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SALEM WITCHCRAFT TRIALS RESEARCH GUIDE

 

Explore digitized manuscripts and documents from the Salem witch trials.

The Salem Witch Trials were a series of hearings before county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people, including several children, were accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. In total, 25 people were executed or died in jail during the trials. The preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in various towns across the province: Salem Village (now Danvers), Ipswich, Andover, Topsfield, and Salem Town. The best-known trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 and the Superior Court of Judicature in 1693, both in Salem Town.

The original manuscripts in this collection were digitized as part of the New England’s Hidden Histories project and are held by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Further information about the collection can be found in the Phillips Library's finding aid.

Many of the documents were previously digitized by the University of Virginia as part of their Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, which began in 1999. In 2017, members of the CLA and Phillips Library staff found several documents in the Phillips Library’s collection which had not yet been digitized. These documents were digitized as part of our New England's Hidden Histories project and may be accessed below or in our digital archive.

For ease of use, we have provided information about all of the documents in the collection here, regardless of where the digitized versions can be accessed. Documents only available through the University of Virginia site can be found in the Related Materials section.

MATERIALS DIGITIZED BY NEHH

These documents are organized alphabetically by the last name of the accused, and then in chronological order for each case. Links to the digitized records are provided for each individual. All documents previously digitized by the University of Virginia’s Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project are indicated with an asterisk next to each individual’s name and can be accessed on their website at https://salem.lib.virginia.edu/archives/eia.html.

 

Mary Barker*

Mary Barker of Andover was 13 years old in 1692, when she and other members of her family were accused of witchcraft by Samuel Martin and Moses Tyler. Shortly after her arrest on August 29, 1692, Barker confessed and accused two others (Goodwives Faulkner and Johnson) of forcing her to sign the "Devil's book." She was eventually found not guilty and released.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 August 29 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin 
 

William Barker, Jr.*

14-year-old William Barker Jr. from Andover, MA was the first cousin of Mary Barker and was arrested shortly after her. William Jr.'s father, William Barker Sr., was also arrested but later escaped. On the day of William Jr.'s arrest (Sep. 1, 1692) he confessed to witchcraft and also accused one "Goody Parker" of the same crime. Court magistrates later arrested Mary Ayer Parker, one of several women with the Parker surname living in Andover, who was subsequently executed. This has led to speculation that Mary Ayer Parker was not the intended target of William Jr.'s accusation. William Jr. remained in prison until 1693 but was eventually acquitted.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 16 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Sarah Bridges*

17-year-old Sarah Bridges initially maintained her innocence upon her arrest on August 25, 1692. She did, however, accuse her stepsister, Hannah Post, of witchcraft in the same testimony. Later she would also confess, claiming that there were an additional 200 witches in the Salem area. She was found not guilty.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 August 25 
Accusers: The Justices of Salem

 

Carrier Family

Several members of the Carrier family of Andover were accused of witchcraft. These included siblings Sarah (8), Thomas (10), Andrew (15), and Richard (18), along with their mother Martha Allen Carrier. Martha was arrested on May 28, 1962, and her children were also taken into custody and examined. Their mother was later found guilty and hanged along with George Burroughs, John Proctor, George Jacobs Sr., and John Willard on August 19, 1692. According to the account of John Proctor who was imprisoned with them, the Carrier children were coerced by torture into pleading guilty and testifying against their mother. They were later released.

 

Andrew Carrier*

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 July 22 
Accuser: Unsigned

 

Richard Carrier*

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 July 22 
Accuser: Unsigned

 

Sarah Carrier*

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 2 
Accuser: Dudley Bradstreet

 

Thomas Carrier, Jr.*

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 2 
Accuser: Dudley Bradstreet 
 

Rebecca Eames

51-year-old Rebecca Eames was accused of practicing witchcraft on Timothy Swan, a claim corroborated by members of the Putman family and related individuals. She was arrested directly after the public execution of George Burroughs, Martha Allen Carrier, George Jacobs Sr., John Proctor, and John Willard on August 19, 1692, having been accused of inflicting pain on a fellow spectator. Her son and grandson were later also accused. Eames was tried and convicted on September 17th along with nine others, all of whom were condemned to death. Four of the nine were hanged on September 22, but Eames was spared when the court dissolved in October. She remained in prison until early December, when she petitioned to be exonerated, claiming that she had pled guilty on the advice of fellow inmates Abigail Hobbs and Mary Lacey.

Document: Examination (2nd) 
Date: 1692 August 31 
Accuser: Unsigned 

Document: Certification of Confession 
Date: 1692 September 15 
Accuser: John Higginson 
 

Ann Foster

Ann Foster of Andover was a 75-year-old widow, originally from London. She was accused by the Salem children Ann Putnam Jr. and Mary Walcott of inflicting a fever on Elizabeth Ballard of Andover. Putnam and Walcott had been brought in by Salem magistrates to "detect" the witch responsible for the affliction. Foster refused to confess despite probable coercion by torture, but her resolve was broken when her accused daughter, Mary Foster Lacey, Sr. testified against her mother, presumably in an attempt to save herself and her child. The resulting guilty plea proved ineffectual and both women were sentenced to death on September 17, 1692. They were spared by the dissolution of the court in October, but Ann Foster died after 21 weeks in prison on December 3rd.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 July 21 
Accuser: Unsigned

 

Sarah Good

Sarah Good was one of the first three women to be accused of witchcraft in Salem in February 1692, along with Tituba and Sarah Osborne. Good had fallen on hard times after litigation erased her family's wealth and two consecutive marriages to paupers left her destitute. She was often homeless and earned a living by begging, probably leading to an unsavory reputation in the town. On February 25, 1692, Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Parris claimed to have been bewitched by Good, who was tried and found guilty despite maintaining her innocence throughout the entire process. The resulting death sentence was delayed because she was pregnant. The newborn child, Mercy Good, died shortly after birth. Good was hanged on July 19, 1692 along with Elizabeth How, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Wilds.

Document: Testimony 
Date: 1692 June 29 
Accuser: Samuel Sibley

 

Sarah Hawks*

21-year-old Sarah Hawks was arrested for witchcraft along with her stepfather, Samuel Wardwell, her mother, Sarah Hawks Wardwell, and her half-sister Mercy Wardwell. Samuel Wardwell was found guilty and hanged on September 22, 1692, but Sarah and her other relatives escaped execution and were later released from prison.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 4 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Elizabeth How/Howe

Elizabeth How's involvement in the witchcraft crisis began ten years prior to the official trials in Salem. In 1682, a young girl from Topsfield named Hannah Trumble began experiencing fits and accused How of making her ill through witchcraft. How's reputation was irreparably damaged, and she was refused admittance to Ipswich Church. When the troubles began in Salem in 1692, How was again accused, this time of afflicting Mary Walcott and Abigail Willams. Their testimony was corroborated by Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Ann Putnam Jr., and several others in the town. How was arraigned in the first Salem trial on June 30, 1692, and, despite fervent support from family and friends, was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was executed along with Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Sarah Wilds and Susannah Martin on July 19th at Gallows Hill, Salem.

An earlier document in her case can be found in the Related Materials section below.

Document: Indictment (2nd) 
Date: 1692 June 29 
Accusers: Samuel Pearly, Ruth Pearly, Mercy Lewis, Joseph Andrews, Sarah Andrews, Mary Wolcott, John Sherrin, Abigail Williams, Joseph Safford, Ann Putman [sic], Francis Leaves, Isack Cumins, Abraham Foster, and Lydia Foster

 

Johnson Family

Many members of the Johnson family were accused of witchcraft, though later ruled not guilty. Elizabeth Jr., the 22-year-old daughter of Elizabeth Johnson Sr. was the first to be accused and imprisoned on August 10, 1692, due to accusations (probably acquired under torture) by the Carrier family children. Johnson testified against them in turn, implicating the Carriers and many others in secret devilish rites, including Rev. George Burroughs, Captain John Floyd, Daniel Eames, and Mary Toothaker.

After her daughter, Elizabeth Jr., had languished in prison for many days, Elizabeth Sr. was also charged with practicing witchcraft on Martha Sprague of Boxford and Abigail Martin of Andover. She was arrested in late August 1692, along with her ten-year-old daughter Abigail, her son Stephen, and her sister Abigail Faulkner. Elizabeth and Abigail were arraigned together in court, with Elizabeth accusing her sister of threatening to "tear her in pieces" if she confessed. During her confession she accused several others, and implicated her teenage son, Stephen, who later also confessed.

Several factors may have exacerbated the Johnson family's victimization. Rev. Francis Dane, the family patriarch and father of Elizabeth Sr. was a witchcraft skeptic who voiced early opposition to the Salem trials. Elizabeth Johnson Sr.'s reputation was also negatively impacted by a prior conviction of fornication before marriage, with her late husband Stephen Johnson.

 

Elizabeth Johnson, Jr.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 August 10 
Accuser: Dudley Bradstreet

 

Elizabeth Johnson, Sr.*

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 August 30 
Accusers: The Justices of Salem

 

Stephen Johnson*

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 4 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Mary Lacey, Jr.*

Mary Lacey, Jr. was the 18-year-old daughter of Mary Lacy, Sr. She was accused of witchcraft along with her mother and her maternal grandmother, Ann Foster. The two older women were found guilty and sentenced to death despite confessing in an attempt to avoid execution. They avoided hanging when the witchcraft crisis began to die down in October of 1692. However, Mary Jr.'s grandmother Ann Foster died in prison shortly after her trial. Mary Jr. was released on bond in October, 1692 and later found not guilty.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 July 21 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Mary Lacey, Sr.*

Daughter of Ann Foster of Andover, Mary Lacy, Sr. was accused shortly after her mother, on the 19th of July 1692, along with her daughter Mary Jr. The complaint was filed by Joseph Ballard of Andover, alleging that the women had afflicted his wife, Elizabeth Ballard. Mary Sr. confessed upon examination and also accused her mother, Ann Foster, stating that the two had "ridden upon a pole" to a witch meeting in Salem. She also accused Mary Bradbury, Elizabeth How, Rebecca Nurse, Richard Carrier, and Andrew Carrier. Mary Sr. was sentenced to death along with her mother. Although both mother and daughter ultimately avoided execution, the elderly Ann Foster died in prison shortly thereafter.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 July 21 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson 

Document: Indictment 
Date: 1692 September 14 
Accuser: Unsigned

 

Mary Marston*

One of many residents of Andover to be accused of witchcraft, Marston was brought in on the testimony of Samuel Martin of Andover and Moses Tyler of Boxford, for allegedly afflicting Abigail Martin, Rose Foster, and Martha Sprague. She was examined, confessed, and was subsequently imprisoned throughout the remainder of 1692, despite a petition for release filed by her husband, John Marston. She was brought to trial early in 1693 but found not guilty.

Document: Examination and Confession 
Date: 1692 August 29 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Hannah Post*

Hannah Post of Boxford seems to have been an "afflicted" accuser at the trial of Mary Parker, but was herself later accused of witchcraft. During her examination she initially professed her innocence, but later stated that she had "signed the Devil's book." She also implicated her sister, Susanna Post, and Sarah and Mary Bridges. Post was imprisoned, but found not guilty on January 12, 1693.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 August 25 
Accusers: The Justices of Salem

 

Elizabeth Proctor

Wife of the accused and condemned John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor was targeted along with her husband, who had spoken out against the accusers during the controversial trial of Rebecca Nurse. Elizabeth's Quaker grandmother had also been accused of witchcraft in 1669, and this may have cast suspicion on Elizabeth by association. In spite of petitions of support from family friends, Elizabeth was found guilty of afflicting Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, John Indian, Mary Walcott, and Ann Putnam, and sentenced to death along with her husband, John, on August 5, 1692. She avoided execution because she was pregnant; by the time she had given birth, the witchcraft crisis had died down, and she was later acquitted and released. Because she was not included in her husband's will, she was left destitute for many years, although the family was later reimbursed for ₤150 in 1711.

Document: Testimony 
Date: 1692 April 4 
Accusers: Samuel Parris, Nathaniel Ingersoll, and Thomas Putman 

Document: Testimony (Positive) 
Date: 1692 August 5 
Accuser: William Rayment, Jr.

 

Mary Toothaker*

Mary Toothaker's husband, the doctor Roger Toothaker, was accused and imprisoned for witchcraft in May 1692, for afflicting Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Putnam, Jr., and Mary Walcott. He was sent to prison in Boston, where he died on June 16th, of apparently natural causes. After his arrest, Mary Toothaker and her daughter, Margaret, were also accused and imprisoned in the Salem jail. Mary's sister, Martha Carrier, was condemned by the court and hanged on August 10, 1692, but Mary and her daughter were tried and found not guilty in January of 1693. Mary was subsequently killed in an Abenaki or Pennacook raid on her hometown of Billerica in 1695.

Document: Examination and Confession 
Date: 1692 July 30 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Johanna Tyler*

Johanna Tyler, age 11, was accused of witchcraft along with her sisters, Hannah and Martha, and their mother, Mary Lovett Tyler, on September 7, 1692. Her confessional testimony stands out as one of the more detailed descriptions of alleged witchcraft given by a child during the Salem trials. Tyler was later released with her immediate family.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 16 
Accusers: John Higginson and Thomas Wade

 

Mercy Wardwell*

19-year-old Mercy Wardwell's father, Samuel Wardwell, was convicted of witchcraft and later hanged on September 22, 1692. Mercy was imprisoned shortly after her father's arrest, on charges of afflicting Martha Sprague, Rose Foster, and Timothy Swan. Her mother, Sarah Wardwell, and half-sister, Sarah Hawks, Jr., would also be charged. Mercy confessed on September 15, 1692. She was never tried, and was released after the court dissolved in October.

Document: Examination 
Date: 1692 September 4 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Sarah Wardwell*

Wife of the condemned Samuel Wardwell, Sarah was arrested shortly after her husband, in August 1692. She took her infant daughter Rebecca with her to jail, and her daughters Mercy Wardwell and Sarah Hawks were also accused and imprisoned. Wardwell was examined on September 1, 1692 and subsequently confessed, implicating Ann Foster and Martha Carrier. She and her daughters were in jail when her husband was hanged on September 22, 1692. Sheriff George Corwin meanwhile confiscated large amounts of the Wardwells' property, as well as property in Lynn that had belonged to Sarah's first husband. She was tried and found guilty on January 2, 1693, but would later be pardoned.

Document: Confession 
Date: 1692 September 4 
Accusers: Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson

 

Sarah Wilds/Willes*

Sarah Wilds (née Averill) was 65 years old at the time of the Salem trials. Before her marriage to John Wilds in 1663, she had been censured for "too great intimacy with Thomas Wardell," and for the lesser offense of wearing a silk scarf, facts that may have lent her a poor reputation in the conservative Puritan community. The Wilds also feuded with the Gould family of Salem, who happened to be good friends with the Putnam accusers. These factors may have hastened Wilds' denunciation by Thomas Putnam, Jr. and John Buxton, who alleged that she had afflicted Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott. Other signatories also testified against her during the trials, including Humphrey Clark, Thomas Dorman, John Andrew, John Gould, Zacheus Perkins, Elizabeth Symonds, Nathaniel Ingersoll, and the Rev. John Hale. After several weeks of imprisonment in the Boston jail, Wilds was executed by hanging in Salem on July 19, 1692.

Further documents in this case can be found in the Related Materials section below.

Document: Testimony 
Date: 1692 April 22 
Accusers: Nathaniel Ingersoll and Thomas Putnam

RELATED MATERIALS IN THE NEHH DIGITAL ARCHIVE

Boston, Mass. Second Church (1650-1815)

The Second Church of Boston was gathered in 1649, the second Congregational church formed by English settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This church was also historically referred to as the Old North Meeting House. Ministers at the Second Church included several members of the Mather family: Increase Mather, Cotton Mather, and Samuel Mather. In 1714, members of the church left to form the New North Church. The meetinghouse of the Second Church was destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War, which caused the congregation to merge with the New Brick Church. In 1970, the First and Second Churches of Boston merged, and today it is a Unitarian Universalist church.

 

Danvers, Mass. First Church (1689-1845)

The First Church of Danvers was founded in 1672 when a group of farmers who lived quite a distance from the Salem meetinghouse, of which they were members, petitioned for permission to erect a meetinghouse of their own. This collection contains the early records of the Danvers church, including records pertaining to membership, vital statistics, and church meetings. Of particular note are records pertaining to the confession and trial of Martha Corey (alternatively spelled Kory and Cory) in regards to the witchcraft controversy in Salem.

 

Green, Joseph. Diary (1700-1715)

Rev. Joseph Green (1674-1715) graduated from Harvard in 1695 and was ordained in 1698. He became minister of the Salem Village church, replacing the controversial Rev. Samuel Parris who had left in 1696. Green also presided over the congregation’s votes to rescind charges of witchcraft against those accused. The collection contains a diary kept by Green between 1700 and 1715.

 

Marblehead, Mass. Old North Church (1684-1886)

TRANSCRIPTION AVAILABLE

The First Church of Christ of Marblehead, Massachusetts, was established on August 13, 1684, and Rev. Samuel Cheever was ordained the first minister. The first meetinghouse was built atop Old Burial Hill in 1638, and the second meetinghouse was constructed in 1695. The third, and final, meetinghouse, built of stone, was constructed in 1824. Disagreements over the appointment of ministers led to the establishment of the Second Church in 1716 and the Third Church in 1858. Now known as the Old North Church, the church continues to serve the local community. This collection contains the earliest administrative and financial record books for the church.

 

Mather, Cotton. Diary and Personal Documents (1716)

Rev. Cotton Mather (1663-1728), was born on February 12, 1663 in the city of Boston. He graduated from Harvard in 1678 and was ordained May 13, 1684 at the Second Church in Boston, also known as "Old North" Church, where he served with his father, Increase (1639-1723). He was a prolific author, publishing some 280 distinct items. He endorsed inoculation as a means of preventing smallpox and was involved in the Salem witchcraft trials as both a prosecutor and an advisor. This collection includes a portion of Mather's diary entries from 1716, an essay for his son, Samuel, with advice on attending college, and a listing of marriages Mather performed, dated 1717.

 

Mather Family. Papers (1648-1651)

TRANSCRIPTION AVAILABLE

This collection comprises papers of the Mather family, beginning with the family patriarch, Rev. Richard Mather (1596-1669), the first to emigrate from England to North America. Materials include both records created by members of the family and associated materials formerly in their keeping.

 

Salem, Mass. First Church (1629-1843)

The First Church of Salem, Massachusetts, founded in 1629, was one of the first churches organized in New England. Salem's church was the first truly Congregational parish with governance by church members. The population of Salem grew rapidly during the eighteenth century, resulting in the peaceful division of the First Church's congregation to form the East Church in 1719. After Rev. Samuel Fisk was ousted from his ministerial role, Fisk led his supporters to form another First Church in 1735, which was compelled to change its name to the Third Church in 1762. The original First Church split again over ministerial preference in 1772, leading to the creation of the North Church of Salem. The First Church and North Church reunited in 1923, and the East Church reunited with the First Church in 1956. The reunited church continues to serve their community today as the First Church in Salem, Unitarian Universalist. This collection contains the earliest administrative records of the church, church correspondence, pew sale records, and a copy of the 1780 church covenant.

 

Topsfield, Mass. Congregational Church (1684-1869)

The Congregational Church in Topsfield, Massachusetts, was founded in 1663 under the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Gilbert. The earliest extant records of the church were kept by the Rev. Joseph Capen beginning in 1684. Congregants constructed a meetinghouse on Topsfield Common in 1703. New meetinghouses were constructed in 1759 and 1842. The church continues to serve their community today as the Congregational Church of Topsfield, a member of the United Church of Christ. The collection contains two bound volumes of church records. These include meeting minutes, membership records, and lists of baptisms, marriages, and deaths.

 

Turell, Ebenezer. Account of a Witchcraft Case (1728)

TRANSCRIPTION AVAILABLE

Rev. Ebenezer Turell (1701-1778) graduated from Harvard in 1721 and was subsequently ordained as the minister of the First Parish in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1724. He remained in Medford until his death. This collection contains Turell’s handwritten account and commentary on a witchcraft case at Littleton in 1720.

MORE RESOURCES FOR RESEARCHING THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

CREATED WITH GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM

 

The New England’s Hidden Histories Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom

This digital resource has been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.