An Exercise in Secondary Sources

A little birdy mentioned that Marian over at Marian’s Roots and Rambles had published a Genealogy Skills Challenge: Secondary Sources.  Her challenge was to take a paragraph from Haunted Heritage by Michael Norman and Beth Scott, and try to confirm it’s information with secondary sources, reminding the reader:

Secondary sources may or may not be accurate.

What’s interesting about this particular challenge is not only that it relates to Connecticut, which is why it was brought to my attention, but also because it gives a fair number of avenues for further research though the time period mentioned means very few would be true primary sources.  Plus the individual in question has a surname which should be well-known and I’d guess pervasive in the state of Connecticut, even during Revolutionary times.

So being a good blogger (or at least, an aspiring good blogger), I had to post my suggestions for research here on my own blog.

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, on microfilm from LDS, 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.

What we can say is that from a little information, there are a wide range of possible secondary sources that could be investigated.  Of course, we don’t know what any of these will yield, so a genealogist must be open to following where the sources lead. Each lead is examined, assessed for quality, relevance, and reliability, and recorded.  If one source leads to another, the process is repeated.

About kimcotton

Professional Genealogist, specializing in 19th & 20th Century U.S. records, particularly California & Connecticut, with a dash of North Western Mexico.