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Sundry Acts of Witchcraft

Elizabeth Phelps (1646-1692) and Joseph Ballard (1645-1722)


Elizabeth and Joseph are my 8th great-grandparents. Elizabeth was born about 1646 daughter of Edward and Elizabeth (Adams) Phelps. Elizabeth’s parents immigrated to Salem about 1639 but were later in Andover. Joseph was born in Andover about 1645 son of William and Grace (-) Ballard. William and Grace Ballard were first settlers of Andover. Joseph Ballard and Elizabeth Phelps married at Andover 22 February 1665 and were parents of eleven children including our ancestor Joseph Ballard.


Joseph and Elizabeth played a role in the Salem witch hysteria. Although the witch trials are most associated with Salem where the trials occurred, more of the accused witches were from Andover than were from Salem.


In 1692, Elizabeth became ill and doctors were baffled by her illness and suspected witchcraft. Joseph sought assistance for this and brought Anne Putnam, who was twelve years old, and Mary Walcott from Salem. These two girls identified Elizabeth’s illness as the result of witchcraft and named Ann Alcock Foster after the two girls fell into fits at the sight of Ann. Soon after, Ann’s daughter, Mary Foster Lacey, and her granddaughter, Mary Lacey, also came under suspicion. Mary Foster Lacey and her daughter Mary are referred to as Mary Lacey, Sr. and Mary Lacey, Jr. in the records. The two Mary’s were promptly arrested and charged with witchcraft. Mary Lacey, Sr. confessed to being a witch and stated her mother was also, claiming they had ridden upon a pole to a witch meeting in Salem. Mary, Sr. also implicated several others including Rebecca Nurse, Richard Carrier, and Andrew Carrier. Mary, Sr. and her mother Ann Alcock Foster were tried and convicted of being witches and were sentenced to execution. However, their trials came at the end of the witch trials and their executions were not carried out. All three women were imprisoned. Ann Foster died while she was in prison on 6 December 1692. Her daughter Mary, Sr. was released in 1693. Mary, Jr. was later found to be not guilty and was released. Elizabeth Phelps died of her illness 27 July 1692.


The warrant for the arrest of Mary Lacey, Jr. is shown which charges she “committed sundry acts of witchcraft” on Elizabeth Ballard. (Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project)



Family sheet for Joseph Ballard and Elizabeth Phelps:


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