Are you curious if there are witches in your family tree? Many people — witch and non-witch alike — find interest in genealogy, and some make surprise discoveries while they research their roots. Some of those surprises include notorious figures, convicts and even accused witches. The following post will help guide you along the way to learning if there are witches in your ancestry.

Start a family tree

Websites like Ancestry give you the opportunity to build a family tree with a wide variety of resources. As long as you know your parents’ names and birth details, you should be able to gather enough public records to start from there. The rule with tracing your family lines to any important figures or historic eras is to always start at the beginning (meaning with yourself, your parents, your grandparents, so on and so forth).

As you add people to your tree, do so without really researching yet. Just make sure you’re adding the appropriate people (which can be tough). Stopping to research each individual is time-consuming, so you’ll want to just confirm that they’re your relatives and move on for now.

Do your research and know your dates

Once you’ve added a few generations of people to your tree, start researching them. While you research your long-deceased relatives, keep in mind that certain eras were important periods in the history of witchcraft. If you’re looking for someone who may have been persecuted for witchery (innocent or otherwise), you’ll want to know the general dates of when these incidents took place as well as the locations. For example, the Salem Witch Trials mostly took place in Massachusetts in 1692.

If you’ve made it further than the 1600s and 1500s in your genealogical research, you can start researching the names of your relatives in relation to witchcraft. One thing I like to do is google the person’s name and any variety of the word “witch” “witchcraft” or “trial.” If I get too general and unhelpful of results, I add the persons birth and death years to the search string. Most of the time, I don’t really find anything — and why would I? But I have been able to confirm that one or two of my relatives were involved in witch trials through this means.

Pay attention to names and locations for cultural connections

For the most part, people who were accused in historic witch trials were innocent. They weren’t witches at all, and were instead outcasts in some other way. So, if you’re wanting to find “authentic” witches in your family tree, you’re going to want to dig a little deeper than simply drawing connections between your past kin and witch trials. Throughout history many groups have been associated with spiritual practices and behaviors that are similar to witchcraft, and genealogical research could connect you to these groups.

For example, the Melungeons are a triracial group out of Appalachia that have been shrouded with mystery for an incredibly long time. Some of the rumors about Melungeons involve accusations of folk magic and witchcraft as well as being “gypsies.” Melungeons are connected through several family surnames such as Goins, Collins, Scott and many others. If you are a descendant of Melungeon people, then chances are you may have at least one “spiritual person” in your family tree, but it would be impossible to confirm since (for the most part) these Southern folk have maintained Christian practice for many, many years.

We all have witches in our ancestry

Whether you find witches in your family tree or not, rest assured that you probably do have at least one in your ancestry. The human race is very, very old and witchcraft is a very old practice. Our ancestors prior to Christianity worshiped ancient gods and practiced spirituality in ways that would be considered witchcraft by today’s standards. So you don’t really need to find a notoriously accused witch in your family tree, or find a connection between your family and someone notable like Gerald Gardner. It’s really just not that important when you realize that we all come from old practices in the first place.