And what I found shocked me.

I expected to find an autosomal DNA match with Ruby, my longtime conspirator in tracking down our Gibson ancestors. For 18+ years, weve been email buddies, sharing research and debating potential candidates for our family trees. Our mutual tenacity and our databases proved we were fifth cousins, so why didn't the DNA agree?

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Match

On AncestryDNA, I found cousins from my FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe match lists, but no Ruby. (She didnt test with the other two companies.) With my 5,000+ hits, youd think one speck of spit would have declared our relationship. But it looked like we were swimming in different pools.

Luckily, AncestryDNA lets us share DNA results even with someone not on our match lists. (From the AncestryDNA home page, click on the Settings button on the right and scroll down to the green button, Invite Others to Access DNA Results.)

After opening AncestryDNA results pages for both of us, I filtered my search for any Gibson born in Massachusetts. We both had four hits, but none of the same. Figures.

This required diving deeper. I checked the family trees of all four of my cousin matches with my genealogy database. Two of them definitely were from my Gibson line, though the other two may be a new Gibson lead or unknown matches with another surname. Then I repeated the same checks with Rubys matches and my database. Her results showed one person shared a direct ancestor with Ruby and me; two had the granddaughter of our direct ancestors; and one matched one of Rubys collateral lines, but the Gibson surname was a red herring.

This case proves Judy Russells other important suggestion: The more relatives you test, the more matches you'll find. Thats because you wont share the same genetic admixture with your nearest and dearest. If possible, have as many close relatives (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, children, etc.) take autosomal DNA tests to spread your nets wider to catch more cousins.

Related Stories:

Some DNA Blogs:

07 January 2016

Days of Inspiration

The start of a new year causes people to compile lists of New Year's resolutions. Some good intentions are easily broken, while others become good habits. 

If you're looking for inspiration for your genealogy writing, as a conversation starter, or just a fun day to celebrate, check out the calendar dates below.  

  • Jan. 1: New Year’s Day (Gregorian calendar)
  • Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January)
  • African-American History Month
  • Feb. 14: Valentine's Day
  • Feb. 29: Leap Year day (once every four years)
  • Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)
  • March 17: St. Patrick's Day
  • March 17: Evacuation Day
  • March 20: Spring Equinox
  • March 25: New Year's Day (Julian calendar)
  • May 1: May Day
  • May 2: Brothers & Sisters Day
  • May 5: Cinco de Mayo
  • May 8: V.E. Day: Victory in Europe Day
  • May 22: National Maritime Day
  • National Teacher's Day (Tuesday of the first full week of May)
  • Mother's Day (second Sunday in May)
  • Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May)
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  • June 14: Flag Day
  • June 17: Bunker Hill Day
  • June 19: Juneteenth Day
  • June 20: Summer Solstice
  • Father's Day (third Sunday in June)
  • July 4: Independence Day
  • Parents’ Day (fourth Sunday in July)
  • Friendship Day (first Sunday in August)
  • Sept. 11: Patriot Day
  • Sept. 17: Constitution Day
  • Sept. 17: Citizenship Day
  • Sept. 21: International Peace Day
  • Sept. 22: Autumn Equinox
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September)
  • Grandparents Day (Sunday after Labor Day)
  • Native American Day (fourth Friday of September)
  • National Adoption Month
  • Native American Indian Month
  • Nov. 1: All Saints Day
  • Nov. 2: All Souls Day/Day of the Dead
  • Nov. 11: Veterans Day
  • Election Day (Tuesday following the first Monday of the month)
  • Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
  • Dec. 21: Winter Solstice
  • Dec. 25: Christmas
  • Dec. 26: Kwanzaa begins
  • Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve

Other Holidays & Fun Stuff

In addition to the dates above, there are “moveable” holidays that change every year, such as Easter, Chinese New Year, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, and Diwali. To keep up with those dates, visit Holiday Insights. You’ll also find many other reasons to celebrate on that site. And don’t forget Thomas MacEntee’s GeneaBloggers’ daily blogging prompts.

Need help organizing all the dates? Check out Create Your Own Calendar

29 October 2015

Tituba, Indian Servant of Mr. Samuel Parris

HEX: Old World Witchery in Salem
sells voodoo dolls*
From the 1692 Salem witch-hunt records, we know Tituba was “the Indian servant of Mr. Samuel Parris,” the minister of Salem Village. But we know very little about her life and her background. When was she born and where did she come from before being accused, interrogated, and jailed as a witch?

Although called a “servant,” Tituba probably lived in perpetual servitude. While slaves did exist in New England, most were of African descent, not Native American. Tituba could have been a Wampanoag, a Carib, or an Arawak Indian, which scholars have debated for years. Her foreignness within her small community went beyond her ethnic background though. In court, Tituba refers to “her mistress in her own country,” implying that she was born outside of the 13 Colonies as well.

The most in-depth study, Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem by Elaine Breslaw, claims Tituba was an Arawak Indian kidnapped from a Dutch settlement in South America and brought to Barbados. Based on the etymology of her name it could be plausible—but that scenario and the name also could apply to multiple people. Instead of suggesting Tituba absorbed an amalgam of cultural influences in Barbados, Breslaw creates a captive story that not only orphans Tituba but has the young Indian girl living with an African family. To tie the pieces together, Breslaw finds a 1676 plantation list of “negroes” that places a “Tattuba” with the “boys & girls,” suggesting an age range—and providing white owners with possible connections to Samuel Parris. As genealogists, we learn that even if the name is the same, we still need to connect the 1692 Tituba with earlier documentsand that cannot be done conclusively.

Like many slaves, we may never know her parents, her birthplace, or her age, though we can surmise some details based on the life of Tituba’s owner, Samuel Parris (1653-1720).

The Life of Parris

Samuel was the son of Thomas Parris (d. 1673), a cloth merchant of London. Thomas’ older brother John (d. 1660) owned a sugar plantation in Barbados in the 1640s, where he was a merchant and sometime slave trader. When he died there in 1660, part of John’s property went to his brother Thomas and his children. Thomas’ eldest son John inherited land from his uncle in England and Ireland. Younger son Samuel inherited a plantation and other property in Barbados.

At some point, Thomas and son Samuel moved to Barbados, where the climate, the foods, and the racial demographics were much different from England and even New England. With such valuable and income-producing properties, they would have become accustomed to having slaves and servants as an everyday part of island life.

Samuel left Barbados to attend Harvard College in Massachusetts Bay Colony, where his classmates would be future ministers, government officials, and businessmen. To an aspiring young man, Parris may have made the association that true gentlemen had servants and slaves to take care of farming and household chores so they themselves could be occupied with worldly matters. Before completing his degree, however, Thomas died, causing Samuel to return to Barbados to settle his father’s estate. Instead of living on the plantation, Samuel moved to Bridgetown, where he acted as a merchant agent. In December 1679, he was listed with one slave and one servant on the Barbados census.

By 1680, Samuel Parris returned to Boston, most likely bringing with him Tituba and John Indian. In short order, the 27-year-old bachelor married Elizabeth Eldridge/Eldred (1648?-1696) and set up house. Without the business acumen of his uncle and because of his own fractious nature, Samuel was not a successful merchant. He defaulted on a commercial loan and spent time in the courts. Perhaps thinking the ministry was a more suitable, pastoral occupation, in 1685, Samuel took a position as a paid preacher in Stowe, Massachusetts. Several years and much negotiating later, he became the minister at Salem Village, taking Tituba and John Indian with him.

The Qualities of a Servant

In the court trials, Tituba mentions her previous mistress in whose home she would have learned how to be in charge of a household—from tending the garden, preserving foods, cooking meals to housecleaning, laundry, spinning, and making candles and soaps. To be capable of running the household, we can estimate that Tituba would have been between the ages of 16 and 25 when she came to Boston. Without having much supervision in a bachelor’s home, it’s doubtful she would have been younger. If she were much older, that would have meant a shorter working life, and we know from his biography that Samuel was stingy and too demanding for that.

When Samuel married, Tituba’s workload would not have been divided in half. From his interactions with the Salem Villagers, it’s easy to get the impression that Samuel aspired to a higher social strata than a yeoman farmer. In Boston, Elizabeth Parris may have done more entertaining than cleaning. And as a minister’s wife, she was expected to make her rounds, helping people in the community, leaving Tituba to take care of hearth and home—and children.

Samuel and Elizabeth had three children—Thomas (b. 1681), Betty (1682-1760), and Susanna (1688-1706)—and, at some point, niece Abigail Williams joined the family.

Tribulations and Trials

Although the children had chores and schooling to attend to, Betty and Abigail’s so-called witch afflictions in 1692 meant more work for Tituba. Not only was the house filled with visitors observing the two girls, Betty and Abigail’s ailments were a convenient excuse to get out of housework.

After weeks of hysterical outbursts, fits, and twitches from the two girls, Samuel Parris gave up on Cotton Mather’s proscribed prayers and fasting, pushing instead for names of those who had bewitched the children. It’s not surprising whose names were on the list—the outcasts and outsiders—including Tituba, the overworked Indian slave from Barbados. These women didn’t fit in polite, Christian society, with their cursing (impoverished Sarah Good), their lack of church attendance (old, bedridden Sarah Osburn), their otherness (Indian slave Tituba).

If you visit local attractions in Salem, Massachusetts, Tituba is portrayed as a black slave telling tales to young and impressionable girls at the Salem Village parsonage. But the role of storyteller wasn’t created for Tituba until Charles W. Upham (1802-1875) re-imagined her as the center of the maelstrom in his book Salem Witchcraft (1867), which was widely read and repeated by historians and authors.

Probably after being physically coerced by Samuel Parris, Tituba confesses to being a witch before the magistrates—but not to occult practices like fortune telling or Caribbean voodoo. She does, however, tell of Satan making her pinch and hurt the girls, of riding a stick to night-time meetings with other witches, and of the existence of more witches. With obvious references to British witchcraft folklore, Tituba’s testimony weaves together Samuel Parris’ sermons of Satan’s conspiracy against his church and the people’s fears that the girls were experiencing a preternatural battle for their souls. Instead of creating unity to save the church, Tituba’s words turned neighbor against neighbor.  

Story with No Ending

Tituba’s value as a witness against Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn unexpectedly saved her life, while forfeiting theirs. As more afflicted accusers came forward, more innocent victims were accused, and spectral evidence spread near and far, Tituba lay forgotten in prison.

According to contemporary chroniclers, after the General Jail Delivery, Samuel Parris refused to pay Tituba’s jail fees. But by paying seven pounds for her shackles and 13 months’ room and board, a new master bought an Indian slave whose future labor was worth more than the fees. After watching others die in jail or being led out to the gallows and being rejected by the family she had served for a dozen years, perhaps her new owner thought Tituba would be a docile and obedient servant. Beaten down and neglected, she was malnourished, her body stiff from the shackles and hardly any exercise, her mind constantly living in fear. No doubt, Tituba was grateful to be part of the living again. And, so, quietly Tituba the Indian servant disappeared from recorded history.

In 1711, no one came forward to ask for compensation from the government on behalf of the Indian slave.


Larry Gragg, A Quest for Security: The Life of Samuel Parris 1653-1720.

Elise Lemire, Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts.

Bernard Rosenthal, et al, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt.

Charles W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft.

For more on Tituba, see also:

* It is unclear whether the voodoo dolls sold at HEX are in reference to a supposed (and incorrect) connection to Tituba since Bridget Bishop poppets also are sold in the store, or if they are just one of many magical products available. The owners are 
modern-day Warlocks with Witchcraft shops in both Salem and New Orleans.