Author: Nora
•Thursday, March 26, 2015
So how do you sort out who’s who when there were four men named Edward Bishop living in the Salem, Massachusetts area at the same time?  The challenge is to avoid merging two or more of them into one person.  It’s a puzzle that calls for very close and meticulous analyzing of available records and documents, as well as reading the research and conclusions written by historians and scholars.  The Salem witchcraft histeria and its aftermath have held a great fascination for a multitude of us, and we’re fortunate that there’s a tremendous amount of documentation and research available on the internet, in archives, on microfilm and elsewhere.

I’ve made use of much of this material and have rented and looked at microfilmed records to help with this who’s who dilemma in my Bishop line.  To bolster the conclusions presented in my previous post, “Edward Bishop Times Four”, I’m recommending the works of two historians who have gone the extra mile in researching these Bishop’s.  Dr. David L. Greene and Marilynne K. Roach have written some excellent articles and books (see notes below).

In the previous post, I wrote mainly about the three Edward’s who lived in Salem Village. I’ll continue with what I’ve learned about the Edward Bishop who lived in the town of Salem and married the alleged witch Bridget (Playfer) Wasselbe Oliver.  Not much is known about this man as to where he was from and when he arrived in Salem.  His occupation was that of a sawyer, which partially helps to distinguish him from the other men of this name, who were described as husbandmen or farmers.  And as far as I could tell from the records, he never lived in the village of Salem – only in Salem Town.  Also - a careful scrutiny of those records and all available sources shows that it's doubtful that this Edward Bishop (the sawyer) was closely, if at all, related to the Bishop families in Salem Village.  He probably married Bridget in about 1685-87, several years after her 2nd husband Thomas Oliver died in 1679.  It’s believed that Bridget and Edward had no children together, but Bridget had a daughter with Thomas Oliver by the name of Christian, born in 1667.

Another fact setting this Edward Bishop (sawyer) apart was the way he signed legal documents.  He used a “mark” – that of an “X”.  Here’s an example of the way he signed his name (click to enlarge):
Example of Edward Bishop (the sawyer) mark
Edward Bishop (1st) of the Beverly/Bass River area also used a “mark”, but he signed with ”EB”, his initials.
Example of Edward Bishop (1st) mark
This Edward’s son Edward Bishop (2nd), who could obviously read and write, signed his full name. His wife Sarah signed with her unique “mark”.
Example of Edward Bishop (2nd) signature and Sarah (Wildes) Bishop's mark
Lastly, Edward Bishop (3rd) signed with his full name, while his wife Susannah used a “mark”.
Example of Edward Bishop (3rd) signature and his wife Susannah's mark
Another excellent source I looked at was the record of taxation for Salem, both for the town and the village residents, which was microfilmed and is available through the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City (film #968009; also film #877453).  The tax lists begin in the year 1689, and continue well into the 1700’s; so I viewed them up to about 1713.  The great thing about these lists is that the inhabitants were recorded by their various neighborhoods, similar to a census enumeration district.  This way, you can compare the neighborhoods from year to year, noting the close neighbors of each man and analyzing the changes, when one appeared or disappeared from a neighborhood list.

I found that Edward Bishop (sawyer) consistently appeared in the same neighborhood up to the year 1698 – this would have been where Thomas Oliver’s house had been and where his widow Bridget continued to reside after marrying Edward Bishop, up to 1692 when she was hung for allegedly practicing witchcraft.  Their neighbors were Ropes, Horne/Orne, Bly, Gray, Beadle, Epps and others.

The other men of this same name, residing in Salem Village, were also consistently listed among the same neighbors from year to year:  Cornelius Baker, Joshua Rea, Thomas Rayment, John Trask, Joseph Herrick, James Kettle, and Peter Woodberry, for example.

The lists are alphabetical, but through the use of published maps showing the land owners from 1692 and 1700, it’s easy to see who their nearest neighbors were and compare those names to the alphabetical tax lists. One caveat: maps can contain inaccuracies.  A couple of the map creators made subjective decisions about where the various Edward Bishop’s lived, locating Edward (sawyer) and his wife Bridget next to or with the Edward Bishop’s living in Salem Village.  That placement is not supported by any of the land or tax records, nor by the court documents generated by the witch trials of 1692.

In 1694, 2 years after Bridget’s death by execution, Edward Bishop (sawyer) purchased a new lot from Matthew Buttman or Bootman – still in Salem Town, next to Philip English and Benjamin Gerrish.  Another significant fact is that in this new neighborhood lived two men named Becket, John and William.  Edward (sawyer) had been appointed guardian of Bridget’s granddaughter, Susannah Mason, daughter of Christian (Oliver) Mason; in 1711 Susannah married John Becket.  As late as 1757, there was a land transfer from “John Becket of Salem in the county of Essex shipwright and Susannah his wife” to John Becket, Jr. for land which was bordered by “the premises and land formerly of Deacon Benj’n Gerrish…and westerly on land formerly of Phillip English...being the same which Matthew Bootman granted & sold to Edward Bishop as appears by a deed recorded in ye office for ye registry of deeds &/c for said County Libro 10 folio 3”.

Edward Bishop (sawyer) seemed to have delayed his move to the new lot until about 1698.  By the middle to late part of the year 1703, this Edward dropped off of the taxation list.  Edward Bishop (2nd) of Salem Village also dropped off the tax list after 1703; but his move is easily documented by the deeds recorded for him both in Essex County and in Bristol County, Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He and Sarah had removed to the town of Rehoboth in Bristol County in 1703.

Of especial interest is a Rehoboth deed dated the 16th of April in 1711 wherein Edward is referred to as an inn keeper.  This is important because it helps to clear up another confusion regarding the four Edward’s, which really has to do with their wives.  Bridget Bishop has often been mis-identified as the “goody Bishop” who ran an unlicensed tavern in the village and whose behavior and attitude in about 1690 had upset Christian Trask enough to cause her to become ‘distracted’ and to accuse “goody Bishop” of bewitching her.  Trask complained to Rev. John Hale, minister of the church in Beverly, where both Trask and Sarah Bishop were members.  Trask asked Hale not to allow “goody Bishop” to take part in communion and sought his consolation and sympathy for her “distraction”.   But Trask appears to have been conflicted and tormented by her own behavior and attitude toward Bishop.  After about a month of inner turmoil, Trask apparently cut her own throat with a pair of sewing scissors.
When Rev. Hale testified about this tragedy, either he misidentified it as referring to Bridget Bishop, or the court misfiled the testimony and added it to the other accusations and testimony against Bridget.  Bridget wasn’t a neighbor of Christian Trask, neither had she run an inn or tavern.  That would have been Sarah, wife of Edward (2nd).

Confusing enough?  Please see some of the following sources below for more clarification and if you’d like to read more about this tragic and very dramatic time in our history.

Notes and sources:

Greene, David L., PhD, “Salem Witches I: Bridget Bishop”, The American Genealogist 57 (1981): 129-138.
Roach, Marilynne K., “Where Did Accused ‘Witch’ Bridget Bishop Live?”, American Ancestors, Fall 2013, Vol. 14, no. 4, 45-57
Roach, Marilynne K., Six Women of Salem, 2013, Da Capo Press, Boston, Massachusetts
Roach, Marilynne K., The Salem Witch Trials, 2004, Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, Maryland
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On January 9, 2016 at 10:06 AM , Unknown said...

Great information alot of hard work. I believe through my research to GGG-GF was peter son of Asa, son of Ebenezer, son of EDward.

On January 13, 2016 at 8:58 PM , Nora said...

Thanks for your comment. You're right, a lot of hard work but so very rewarding when so many great, original documents are available on line. After over 26 years of research, I had the breakthrough that took me back to Edward. Very fun to research.

On August 7, 2016 at 2:54 PM , Bill said...

I wanted to put in a little friendly skepticism. I believe the evidence against Edward Bishop, Sr. and Edward Bishop, the sawyer may not be as strong as some believe. I think the strongest evidence is the comparison of their marks. Also, other sources also state Edward, Sr. could not be the husband of Bridget, because he and his first spouse Hannah signed a petition in support of Rebecca Nurse in 1692. It is also worth noting that someone signed both Edward and Hannah’s names to the petition. The handwriting for both signatures is virtually identical, but I also noted that Edward did not use his initials as a mark on the petition. To me these two facts provide the best support of the argument that Edward, Sr. was not the husband of Bridget.

Unfortunately, I believe that the documents which purport to show the signatures and marks of the various Edwards are merely handwritten copies made by the County Recorder. Note that some of the deeds were recorded several years after their enactment. I think that the process in those days was to take an original document to the recorder and he would copy it verbatim by hand, including signatures into the county record books. It is possible, however that some of the signatures and marks in the books are original.

Also, Edward, Sr. may well have been a husbandman, but that does not eliminate the possibility that he switched occupations to sawyer.

Regarding the tax rolls, if they were property tax rolls, the possibility still exists that Bishop owned more than one property. The neighbors of the properties would be the same on the rolls regardless of whether Edw. Bishop actually lived there.

On August 7, 2016 at 2:54 PM , Bill said...

One source forwarded the proposition that after Edw. Bishop and Bridget married, she moved to his place in Beverly and rented out her place in Salem Town. This could account for the confusion between Bridget and Sarah Bishop that existed, especially if one believes the map produced by W. E. Upham showing Edward, Sr.’s house next to the house of Edward, Jr. and Sarah on the same property. Evidence in support is the testimony of John Bly and his son in 1692 that they did some work at the “old house she (Bridget) formerly lived in.” Bly testified that he performed this work about 7 years prior, which would have been about 1685. Some sources put Bridget’s marriage to Edward between 1685 and 1687 and it could be possible she moved to Beverly at that time. Also, your records indicate that Bly was a neighbor in Salem Town. The testimony of Bly opens the door that Bridget moved sometime after 1685.

It is also curious that Bridget’s preliminary hearing was in Salem Village, not Salem Town. Bridget testified that she had never been “in this place before,” but she could be referring specifically to the village hall building, not Salem Village. Also of note is that an Edward Bishop was recorded as a member of the Salem Town church and an Edward Bishop was a founding member of the Beverly church. Thus, Bridget would have been a member of the church in Salem Town and possibly later Beverly, but not Salem Village, which could help account for her unfamiliarity with the location.

Conversely, it is possible that Edward, Sr. could have moved to Bridget’s property in Salem Town, while still retaining his property in Beverly. Finally, the possibility exists that Edward and Bridget were still married, but living separately at the time.

It has also been said that Bridget lived on Conant Street. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much with the riddle, as the location of her house in Salem town is about where Conant Street is today, however, the road in Beverly that Edward, Sr. and Jr. lived on is also known as Conant Street.
While researching this, I found a deed recorded in Essex Co., dated March 17, 1706, which proves that the Edward who moved to Rehoboth was the father of the person we know as Edward, III. The deed states that Edward and his brother Samuel received land from their “honorable father Mr. Edward Bishop of Rehoboth.” This deed was signed by Edward, Samuel and their wives, Susanna and Mary. I also noted from my deed search that Edward, III at some point moved from Beverly to Salem Township. I would like to pin down exactly where he lived in town, but haven’t gotten that far.

I still have yet to decide for myself whether Edward, Sr. and Edward the sawyer were the same person. It is entirely possible that there were more than four Edward Bishops in the area at the time, supported by the fact that in 1695 an Edward Byshop signed a petition against Salem Village Pastor Samuel Parris (instrumental in the Salem Witch trials) and another Edward Byshop signed a separate petition in support of Parris. Note that the spelling of the last names are different than the spelling used in other documents of the time. The documents are available online.

I am a direct descendant of Edward Bishop, Sr., Jr. and III, so I would love to see this definitively resolved, but remain skeptical – Bill Bishop

On August 9, 2016 at 12:56 PM , Nora said...

Bill, thank you for your thoughtful and concise comments on my post about the Edward Bishop dilemma in 1692. We need to keep that skepticism, friendly or not-so-friendly, in full force as we reach conclusions about our family history. My descent is from Edward, Sr (1), Edward, Jr (2) and then David Bishop (3). My maiden name was Bishop; and I too wanted to resolve the confusion or controversy we find anywhere we read about these Salem/Salem Village/Beverly Bishop's at the time of the Salem witch trials.

Have you had a chance to read the paper written by Dr. David L. Greene, one of the sources I listed for this post? It's a 10-page article and can be found on line if you have access to the site As above noted, it's entitled "Salem Witches I: Bridget Bishop" and is in the journal "The American Genealogist" (TAG), Volume 57, no. 3, July, 1981, pages 129-138.

I think Dr Greene presents a convincing amount of evidence and reasoning for his conclusion that our ancestor Edward Bishop was NOT the Edward Bishop who married Bridget Bishop. He wrote an additional short piece, "Bridget Bishop Correction", found in the same journal (TAG), Volume 58, page 163.

In the short piece, Dr Greene states that because of his ill health at the time the larger article was being finished, edited and published, he omitted a significant part of the evidence he relied on: that "the names of 'Edward beshop sen' and 'hana beshop' appear together on a 1692 petition in behalf of the accused witch Rebecca Nourse (Salem Witch Papers, 2:592)". You also mentioned this fact. I'm only quoting the once sentence from this half-page article; it's well worth finding and reading the article in its entirety as well as the 10-page piece found in the 1981 TAG journal.

In the larger article, Dr Greene covers most of the points you mentioned in your post and more, including the map created by W.E. Upham - with his erroneous placement of Bridget Bishop's supposed changed residence in close proximity to the Bishop's of Salem Village and Beverly.

As to what is found in the testimony of John Bly and his son in 1692 about the work they did at "the old house she (Bridget) formerly lived in, I've found elsewhere that Bridget DID move to a different house, but it was a house built for her on the same property as the old house, on part of Thomas Oliver's estate and still in the Town of Salem, rather than in the Village.

Your skepticism is understandable; and because of your wish to see this controversy resolved, I'd be glad to mail you copies of source documents that I relied upon in resolving it to my OWN satisfaction, including copies of deeds, court records, the articles by Dr Greene, etc. Also, I have copies of the Last Will and Testament of Edward Bishop (2) and property disbursements to the heirs of Edward and Sarah (Wildes) Bishop from the Bristol County, Massachusetts probate records. I copied these from microfilmed copies rented from the LDS in Salt Lake City.

Please let me know if you'd like me to mail these items to you; I really do appreciate your thoughtful arguments, pro and con, and all of your input on my blog. It's very nice to hear from another direct descendant of my Bishop ancestors.

On August 9, 2016 at 1:04 PM , Nora said...

Bill, I have another comment, regarding the alternate spellings found for the name Bishop, i.e., "Byshop" and "Beshop". I'm sure you've found in your research that spelling was pretty arbitrary in these times, often finding a person's name being spelled two or three different ways within the same record. I've found Bridget's married name "Oliver" spelled "Ollyver" and "Olyver", also in various court or witch trial documents. I've spoken at a few seminars, and this is one of the main points I harp on to other researchers, that we're going to find our families' names spelled in a variety of ways, so I tell them that unlike in other scholarly endeavors, 'spelling doesn't count'.

On August 16, 2016 at 7:12 PM , Bill said...

Thanks so much for your reply. I agree with you about the spelling issues. I think it was a matter of inconsistency.

I would greatly appreciate any source documents you could send me. -Regards

On August 28, 2016 at 12:59 PM , Nora said...

Bill, I'm interested in your line of descent after Edward III. Would you share that with me? Also, did you want me to send copies of these sources I've found via email attachments or by mail? Either way, can you let me have your address or email address?

On September 28, 2016 at 5:01 PM , Bill said...

On December 21, 2017 at 8:38 PM , Unknown said...

I'm Edward Bishop and Hannah Moore and Edward Colbourne and Hannah Rolfe and I'm direct legitimate granddaughter through Robert Colbourne and Mary Bishop still legitimate born in the marriage of Mary Bishop and Robert Colbourne and nobody wants to figure it out because we been ripped off so long generations of family members have not been able to afford to see our cemetery,

On December 21, 2017 at 8:39 PM , Unknown said...

I'm Angela Colborn superior Wisconsin

On January 15, 2018 at 8:30 PM , Bill said...

Hello again Nora. After additional research, I now believe my family descended from Edw I, Edw II, Samuel (not Edw III, as I previously thought. This was based on close scrutiny of probate records.

I am still interested in th Edw. I / Bridget controversy, but I have been unable to access Dr. Greene's articles.

On January 26, 2018 at 9:06 AM , Nora said...

Bill, I keep trying to reply to your comment, but haven't been able to get itbto take. Here's my third try. I have a copy of the Dr. Greene articles and can email them to you if you will give me your email address. Or email me at


On January 26, 2018 at 9:12 AM , Nora said...

Bill, I apologize. I see in a comment above that you sent me your email address. I'll use that one and send you the articles. I'm not very savvy at combining multiple jpeg or pdf files, so will send them in groups of 3 or 4 pages in a few separate emails. Let me know when you get them, ok?

On September 30, 2019 at 2:05 PM , bkscpa said...

I am a grandson of Edward Bishop, the sawyer's, last wife, Elizabeth Cash. If you think he is a mystery, you should try and figure her out. She climbed out of a hole in 1666, and back into one in 1698. She isn't buried anywhere, there is no record of her death, or his for that matter. She just disappears. In 1698 I believe he dropped off of the tax roles because he moved into her house in Salem if that helps your research. That house was owned until around 1718 when it was sold by her son or grandson William Cash. The records make it hard to tell.