Hunting for Witches in your family tree

You have no power here. Now begone, before somebody drops a house on you too!

Glinda – The Wizard of Oz

I have long had an interest in Historical stories about witchcraft, The Crucible by far, is one of my favourite movies, stage plays and books.

As a genealogist I always keep a look out for any witches that might appear in my own family history and over the years I have stumbled upon witches, accusers and victims of witchcraft.

These include;

Anne Towneley (nee; Catterall) who was murdered or cursed to death by the famous Pendle Witches of Pendle Hill, Lancashire. Anne lived between (1539 – 1612), her death occurred a few months before the Pendle Witches were brought to trial and hung for their apparent crimes in 1612.

Anne was the wife of Henry Towneley my 3rd cousin 15x removed.

Jane Southworth (Nee; Sherburne) was accused of witchcraft in 1612, she was one of the Samlesbury Witches of Lancashire and her trial took place over the same two days as the trial of the Pendle Witches. Jane was born before 1585 in Stonyhurst, Lancashire

Jane is my 2nd cousin 14x removed.

Dame Alice Kyteler (1280 – later than 1325) was the first recorded person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland. She fled the country, but her servant Petronilla de Meath was flogged and burned to death at the stake on 3 November 1324.

Alice is my 22nd great-grandmother.

Anne Boleyn (1507 – 1536) was accused of adultery, incest, treason and plotting to kill the king. Witchcraft was also a charge brought against her.

Anne is my 14th great-aunt.

Susannah Aylott (Nee; Harvey) lived between (1668 – 1730) in Walkern, Hertfordshire, in 1712 alongside many other villagers she accused Jane Wenham of Witchcraft and believed she was responsible for the death of her child. – Jane Wenham lived in Church End, Walkern, near Stevenage. An elderly woman about 70, living alone, poor and eking out an existence on the margins of society, she fitted the stereotypical view of witches.

Susannah is my 9x great-grandmother.

Thomas Campe was imprisoned in 1612 in Nazeing, Essex for offending against the article concerning soothsaying, charms, and other offences. His case is one of the 700 cases that make up the famous Essex Witch Trials. Thomas lived between (1561 – 1625).

Thomas is my 1st cousin 14x removed.

Reverand George Burroughs is distantly related and he was executed on the 19th August 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts (Salem Witch Trials), he lived between (1650 – 1692)

George is my 5th cousin 10x removed.

Jacquetta de Luxembourg lived between (1416 – 1472) Shortly after her husband’s execution by Warwick, Thomas Wake, a follower of Warwick’s, accused Jacquetta of witchcraft. Wake brought to Warwick Castle a lead image “made like a man-of-arms . . . broken in the middle and made fast with a wire,“ and alleged that Jacquetta had fashioned it to use for witchcraft and sorcery. He claimed that John Daunger, a parish clerk in Northampton, could attest that Jacquetta had made two other images, one for the king and one for the queen. The case fell apart when Warwick released Edward IV from custody, and Jacquetta was cleared by the king’s great council of the charges on February 21, 1470.

Jacquetta is my 19x great-grandmother.

Henry Beaufort lived between (1376 – 1447) he famously interrogated Joan of Arc in 1431 over claims of Heresy and Witchcraft, Beaufort was also present to observe some of the heresy trial sessions presided over by Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais. He was also present at her execution. Records claim that he wept as he viewed the horrible scene as she was burned at the stake.

Henry is my 18th great-grandfather.

Eleanor de Lancaster (Nee; Cobham) Lived between (1410 – 1452) she consulted astrologers to try to divine the future. The astrologers, Thomas Southwell and Roger Bolingbroke predicted that Henry VI would suffer a life-threatening illness in July or August 1441. When rumours of the prediction reached the King’s guardians, they also consulted astrologers who could find no such future illness in their astrological predictions, a comfort for the king who had been troubled by the rumours. They also followed the rumours to their source and interrogated Southwell, Bolingbroke and John Home (Eleanor’s personal confessor) and then arrested Southwell and Bolingbroke on charges of treasonable necromancy. Bolingbroke named Eleanor as the instigator so she too was arrested and tried. The charges against her were possibly exaggerated to curb the ambitions of her husband.

Eleanor denied most of the charges but confessed to obtaining potions from Margery Jourdemayne, “the Witch of Eye”. Her explanation was that they were potions to help her conceive. Eleanor and her fellow conspirators were found guilty. Southwell died in the Tower of London, Bolingbroke was hanged, drawn and quartered, and Jourdemayne was burnt at the stake. Eleanor had to do public penance in London, divorce her husband and was condemned to life imprisonment. In 1442, Eleanor was imprisoned at Chester Castle, then in 1443 moved t oKenilworth Castle. In July 1446 she was moved to the Isle of Man, and finally in March 1449 to Beaumaris Castle in Anglesey, where she died on 7 July 1452

Eleanor is my 1st cousin 19x removed.

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Penance of Elizabeth Cobham

Whether your ancestor was actually a practicing witch, or someone accused of or involved with witchcraft or witch hunting, it can add a touch of interest to your family history. Of course I’m not talking about the witches we think of today – the black pointy hat, the warty nose and the ragged broomstick. Most women, and men, who were accused of witchcraft, were feared for their nonconformist ways more than anything else. But it can still be fun to claim a witch in the family tree!

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2 thoughts on “Hunting for Witches in your family tree

  1. I have a few witches in my family tree. But compared to you I have just a small tree while you have a whole forest. Enjoyed your post but perhaps you should be on the look out for falling houses. 🙂

    • Lol, I think I will keep a look out for those falling houses.
      And thank you, I would also love to know which Witches you have a connection with.

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