Follow Friday: Was Your Ancestor A Witch?

Just in time for Halloween, Sherry at the Family Tree Writer blog, has written this post: Was Your Ancestor a Witch?  In her post she tells of any elderly woman who is hard of hearing.  Because of the way she acts, due to hearing loss, she is accused of being a witch.  Though she had many people on her side, she was convicted and hung.  It turns out that some of her accusers were involved with her in a land dispute.

You may that in the Portuguese tradition, a witch is a “feiteceira”.  Though they were traditionally healers, feiteceras delved into the superstitious.  They provided remedies for such things as removing “the evil eye.”  Some of their practices involve lighting candles, chants, and special prayers.  I don’t know much about it but it seems that it blends some of the Catholic religious traditions with traditional healing.

The Salem Witch Hunt Trials were a particularly sad time in human history.  The people who were accused of the crime of witchcraft were merely misunderstood.  Many suffered medical conditions which lead people to see them as strange or odd.

Read the post and learn a little bit about the Salem Witch Hunts and one of the victims.

Happy Halloween!

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  1. Sherry’s post is about Rebecca Nurse, and we were with the group that refurbished her grave memorial (no one knows her actual burial spot) in 1992 (the 30th anniversary of the witchcraft trials). My entire family is from Salem, and George Jacobs, another victim hung in 1692, was re-interred at the Nurse homestead burial ground.

    Rebecca’s two sisters, Mary and Sarah, were also accused, but Sarah was aquitted and paid six sovereigns for her trouble. I also have two other ancestors who were hung (John Proctor and Bridget Bishop) and several others who were imprisoned but eventually pardoned (members of the Dane family, the Dustin family), but I also have many other ancestors who were on the accusing side of the story. It’s my belief that they accused their neighbors to prevent being accused themselves, and even George Jacobs grand daughter made a deposition against him.

    A very sad story, but anyone who has colonial Salem roots will have ancestors involved, either on one side or another, so it is worthwhile looking through the archives to find your surnames and to read the court records. It’s surprising how many documents survive from this time period, and how many people were listed as accusers and witnesses. Many hundreds of people were accused, but everyone only thinks of the 19 who were hung. All the families suffered, no matter what side they found themselves on.

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