Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Genealogy Skill Challenge: Secondary Sources

Here's a little genealogy skill challenge to spice up your Columbus Day weekend and provide a little fun.

Secondary sources of all different types can provide clues that can help in your genealogical research.  The trick is in being able to interpret them correctly.

Here's a paragraph from the book Haunted Heritage by Michael Norman and Beth Scott.  This comes from page 24, the chapter called "A Revolutionary Haunting."

"John Hale emulated his father in many ways. Born in 1748, he died shortly after Deacon Hale in 1802. Like his father, John became a deacon of the church and served in various public offices.  From 1791 to 1802, he was a delegate to sixteen sessions of the Connecticut General Assembly.  He served  as a justice of the peace, town clerk and treasurer for many terms between 1786 and his death. Earlier, he was a lieutenant in the Revolution's Knowlton Rangers."

Secondary sources may or may not be accurate.

THE CHALLEGE (if you so choose to accept it!):

How would you go about learning about John Hale? What records or record groups would you use to confirm the information provided as well the information you can infer from this paragraph?

Leave your answers in the comments.

I will post my answer tomorrow. Please note, you don't need to know anything about Connecticut to answer this challenge (though of course it will make it easier).  It would be helpful to be familiar with American genealogical resources, but again, not absolutely necessary.  This is a just a challenge for a bit of fun and to get you thinking.

Photo Credit: Photo by cliff1066 and used under the creative commons license.


  1. For John: If you know the town, you could check town records (if they still exist) to try to confirm birth and death dates, father's name and some of offices held. Revolutionary War Pension and Land Warrant Applications, Rolls, and Compiled Service Records can be used to confirm service during the Revolution. The Connecticut Archives might have records of who served in the General Assembly. If the church he served as deacon in is still in existence, they may have records going back that far or they may be at the state archives.

    For Deacon: Check town records shortly prior to John's death to confirm death date. Town and church records would also confirm whether he served as deacon and in public office like his son.

  2. I would start with the Barbour Collection to find a birth date as well as determine his location. The Connecticut Archives does have records for those serving in the General Assembly. I would also check for probate records in this time period. It would be necessary to determine whether his Revolutionary War service was in the militia or the Continental Line.

  3. I would do the vitals checks as above. I'd check the legislative service against the published _Public Records of the State of Connecticut_ which are the legislative minutes.

    What I'd love to check is the service of Knowlton's Rangers. I don't recall that the members are listed (just the officers) in the _Record of Service_ which is published. He died too early to get a pension, but maybe his siblings or widow received one. The Rangers were at Washington Heights in 1776, I think.

    What else should we confirm?

  4. I'd suggest that the problem will not only be finding John Hale, but finding the correct John Hale. Chances are with such a name, there's probably more than one in Connecticut Revolutionary times and narrowing down the town where this John Hale lived would be key. Regardless, as Pam mentioned, I'd start with doing the basics of the Barbour and Hale Collections. In Barbour, he might be listed as an officiant, showing up in others records rather than his own. In the Hale Collection, I'd check for any two Hale's buried near each other in 1802, which we might also find in, but I doubt it. Next, I'd search for a full roster of Knowlton's Rangers and any other military service records starting in "Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution." If the search brought me down to a few individuals from different towns, I'd check for histories of the older churches in those towns to confirm a father and son set of deacons. I'd also search for Public Records of the State of Connecticut for any mention of him as a Justice of the Peace or Assembly member -- the relevant years may be available as google e-books. Checking the General Index to Probate Records in Connecticut, FHL US/CAN Film 166026 for that surname, might show his or his fathers probate records, both of which could be helpful. In a pinch, I might check a reputable genealogy of Nathan Hale to see if there was a relation, particularly given the common service of the Rangers.

  5. Eek, can't seem to edit my comment! I think I included the wrong film number (obviously being overly specific for this exercise). Please disregard it.

  6. John Hale, died 1802; is this him on FindAGrave?