Saturday, April 28, 2012

Surname Saturday ~ Jacobs of Salem, Massachusetts

"The Trail of George Jacobs" (my ancestor)
painting by T. H. Matteson,
this artwork depicts teenager Margaret Jacobs 
accusing her grandfather, to save her own life


George Jacobs arrived in Salem and bought the house and ten acre lot belonging to Richard Waters on 25 November 1658.  He lived as a farmer for more than thirty years when he was arrested, along with his granddaughter, Margaret Jacobs, and accused of “sundry acts of witchcraft.”  Later his son, and his wife Rebecca were also arrested.  Their four little children were left behind and cared for by neighbors.  Rebecca was aquitted on 3 January 1693.  Margaret could not pay her jail fees, and so languished in prison for several months after her acquittal.

One of the “afflicted girls” was teenaged Sarah Churchill, his servant.  This group of teens accused her of witchcraft, too, when she expressed sorrow at wrongly accusing George Jacobs.   Granddaughter Margaret Jacobs was tortured until she accused her grandfather, which she later recanted.  She was only sixteen years old.   

Evidence at the trial showed that George Jacobs was quite elderly.  He was hunchbacked and walked with two canes.  He must have been over eighty years old during the trial. George was found guilty and hung on 19 August 1692 along with the Reverend George Burroughs, John Proctor (also my ancestor), John Willard and Martha Carrier.  In 1703 the General Court repaid the heirs of the condemned, and the Jacobs family received 79 pounds.

All the victims hung at Salem had their bodies thrown into a crevice on Gallows Hill because they were not allowed a decent burial.  It is well known that the bodies of George Jacobs and Rebecca Nurse (and perhaps others) were secretly reburied by family.  In 1854 his bones were found on the Jacobs homestead.   In 1992, the 300th anniversary of the hangings, and also the same year the Jacobs homestead was demolished, his bones were reburied at the Rebecca Nurse homestead at 149 Pine Street in Danvers.   Forensic evidence showed the bones belonged to a tall arthritic man with no teeth. 

A quote from George’s testimony at his trial: “Well, burn me or hang me I will stand in the truth of Christ. I know nothing of it.”

The day after her grandfather was hung, Margaret Jacobs wrote this letter:
Honored father--After my humble duty remembered to you, hoping in the Lord of your good health, as blessed be God I enjoy, though in abundance of affliction being close confined here in a loathsome dungeon, the Lord look down in mercy upon me, not knowing how soon I shall be put to death, by means of the afflicted persons. My grandfather having suffered already and all his estate seized for the king. The reason of my confinement is this, I having, through the magistrates threatenings, and my own vile and wretched heart, confessed several things contrary to my own conscience and knowledge, though to the wounding of my own soul, the Lord pardon me for it. But O, the terrors of a wounded conscience, who can bear ? But blessed be the Lord, he would not let me go on in my sins, but in mercy, I hope, to my soul, would not suffer me to keep it in any longer, but t was forced to confess the truth of all before the magistrates who would not believe me, but 'tis their pleasure to put me here, and God knows how soon I shall be put to death. Dear father, let me beg your prayers to the Lord on my behalf, and send me a joyful and happy meeting in Heaven. My mother, poor woman, is very crazy, and remembers her kind love to you and to uncle, viz. d--A--, so leaving you to the protection of the Lord, I rest your dutiful daughter.

From the dungeon
in Salem prison,
Aug. 20, 1692


 There is much information on the Jacobs family and the witch hysteria in Sidney Perley’s three volume set The History of Salem.  The English origins of George Jacobs were written up in The American Genealogist, Volume 79, pages 3-12, 209 – 217, 253- 259.  

There are many good books about the witch hysteria, but my favorites are:

In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, by Mary Beth Norton, New York: Knopf, 2002.

Salem Possessed by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Boston: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Salem Village Witchcraft by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1993.

There is a webpage devoted to the story of George Jacobs and the genealogy of his descendants at this link:


My lineage from George Jacobs:

Generation 1:  George Jacobs was born about 1612 in England, died on 19 August 1692 when he was hung as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts; married to Mary Unknown.  She remarried to John Wildes,  whose first wife, Sarah Averill, was hung as a witch on 19 July 1692, in Salem.  Two children.

Generation 2: George Jacobs, Jr., who died before 1718; married on 9 February 1675 to Rebecca Andrews, widow of John Frost.  She was born 16 April 1646 in Watertown or Cambridge, Massachusetts daughter of Thomas Andrews and Rebecca Craddock.   Six children.

Generation 3.  John Jacobs, born 18 September 1679 in Salem, died 1764 in Salem; married first on 6 April 1704 in Salem Village (now Danvers) to Abigail Waters, daughter of John Waters and Sarah Tompkins.  She was born on 6 May 1683 and died before 1721 in Salem.  He married second on 21 May 1721 in Salem Village to Lydia Cooke. 

Generation 4: Abigail Jacobs married Malachi Felton
Generation 5. Sarah Felton married Robert Wilson
Generation 6. Robert Wilson married Mary Southwick
Generation 7. Mercy F. Wilson married Aaron Wilkinson
Generation 8.  Robert Wilson Wilkinson married Phebe Cross Munroe
Generation 9. Albert Munroe Wilkinson married Isabella Lyons Bill
Generation 10.  Donald Munroe Wilkinson married Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)


To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Surname Saturday ~ Jacobs of Salem, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted April 28, 2012, ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. Very interesting (and sad), Heather. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Have you noticed how so many victims of the Salem witch hunts were elderly? I had never heard of the Jacobs family until now...

  3. Heather, a minor connection. George Jacobs bought my ancestor's house and lot!

  4. Hello! Thank you for posting. I am a descendant of Rebecca Jacobs through her first husband, John Frost. Do you know what happened to her after she was released? Her husband had fled. Do he come back for her or abandon her completely?

  5. Hello! Thank you for posting. I am a descendant of Rebecca Jacobs through her first husband, John Frost. Do you know what happened to her after she was released? Her husband had fled. Do he come back for her or abandon her completely?