Was your ancestor accused of witchcraft in early modern Scotland? Discover the details of their prosecution in this collection of fascinating historical documents.
These records usually find the following information about your accused ancestor:
Each record is linked to an image from the original source.
Although there were a handful of trials in the late Middle Ages, the Witchcraft Act of 1563 made consorting with witches or taking part in witchcraft, a crime punishable by death in Scotland. Many more people were tried for witchcraft in Scotland than England, with an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 facing proceedings. An overwhelming majority of those accused were from the lowlands, and around 75% of those put on trial were women.
More than 1,500 people are thought to have been executed as a result of these trials, which continued until the last Scottish trial in 1727. There were five major witch hunts in Scotland, 1590-91, 1597, 1628-31, 1649-50 & 1661-626, although trials continued throughout this period.
During the period of the Commonwealth in Scotland from 1652, the new English judges that oversaw the law were reluctant to use torture to obtain evidence, resulting in a decline of witch trials. With the re-establishment of Sheriff's courts and Justices of the Peace in 1656, a great number of cases were heard in succession. These records originate from that period.
These records come from a time where spelling varied dramatically in the case of forenames and surnames. To be certain of finding your ancestors, make use of name variants and start with fewer elements of information when you begin your search.
Locations have been matched to their modern equivalent for ease of discovery, but some places were not able to be definitively placed. Searching without a location may lead you to the record you require.