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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘John Hays

Chasing Ghosts

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In my experience, imprecision seems to define searching historical vital records data. It’s certainly the case after the effort I put forth yesterday, scouring the Vermont, USA, vital records for 1760-1954 that I was able to locate online in a quest to learn anything new about my 3rd-great grandfather, John Hays (b.1795).

I know where and when he died and much about his wife and children because I have his last will and testament and have seen the headstone over his grave. It doesn’t include much detail: “JOHN HAYS (line) DIED (line) Sept. 25, 1840 (line) Aged 45 years” The only reason I believe that he was born in Hinesburg, VT is from the 1922 death notice of his youngest son, John B. Hays (1837-1922).

Yesterday, I focused on trying to find a record of his birth by hunting for an official record from Chittenden county in Vermont in the latter 1700s. What if his birth was recorded as being in Burlington instead of Hinesburg? What if he wasn’t 45 years old in 1840?

What if the archivists were not entirely precise in their record-keeping?

Here are some issues that are complicating my search:

  • Using search features of online genealogy sites relies on the interpretation of humans who have typed out the archaic cursive handwriting of census recorders and town clerks. I have seen instances of mistakes. Just because a search brings up no results doesn’t mean an actual record doesn’t exist.
  • I may find a record with a name I’m seeking, but if there is incomplete information recorded in the other fields of that record, it isn’t very reliable.

The record above is one of very few with 1795 as date of birth. Anecdotally, I can say that Vermont had a bit of a baby boom around 1858-1861.

Was this birth of Jonathon Hayes the mother’s first? We’ll never know by looking at this card. I can tell you that Mary and Eleazer Hayes did have other children because their names showed up on several other birth notices. I didn’t keep track because my confidence in this record is low.

Where were the parents from? Wish I knew.

Where did the birth occur? Luckily, they scanned both sides of the cards and the location is written there. It was Strafford, seventy miles away from Hinesburg, on the other side of the Green Mountains.

The records were “sorted” (imperfectly) alphabetically by the primary subject person. That resulted in a constant mix of birth, marriage, and death records, but frequently meant I could see the person born, get married, and die in three consecutive cards.

I searched for three primary spellings: Hay, Hayes, and Hays. I came across one card that had the father’s name spelled “Hays” and the just-born child written as “Hayes.”

One thing that inspired me when I started looking at these cards was the inclusion of birth records where there was no name given yet for the newborn. I never would have found these by only searching online digitized (transposed) information. If there was a nameless birth in 1795, that could have been my guy!

I didn’t find one.

My 4th-great grandparents Hays remain ghosts to me.

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Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2022 at 11:11 am