Ancestry: George Burroughs

George Burroughs is my first cousin, 11 times removed on my mother’s side and he was executed as a witch at the Salem Witch Trials. He was hung until dead in 1692 then buried beneath the gallows. George Burroughs survived a Wabanaki raid in August of 1676. He was a Harvard graduate, a Puritan minister and many considered him to be a very secretive person. There were rumors that he abused and possibly killed his wives, but there were also rumors that he was the “Black Man” and the leader of all the witches at Salem. It was also said that he had the ability to read minds. He was believed to have inhuman strength, this was what they tried him for during the trials. A description of Burroughs in a reading by Frances Hill: “George Burroughs was confident, strong-willed, and decisive, a man of action as well as a preacher, unusually athletic and clever enough to do well in Harvard. Short of stature, muscular, dark-complexioned, he was highly attractive to women, as is shown by his winning the hand of a rich widow as his second wife when he was a mere village minister.”

Cotton Mather was particularly vehement that Burroughs was executed and was at the hanging personally. It is possible that Cotton Mather took a special interest in his case because he had “peculiar” religious beliefs, which may have been that he was an Anabaptist.

Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.

Inside the Salem Witch Trials

George Burroughs, Salem’s Perfect Witch

I have always known intuitively that I had an ancestor involved in the Salem Witch Trials but I never expected for it to be confirmed. My own personal connection spiritually was through an ancestor named Nathaniel. George’s father was named Nathaniel but also there are many Nathaniels a generation later as well. Every time I try to research George to compile his information in a more orderly and thorough way, my eyes go funny and strained as though I stared into the sun for too long. In fact when I first discovered my connection to him, I had trouble with my sight all day. So, this will have to do for now.

A painting in which George Burroughs is believed to be the man in the middle who is praying. George was able to recite the entirety of the Lord’s Prayer before he was hanged. It was believed that no witch could do this, but Cotton Mather insisted that he be executed anyway.


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