This 1996 article from The Boston Globe was a neat find and I wonder how many old family histories and genealogies are missing some information on certain ancestors.
These court documents have always been in print, but were court records transcribed from the original watered down?
I found this article years ago when I was researching the Wardwell family of Andover for an article I published in Genealogy Magazine Seventeenth-Century Quaker Sought Redress by Undressing
The original documents from the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 are on online at the Univ of Virginia and the site provides locations of sources. However, as many may have already discovered the old court files have some great information–and the most colorful.
I am sure there are many people researching their ancestors who find the real meat and bones just from a document citing day-to-day life. Every human emotion is found in these treasures–jealousy, greed, lust, rage, and a potpourri of others. The raw energy can be present even in a dispute over land boundaries.
After reading this article check out the case I cite from the old court records published by Essex Institute in 1916 and transcribed by George Francis Dow. A great detailed event on ADULTERY–there were over 30 witnesses in the case. So, even if your ancestor did not commit the crime they may have been a witness, a juror, or a court official.
Also, I listed more articles at the end to check out Why? Because you will find some the same people from the cases in this 1996 article as well as the case I cited. Some of the witnesses that testified with a stern judgement of moral superiority end up in their own naughty mess!
One question I could not find the answer for was who has these documents found in 1996 from now and has anyone transcribed them since. Please post any information.
As John Demos mentions in this article these are everyday ordinary people caught up in life situations. I have written articles on New England families and some of my best sources come from the court documents. Here is an example of one:
A case in the Ipswich, Massachusetts court went on for over a year—1672-73, Result: Sarah Roe of Ipswich was forced to wear a sign on Sabbath day: “For My Baudish Carriage.” Roe had an affair with Joseph Leigh while her husband was away at sea, and both were charged with “unlawful familiarity.” Leigh suffered a day of severe lashing, plus a 5-pound fine.
Roe, in addition to her debasing debut at the meeting-house, spent a month behind bars. Copy of the papers in the complaint against John Leigh and Sarah Roe, taken from the Ipswich court records and files of Mar. 25, 1673, by Robert Lord. After over thirty testimonies the court dealt with the immoral acts with severity. Apparently Sarah was warned to stop playing around on her husband, but she could not resist Joseph. So, the point here is much knowledge can be found in these records!
Taken from Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts, Volume 5 George Francis Dow published by the Essex Institute, 1916
Here are a portion of the court records which span over a few sessions: Sarah Row, for unlawful familiarity with John Leigh, and abusing her husband, was sentenced to the house of correction for one month, and to suffer the discipline thereof according to law, which the keeper is required to execute, and on the next lecture day to stand all the time of the meeting from the last bell ringing in the meeting house at Ipswich, on a high place where the master of the house of correction shall appoint, in open view of the congregation with a fair white paper written in fair capital letters FOR MY BAUDISH CARRIAGE, open also to the view of the congregation. She should also give bond of 301. not to abide in the company of John Leigh.