Posted by Jessica Taylor on June 29, 2018 in Who Do You Think You Are?

What do you do when the paper trail for your ancestor ends? Jean Smart discovered the answer was to not give up. Jean went on a road of discovery and found that her 8x great-grandmother, Dorcas Galley, was accused as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Shortly after her trial in 1692, Dorcas appeared to vanish from historical records. Did this mean there was nothing more to be learned about the woman tried for witchcraft, or were there more secrets to discover?

As Jean Smart learned, sometimes the most insightful documents for an ancestor were created long after they were deceased. In the early 1700s, about ten years after Dorcas’ trial, the families of the victims started petitioning the government to restore their legal rights and receive restitution for their confiscated property. These petitions were valuable because they included a wealth of information about the accused witch, their family, and their losses. Dorcas’s daughter, Annis, applied for compensation on her mother’s behalf because Dorcas herself had passed away by that point. After enduring the trauma of the Salem Witch Trials, Dorcas’s family was finally offered compensation. Hopefully this restitution gave Dorcas’ children some solace for what she experienced in Salem.

Dorcas’s husband, William Hoar, also left a paper trail decades later. He died around 1691— which seemed to mark the end of records for him— but his probate was filed in five years later in 1696. It often takes years for probates to be filed and for estates to be settled. When the land was simply going to a son, the son may not have filed the will until his ownership of the land was questioned decades later. Oftentimes heirs were required to sign over their rights to the deceased’s property, so no one could come back years later to claim the property for themselves. In 1726, more than 30 years after William Hoar’s death, his family finally sold the last of his property. The deed was incredibly valuable because it named many of William Hoar’s children and grandchildren, including Jean Smart’s 6x great-grandmother, Annis King.

By looking at later records, we learned new details about Dorcas, her husband, and their children. They revealed compensation given to Dorcas’s family for the Salem Witch Trials, and the names of her children and grandchildren. Jump into your family history today and find out if your ancestors have later records —and more stories— just waiting to be discovered.

Tips from AncestryProGenealogists:

  • Familiarize yourself with the history of the area around the time of your ancestor, and get to know the laws of the land. Remember, the laws are what generate the documents and those documents shed light on the lives of your ancestors.
  • If you can’t find a traditional will or probate, check deeds. Especially if you know your ancestors owned property.
  • Don’t be afraid to check index references for entries long after the ancestor’s date of death. Even if it turns out to be your ancestors’ grandson, it may state who originally bought the property and the person who was selling it. This could be valuable since it could give evidence of familial relationships.
  • Remember that vital records and other important documents in New England were recorded by the town/city level of government. Therefore, those records are held in the town or city, instead of the county like most other areas of the United States.

Watch Jean Smart’s full journey, download the TLC GO app or watch on TLC.com/WDYTYA. Binge full episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC.com, and discover more celebrities uncovering their family history on all-new episodes Mondays 9|8c on TLC.

Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor is an Editorial Researcher at Ancestry. She received a Masters in history at the University of York and has worked as an accredited genealogist for many years. She's presented at genealogy conferences and performed research for the hit TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” Jessica loves history and helping people discover their past.

22 Comments

  1. Carol Kuse

    One of the most interesting blogs I have ever read. Mostly because I have five involved in those witch trials. I just hope I can find more like Jean Smart found. Thank you, Carol Anne

  2. Lois Lillibridge

    My family has always said one of the Salem judges was an ancestor. I believe his name was Samuel Danforth. I do hope there is a way for me to trace this ancestor. If he was a judge, my sons come by pleading cases naturally. Both are attorneys and one, in fact, is a sitting judge.

    • D. Buhr

      Wikipedia has an interesting article about Samuel Danforth. Wiki can be a site that provides bits of info that may be helpful — often with footnotes.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Danforth

      “………………………..Three of Danforth’s children died in infancy—Samuel (aged 7 months) in 1653, Thomas (aged 10 days) in 1672, and Elizabeth (aged 2 weeks) in 1673). Three others—Mary (aged 5 years), Elizabeth (aged 3), and Sarah (aged 1)—died in December 1659. His funeral remarks on this occasion were reprinted by Cotton Mather in his Magnalia. Two more children—Elizabeth (aged 7) and Sarah (aged 2)—died in October 1672. His son John (1660–1730) graduated from Harvard College in 1677 and was minister at Dorchester from 1682 until his death. The other surviving son, Samuel (1666–1727), graduated from Harvard College in 1683, and served as the minister at Taunton from 1687 until his death. Daughter Mary (1663–1734) married Edward Bromfield (1649–1734) in 1683. Daughter Abiel, born two months after her father’s death, married Thomas Fitch in 1694, and, after his death, John Osborn in 1741; she died in or before 1745.

      His widow Mary was married in 1682 to Joseph Rock of Boston, who died the next year.

      His older brother Thomas Danforth (1623–1699) was treasurer of Harvard College, deputy governor, and justice of the colony’s superior court. His younger brother Jonathan was a resident and founder of Billerica, Massachusetts. Sister Elizabeth married Andrew Belcher (1639–1673) of Cambridge; sister Anna married Matthew Bridge (1615–1700) of Lexington; sister Lydia married William Beamont (1608–1698) of Saybrook, Connecticut; and sister Mary Danforth, who also came over to the Americas with Samuel, married John Parish. (More complete genealogical information is online via AOL[2])

      For further biographical information, see Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, v.2; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, v. 1; Dictionary of Literary Biography, v.24, pp. 83–85; and C. K. Dillaway, History of the Grammar School (Roxbury, 1860), pp. 127–130……………”

  3. Wendy King -Carpenter

    Just wanted to say ,hey maybe Jean and I are related threw the King name 🙂

  4. michael carlsen-wells

    It is very interesting that the name Hoare comes up . For these were and stillare the bankers and versus warburgs etc they were independent and good, So they were generally an absorbed peoples as you look through eg the diaries of clinton and the civil war and on ward and throught the commonwealth of britain you still return to see the hoares as bankers not hedge funds for svery etc . In that 2008 recession the hoares shut their doors alone and kept their peoples money locked up in london and there is a filmed bbc documenry on this

    • Suzanne Restle

      Michael – speaking of the Hoare descendants, do you know where this Hoare family came from in England? I too am related to the Hoar’s who were from Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. Just wondered if it was the same family perhaps? My relative Elizabeth Hoare did not come to the US til the 1880’s. Thank you!

  5. John Munro

    I see cousins on my fathers side of my family but none of my mothers side. Where are the family members of my mother Maralyn June Wightman daughter of Katherine Norma Munro and Robert Lee Wightman. I want to know about that side of my family Thank you,Leslie June Cozad Foley

  6. Meg Milligan

    We cannot remember our password, and can’t get into the site because they already have our email address registered. We have filled out the “Forgot password” thing several times, but have never received an email–we checked both the junk mail and trash folders.

    • Simon Miller

      I had a similar problem but I just rang up their contact centre for the UK where I’m from and a lovely Irish lady named Aine (pronounced Anya) helped me update my details including password.

  7. Karen Alberts

    I found the show on Jean Smart’s family very interesting and to see some follow up information out here is wonderful. I have been researching my husbands family and he to had several accused of witch craft. It does have some very sad information but it also reveals a lot about what our ancestors had to go through. I just have to say thank you for bringing Ancestry into my family!

  8. Pamela Haus

    Very interesting! Have not been exposed to research during that time period but what a discovery, And then to actually make progress so long after the trail went cold! How exciting!

  9. Pamela Seehafer McInnes

    Wow!! Jean Smart! What an
    Incredible journey!!
    Not sure who my real father is, but whatever into is uncovered will be a a great blessing!!!
    Thank you for sharing your Wonderful Journey with usS
    Pamela Seehafer McInnes

  10. Kristina Monroe

    I know nothing about my maternal grandmother’s family but do know her parents’ names. Not her mother’s maiden name. My gmother was an only child and although I did know my great grandparents, I don’t remember her ever, EVER mentioning anyone in her family. Will I be able to trace her more extended family with so little information?

  11. Ellery Adrian

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  12. Steve Funk

    I just reread this entry after discovering yesterday that Susannah North Martin was my 9x great grandmother, and was hanged as a witch in 1692. She was also a widow. I wonder what, if anything, her eight children did to try to defend her.

  13. Christine Borth

    My sister was able to watch the Who do you think you are episode about Jean Smart and immediately sent me a text. She had quickly recognized Dorcas’s fathers name, John Galley, as he is our 9th Great Grandfather.
    Dorcas’s sister Elizabeth was our 8th Great Grandmother. Dorcas’s 2nd great nephew, one of our 5th Great Grandfathers, Josiah Trask, married Anna Putnam, one of our 5th Great Grandmothers.
    Anna is a descendant of the family of Putnam’s who were accusers during the witch trials and the granddaughter of our 7th Great Grandmother, Mary Hutchinson Hale who was tried and acquitted during the Salem Witch Trials. Mary Hutchinson Hale married Edward Putnam.
    We are descendants of accusers and accused individuals.
    It looks like Jean Smart is our 10th cousin. Who’ve ever thought of that!
    It truly boggles the mind to think about who we are possibly related to and will likely never know or know about. We have greatly enjoyed learning who our ancestors are and where they came from!

  14. Wanda Wright

    In the above comments one has nothing to do with finding ones ancestors, etc. It should be removed…’love spell’…..look for comment from a Ellery Adrian…..August 10, 2018 at 11:33 AM. These comments are under. Jean Smart’s : After the Witch Trials blog. Thank you

  15. James

    I believe the Mary Hale may be an ancestor of mine as I have Hale’s in my father’s side of the family. I also have Martin’s in the family, Ford’s, Little’s, Bagwell’s, Mitchell’s, even Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I also have Bridges, Greer’s and others. I research almost every day and the more I research the more mystery’s I find.

  16. Theresa Barry

    Hi. My Grandad Cyril G P williams died in 2005, but I’ve since been curious about where he was from. I know by his death certificate which I have, he was born in West Derby Liverpool on Jan 2nd 1920 to Samual Williams and Lucy Perris.. After dead end searching I was told that his farher Samual was a native American and when he came to England from Canada he came with a wife and his brother then changed his Indian name too Samuel Williams he then got a job in Liverpool as a Cotton clerk . Now I don’t know how much of this story is true or hear say but i cant find any leads to anywhere for Samuel or Lucy and yet iv traced my mum’s family all the way back to a Pedigree line and Royal connections. I’m not sure how to go about finding someone or is it they just don’t want to be found.. interesting but frustrating. Anyway I hope everyone has luck in finding there past.. goodluck everyone

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