Some thoughts on the Salem Witch Trials

I had a very interesting and stimulating email exchange with my cousin Rodney Ulibarri recently. A while back I wrote that I had been suffering from tunnel vision – well that exchange brought me out of the tunnel, at least for a while. Rod mentioned that he wanted to visit Salem and the cemetery to see where our ancestors were burried who had taken part in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Well, in my best “tunnel vision manner”, I had already checked to see if any Waltons were involved and had come up empty. But, as Rod pointed out, some of our Putnam ancestors were involved. So, that got me to thinking and wondering and I did some more detailed checking into the Salem Witch Trials and found out that the Putnams were not only involved but were very key players.

“From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials.  Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended…

Scholars have noted potentially telling differences between the accused and the accusers in Salem.  Most of the accused lived to the south of, and were generally better off financially, than most of the accusers.  In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches.  Also, the accused and the accusers generally took opposite sides in a congregational schism that had split the Salem community before the outbreak of hysteria.  While many of the accused witches supported former minister George Burroughs, the families that included the accusers had–for the most part–played leading roles in forcing Burroughs to leave Salem.  The conclusion that many scholars draw from these patterns is that property disputes and congregational feuds played a major role in determining who lived, and who died, in 1692.” “The Witchcraft Trials in Salem: A Commentary” by Douglas Linder found at

My main information about the trials comes from “Salem Witch Trials, Documentary Archive and Transcription Project”, copyright 2002 by Benjamin Ray and The University of Virginia. Their website can be found at:

It turns out that there are 14 Putnams (8 males and 6 females) mentioned in the archives as giving evidence or statements either accusing or defending the so-called witches. There were eleven young girls “afflicted” by witches and the primary accusers. Other accusers primarily gave statements in support of the afflicted girls testimony and generally against the character of the accused. Five of the girls (Ann Putnam Jr., Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, Mercy Lewis and Elizabeth Hubbard) were the most active accusers. Ann Putnam and Mary Walcott were cousins and Ann was also related to Mercy Lewis who was an orphan and lived with the Putnams.

The Putnams involved are as follows:

Gen 1. John Putnam – the patriarch. my 9th great grandfather. He wasn’t involved, he died in 1662,
his sons:

Gen 2. Thomas – my 8th great grand uncle. He wasn’t involved, he died in 1686,
his sons:

Gen 3. Thomas – my 1st cousin 9x removed: he was heavily involved. He wrote many letters to the judges and gave testimony in numerous cases. His wife Ann also testified and his daughter Ann and his charge Mercy Lewis were major accusers.

Gen 3. Edward – my 1st cousin 9x removed: he was marginally involved and only gave limited testimony.

Gen 3. Joseph – my 1st cousin 9x removed: he may or may not have been involved and the Joseph Putnam mentioned may have been his cousin.

Gen 2. Nathaniel – my 8th great grandfather. He was involved as both accuser and defender but not heavily,
his sons:

Gen 3. Joseph – my 7th great grand uncle: either he or his cousin Joseph were involved as vocal opponents of the trials. (It was probably this Joseph)

Gen 3. Benjamin – my 7th great grandfather: he and his wife Sarah gave testimony in an attempt to exonerate one of the accused.

Gen 2. John Sr. – my 8th great grand uncle: he and his wife Rebecca testified in support of one of the accused and he testified against two of the others.
his sons:

Gen 3. Jonathan – my 1st cousin 9x removed: he was heavily involved. He was constable for Salem Village and thus it was his duty to apprehend the accused and detain them for trial. Several accused individuals tried to escape and were captured later. Jonathan and his wife Lydia also testified on behalf of one of the accused and he testified against several others.

Gen 3. John Jr. – my 1st cousin 9x removed: he was fairly heavily involved, primarily by testifying against some of the accused. He also testified, with his wife Hannah, in support of one of the accused.


About larrytom2

Older guy interested in genealogy and family issues.
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2 Responses to Some thoughts on the Salem Witch Trials

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: 9th Week Ebenezer Hutchinson, my 4th Great Grandfather | larrysgroup

  2. Pingback: 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: 16th Week John Putnam | larrysgroup

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