16 January 2020

Before the court: Massachusetts Bay records

Records of the Court of Assistants of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, 1630-1692

1630 to 1641: Records, so far as recovered or reproduced from State Archives
1641 to 1644
1642 to 1673 Restored fragments of records
1673 to 1692 (missing Intercharter period, part 1686-part 1689)

Criminal trials in the Court of Assistants and Superior Court of Judicature, 1630-1700 by John Noble (1897)

Abstract and index of the records of the Inferior court of pleas, Suffolk County Court, Held at Boston, 1680-1698

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

Vol. I 1636-1656
Vol. II 1656-1662
Vol. III 1662-1667
Vol. IV 1667-1671
Vol. V 1672-1674
Vol. VI 1675-1678
Vol. VII 1678-1680
Vol. VIII 1680-1683
Vol. IX 1683-1686

Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England

v. 1. 1628-1641
v. 2. 1642-1649
v. 3. 1644-1657
v. 4, pt. 1. 1650-1660
v. 4, pt. 2. 1661-1674
v. 5. 1674-1686

Massachusetts State Archives collection, colonial period, 1622-1788

v. 135 Witchcraft, 1656-1759

FamilySearch record images (click on camera icon on right to view digital records)

27 October 2019

Reconstructing Rev. George Burroughs’ Genealogy

1711 Attainder for George Burroughs & Others
Rev. George Burroughs left his Salem Village post in 1683, preferring life in the Maine wilds with occasional Indian attacks than dealing with the animosity brewing in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1692 he returned to Salem in chains on trumped up charges of being “in confederacy with the Devil.” 

At age 42, Burroughs stood before his former congregation and many other spectators at Proctor’s Ledge with a noose around his neck. He proclaimed his innocence on the charges of witchcraft, then perfectly recited the “Lord’s Prayer.” A sense of unease apparently swept through the crowd afterwards but Rev. Cotton Mather, sitting on horseback, declared it was a “righteous sentence.” Burroughs and four other victims of the Salem witch trials were hanged on 19 August 1692.

Incorporating Corrections to the Burroughs Tree

Over the last 65 years, various researchers have discovered new details about George Burroughs’ family and printed corrections, most notably in articles published in The American Genealogist. Yet we still see the same misinformation being repeated online and in print. I’ve compiled all that data so George can be properly placed with his parents, wives, and children.

Burrough of Wickhambrook

Born about 1650, George was the son of Nathaniel Burrough and his wife Rebecca Stiles. Nathaniel was a merchant/mariner, son of Rev. George Burrough (1579-1653), rector of Pettaugh and Gosbeck in Suffolk, England, and a member of the Burrough family of Wickhambrook. During his son’s childhood, records document Nathaniel’s travels between Maryland and Massachusetts Bay. Records also show in 1657 Rebecca joined the church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and was dismissed in 1674 to return to England. Rebecca (Stiles) Burrough was buried 26 March 1679 in Stepney, Middlesex, England. Nathaniel was buried there 6 March 1682.

*In England, the surname most often was spelled Burrough without the S, but there were a dozen variations.

Marriage No. 1

The ill-fated minister George Burroughs graduated from Harvard College in 1670. About 1673, he married Hannah Fisher, born 19 January 1652/3 in Dedham, Massachusetts, to Lieut. Joshua Fisher (1621-1672) and his first wife, Mary Aldis (d. 1653). George and Hannah had:

1. Rebecca Burroughs, baptized 12 April 1674 in Roxbury; died 27 January 1741/2, buried at Granary Burying Ground in Boston; married first, 1 December 1698 in Charlestown, Isaac Fowle; married second, 18 October 1716 in Boston, Ebenezer Tolman.
2. George Burroughs, baptized 25 November 1675 in Roxbury; died young.
3. Hannah Burroughs, born 27 April 1680 in Salisbury; died 5 August 1746 in Woburn, buried at First Burial Ground, Woburn; married 8 March 1705 in Boston, Jabez Fox (1684-1736).
4. Elizabeth Burroughs, born in 1681, baptized 4 June 1682 in Salem; died 1719, buried at Granary Burying Ground in Boston; married 2 November 1704 in Boston to Peter Thomas.

Hannah (Fisher) Burroughs died in September 1681, possibly shortly after her fourth child was born. Her ghost appeared in the Salem witch trials records.

Marriage No. 2

About 1683, George married Sarah Ruck, born 12 August 1656 in Salem, died about 1689/90, daughter of John Ruck (1627-1697) and his first wife Hannah Spooner (d. 29 January 1660/1) of Salem. Sarah was the widow of Capt. William Hathorne (1646-1678), son of Major William Hathorne (1606?-1681) and wife Ann of Salem. She had two Hathorne children who died in their minority. The proof of this earlier marriage is in a 1728 deed where her son Charles Burroughs, as his mother's heir, sells Capt. Hathorne's lands in Groton, Mass. Her ghost also appeared in the Salem witch trials records.

On 6 June 1693, John Ruck became guardian of George and Sarah’s four orphans (but not 1st wife Hannah’s children), and in the same month, Ruck had three of them baptized. In his 1697 will, he bequeathed land to his four Burroughs grandchildren:

5. Charles Burroughs, born about 1684, baptized June 1693 in Salem; married first, 3 October 1706 in Salem, Elizabeth Marston (d. 1711); married second, 11 March 1711 in Marlborough, Rebecca Townsend of Charlestown. 
6. George Burroughs, baptized April 1691 in Salem; published marriage intention 27 February 1713/4 in Ipswich to Sarah Scales.
7. Jeremiah Burroughs, baptized June 1693; died unmarried March 1752 in Ipswich. 
8. Josiah Burroughs, baptized June 1693; died after 1701 when he chose Samuel Ruck as guardian and before 1712 restitution.

Marriage No. 3

About 1690, George married his third wife, Mary —, probably in Maine. They had one child:

     9. Mary Burroughs, born about 1690-1692 in Maine, baptized 1 May 1698 in Cambridge, Massachusetts; married Joseph Tiffany probably years before they were warned out of Norton in 1734. She was admitted to the church in Attleborough in 1736.

In her mid-20s when her husband George was hanged, Mary (—) Burroughs married second, 13 July 1693 in Boston, Michael Homer—just months after his first wife Hannah (Dowse) died. In October 1694, Michael was taken to court for spousal abuse before disappearing from the records. In January 1697/8, Mary Homer was admitted a member of the Cambridge church and a few months later had her two daughters, Mary Burroughs and Hannah Homer, baptized. 

On 5 February 1699/1700, Mary (—) (Burroughs) Homer married in Cambridge to Christopher Hall Jr. (d. 1711). They had two children, Caleb (1700-1791) and Joshua Hall (1702-), born in Attleborough.

Sources for Burroughs’ Parents

“Nathaniel Burrough of Maryland, Massachusetts, and England” by George Ely Russell, The American Genealogist, Vol. 60, pp. 140-142, 1972. (TAG back issues are available to members at AmericanAncestors.org)

Genealogical Gleanings in England by Henry F. Waters, Vol.1, Vol. 2. 1:515f, 1:737, 2:1308f

Sources for Burroughs’ Wives & Children

“Homer-Stevens Notes, Boston” by Winifred Lovering Holman in The American Genealogist, Vol. 29, pp. 99-110, 1953.

“Mary (Burroughs) (Homer) (Hall) Tiffany” by Glade Ian Nelson in The American Genealogist, Vol. 48, pp. 140-146, 1972.

“The Third Wife of the Rev. George Burroughs” by David L. Greene in The American Genealogist, Vol. 56, pp. 43-45, 1980.

“Hannah Fisher, First Wife of the Rev. George Burroughs, Executed for Witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692” by Neil D. Thompson, The American Genealogist, Vol. 76, pp. 17-19, 2001.

“Sarah (Ruck) (Hathorne) Burroughs of Salem, Massachusetts” by Glade Isaac Nelson in The American Genealogist, Vol. 91, pp. 23-28, 2019.

Originally published 19 Sept. 2017, updated with Capt. Hathorne data.

14 September 2019

Smallpox reported in Massachusetts Bay 1676-1688

As seen in Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1620-1850 (online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2016), a few town clerks sometimes added notations for the cause of death, including smallpox. (Not all towns, such as Boston, are part of this database.)

Massachusetts Bay colonists first encountered smallpox in their communities in 1677, with epidemics also occurring in 1689–1690, 1702, 1721, 1751, 1764, and 1775. The highly infectious disease started with a fever followed in two or three days by a skin rash that turned into fluid-filled bumps with a dent in the center. Some colonists were familiar with or had the disease in the old country and knew that isolating its victims from the general population helped contain the spread of smallpox. But they did not have medical treatments or preventative measures.

Of the 4,283 deaths reported from 1676 to 1688 in the database, 32 notations mentioned death by smallpox. Typically, the rate of death after contracting the disease was 30 percent, though higher for babies. This suggests an average of 1,285 people died of smallpox, though only .74% were reported.

However, from the small sample (the 32 listed below), it’s possible to see how smallpox traveled (by placing the dates in order) and how relatives and neighbors were infected. 

----, Peter, a[n Indian] boy of Holbrook’s, small pox, 5: 11m : 1678-9. C.R. 1.
Davis, Samuel, s. Toby, small pox, bur. 10: 2m : 1679. C. R. 1.
Davis, Willia[m], small pox. at Boston, bur. 18: 10m: 1678. C. R. 1.
Gary (see also Garee, Gery), Dorcas, inf. d. ----, wid. Nathtaniel], small pox, bur. 21 : 12 m : 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Gery, Deborah [Gary, d. wid., small pox. C. R. 1.], Mar. 8, 1678 [1678-9. C. R. 1.]
Gery, Nathaniel [Gary, small pox. C. R. 1.], Jan. 28, 1678. [1678-9. C. R. 1.]
Goard, John [a young man], small pox, bur. 18: 12m: 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Goard, Phebe, w. Richard, small pox, bur. 28 : 12 m : 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Heath, Dorothy, d. wid., small pox, 3: 11m: 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Holbroke (see also Holbrook), John [Holbrook, small pox. C. R. 1.], Dec. 25, 1678.
Hopkins, Hannah, w. Willia[m], small pox, 5: 11m: 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Hopkins, Mary, small pox, bur. 8: 12m [Feb.]: 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Lamb, Mary, d. Caleb [small pox. C. R. 1.], July 4, 1679.
Newel, Abraham [Newell, C. R. 1.], s. Isaac [small pox: C. R. 1.], Dec. 25, 1678. [a. 11 y. C. R. 1.]
Newel, Jakob, small pox, 30: 10m: 1678. C. R. 1.
Newel, Mary, d. Jakob, small pox, 5: 12m: 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Stevens, ____, small pox, 13: 10m: 1678. C. R. 1.
Tatman (see also Totman), Elizabeth, inf. d. Jabesh, small pox, 30:9m: 1678. C. R. 1.
Weld, Elisabeth, w. Joseph [small pox. C. R. 1.], Feb. 15, 1678. [1678- 9. C. R. 1.]
Weld, Margaret [Marget. C. R. 1.], d. Joseph and Elisabeth [small pox. C. R. 1.], Feb 12. 1678.
Williams, Theoda, small pox, bur, 8: 12m: 1678-9. C. R. 1.
Wise, Jeremiah, small pox, 17 : 9m: 1678. C. R. 1.

Hamlet, Mary, w. Jacob, small pox, July 9, [16]78.

Beedle, ________, ch. Robert, small pox, Jan. 4, 1678. [Jan. 9. CT. R.]
Blanchard, John, small pox, July 24, 1678.
Lunt, ________, ch. John, small pox, Sept. 30, 1678.
Moody, Judith, d. Caleb, small pox, at Salisbury, Jan. 28, 1678.
Morse, ________, ch. Joseph, small pox, Feb. 5, 1678.
Morse, Joseph, small pox, Jan. 15, 1678.

Cutler, John, Sen., s. of ____, of the small-pox, in the family of Isaac Brooks, 1678 or 1678-79.
Farrar, Jacob, s. of ____, of small-pox, 1678 or 1678-9.
Wyman, David, s. of ____, of small-pox, 1678 or 1678-9.

03 August 2019

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 (1859)

Vol. 2 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1860)

Vol. 3 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1861)

Vol. 4 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1862)

Vol. 5 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1863)

Vol. 6 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1864)

Vol. 7 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1865)

Vol. 8 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1866)

Vol. 9 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1869)

Vol. 10 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1870)

Vol. 11 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1871)

Vol. 12 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1874)

Vol. 13 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1875)

Vol. 14 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1877)

Vol. 15 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1878)

Vol. 16 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1879)

Vol. 17 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1880)

Vol. 18 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1881)

Vol. 19 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1882)

Vol. 20 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1883)

Vol. 21 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1884)

Vol. 22 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1886)

Vol. 23 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1887)

Vol. 24 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1888)

Vol. 25 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1889)

Vol. 26 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1890)

Vol. 27 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1891)

Vol. 28 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1892)

Vol. 29 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1893)

Vol. 30 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1894)

Vol. 31 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1895)

Vol. 32 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1896)

Vol. 33 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1897)

Vol. 34 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1898)

Vol. 35 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1899)

Vol. 36 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1900)

Vol. 37 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1901)

Vol. 38 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1902)

Vol. 39 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1903)

Vol. 40 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1904)

Vol. 41 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1905)

Vol. 42 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1906)

Vol. 43 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1907)

Vol. 44 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1908)

Vol. 45 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1909)

Vol. 46 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1910)

Vol. 47 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1911)

Vol. 48 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1912)

Vol. 49 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1913)

Vol. 50 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1914)

Vol. 51 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1915)

Vol. 52 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1916)

Vol. 53 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1917)

Vol. 54 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1918)

Vol. 55 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1919)

Vol. 56 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1920)

Vol. 57 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1921)

Vol. 58 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1922)

Vol. 59 Essex Institute Historical Collections (1923)

Other Publications

Proceedings of the Essex Institute

Bulletin of the Essex Institute: Communications

Annual report of the Essex Institute

See more 

Digital Public Library of America


25 March 2019

Sidney Perley's Essex Antiquarian

Born in 1857, Sidney Perley was a well-known lawyer in Essex county, Massachusetts. He also wrote books and articles on history, genealogy, and the law. From 1897 to 1909 he published the Essex Antiquarian. These journals include so much valuable information, I've included the links below. Perley died in 1928. 

For more articles published by Perley, check out my links to the Essex Institute Historical Collections (EIHC). He also wrote pieces for the New England Historic Genealogical Society (AmericanAncestors.org).

14 May 2018

The Peabody Essex Museum's Phillips Library collections: a timeline from 1799 to 2018

Inside the Phillips Library in Salem, Massachusetts, 1885
One of the oldest research libraries in the country, Phillips Library contains more than 400,000 rare books and 117,000 square feet of manuscripts, original papers, photographic images, and prints from Salem and Essex county, Massachusetts, to places around the world. It's probably best known as the repository for the 1692 Salem witch trials documents; letters and manuscripts from Nathaniel Hawthorne and his literary circle; plus ships' logs and maritime journals documenting travels to the Far East. 

Of particular interest are local family histories and town records, military records, original genealogical papers, newspapers and city directories, charts and maps, business and social records, papers of notable Americans, works of regional authors, broadsides and ephemera, publications from literary and historical societies, art and architecture books, history books, and materials related to its museum collections.

For more than 200 years, the Phillips Library collection has been an integral part of Salem. The timeline, below, shows how the Phillips Library started and grewand where it's headed next.

1799 East India Marine Society founded for creating a library on navigation and seafaring topics and collecting curiosities from native cultures of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

1821 Essex Historical Society founded.

1833 Essex County Natural History Society founded.

1848 Essex Institute formed by the union of the Essex Historical Society and Essex County Natural History Society; focus on literary, historical, and scientific pursuits; museum library, historic houses, educational programs, scholarly publications.

1857 Plummer Hall built for Salem Athenaeum with money provided in the 1845 will of Caroline Plummer; Essex Institute rented rooms at Plummer Hall for library and collections.

1867-1868 Peabody Academy of Science formed with the purchase of the East India Marine Hall along with the historic and ethnological collections of East India Marine Society. Essex Institute permanently transferred its natural history collections, originally collected by the Essex County Natural History Society, to the Peabody Academy. The Peabody Academy permanently transferred its historical collections to the Essex Institute, which concentrated its focus on local history, genealogy, and art.

1885 Essex Institute acquired the Daland house for the Phillips Library.

1905 Essex Institute bought Plummer Hall from Salem Athenaeum.

1915 Peabody Academy of Science changed its name to Peabody Museum of Salem, with its focus on maritime history of New England, Pacific and Japanese ethnology, and natural history of Essex county.

1972 National Register of Historic Places approves formation of the Essex Institute Historic District formed within the bounds of the Armory, Essex Street, Washington Square West, and Brown Street.

1992 Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) founded through consolidation of Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute. Within a few years, PEM changed its focus to become an arts and culture museum.   

1997 PEM’s Phillips Library closed for “massive restoration project, including climate control and modern archival storage” (closed 9 months).

2004 reduced hours and limited access to Phillips Library after laying off all but one librarian. At the same time, PEM said it would put “part of its 400,000 volumes and 2 million manuscript papers on the Internet.” Already 26,000 records had been scanned.

2011 Phillips Library is closed during “preservation and renovation work on Plummer Hall and Daland House (expected completion 2013)” (closed 19 months). During part of the closure, PEM exhibited 35 rare items as part of its Unbound, Highlights from the Phillips Library at PEM exhibit. 

2013 Phillips Library collection moved to temporary collection center in Peabody, with limited access to the library's resources. 

2015 PEM announced “$20 million renovation and improvement of PEM’s Phillips Library....housed in two noted 1850s architectural treasures, the John Tucker Daland House and Plummer Hall, both of which are being renovated by Schwartz/Silver Architects.” Part of the funds were used to digitally catalog the collections in PhilCat.

2017 Peabody Essex Museum purchased building in Rowley for its new Collections Center.

2018 Phillips Library moved to Collections Center in Rowley (closed Sept. 2017 to mid-June 2018)

28 February 2018

Introducing the Witches of Massachusetts Bay website

As some of you already know, I've been studying, researching, and writing about the Salem witch trials for 20+ years. I love Salem. But when I visit, I expect to see evidence of the 1692 witch trials. But where is the court house? The documents? The tangible objects that remind us of the victims, the accusers, the judges?

Good question.

Instead of blogging these last few months, I've been putting together my new Witches of Massachusetts Bay website. It launched in late January to highlight locations and artifacts as well as provide a calendar of related events, whether you’re headed on a roadtrip, interested in a lunchtime talk on John Proctor, or ready for the Daemonologie experience. I also added information for doing armchair research and, yes, started another blog.

Get Ready for a Roadtrip

Relevant historical and genealogical societies, museums, historic sites, libraries, and cemeteries are listed on the Roadtrips pages by town. In time, I would like to include detailed information about how each one fits into the witch-hunt theme. For example, the Macy-Colby House in Amesbury displays the wooden cradle from executed “witch” Susannah (North) Martin’s family; the Old North Parish Burial Ground in North Andover includes burials of accused witches William Barker Sr. and his son William Barker Jr.; the Danvers Archival Center has books, manuscripts, and pamphlets on witchcraft; and the Beverly Historical Society offers tours of the house where Rev. John Hale wrote his Modest Inquiry book on witchcraft. On the Roadtrips pages, I’ve also included online book and record links.

Witch-Hunt and 17th Century-Focused Events

It seems I always found out about an event after it happened. No more! Now you can find out when a local history society is giving a tour of the Old Burial Grounds, attend a lecture on a family involved in the witch hunts, visit a home connected to the trials, learn about Wampanoag lives, or experience History Camp Boston. The calendar includes ongoing exhibits and special events, like 17th century Saturdays, so you know what's happening before you go.

Help with Research

The Research section includes lists of accused witches and old place names—as well as digital collections, books, records, and multimedia online that encompass more than one location.

Blogging on 'Witches'

The blog is for witch-hunt-related news, the latest research, Q&As with historians, book notices, collections highlights, etc. For example, I did a Q&A with a novelist about her book on accused witch Abigail (Dane) Faulkner; used Google Maps’ fix function to correct which Bishop lived where; and discovered the somewhat unknown witch trial items at the Supreme Court in Salem.

Learning from the Past

By searching for these locations and researching witch-hunt connections, I hope to expand my own understanding, because, ultimately, I think the witch hunts have much to teach us as individuals and as a society. Some of the accused may have dabbled in fortunetelling, folk-healing, and the like, but they were not witches who made pacts with the devil, performed Satanic rites, or shapeshifted to harm their neighbors. They were ordinary people with flaws, just like you and me.

If you're a witch-hunt historian, researcher, descendant, or just curious, check out my Witches of Massachusetts Bay website. I also invite you to sign up for my occasional emails, follow me on Twitter @witchesmassbay and Facebook, and spread the word. Thanks!