Jonathan’s4 first wife, Lydia Leonard, died 26 June 1763 in Raynham, Bristol, Massachusetts, at the age of 42 years. She is buried in the Hall plot in what is now known as the Pleasant Street Cemetery in Raynham Center. Based on her age at death, her birth year would have been 1721-22. Lydia would have been about 17 years old when she married Jonathan on 28 December 1738 (Raynham Town Records).
Early female ancestors are difficult enough to trace when primary sources are available, and are made much more difficult to find when the original records have been destroyed. In 1838 the original records of Taunton, Bristol County, Massachusetts were destroyed by a fire and town officials set about to restore those records to the best of their ability using sources such as family bibles, church records and headstone inscriptions. Because the original records were destroyed, there is no record of Lydia’s birth identifying her parents or when she was born.
In researching Lydia over the years, some genealogies gave her parents as Ensign Seth Leonard and his wife, Dorcas White, while other documents presumed that she must have been of another Leonard family. While most of those genealogies contained no sources at all, some did use secondary sources as their evidence. In the reconstruction of the birth records of the children of Seth and Dorcas White Leonard, Lydia was not mentioned. Anyone who has researched the early Taunton, Massachusetts records, while the town officials did a commendable job in attempting to reconstruct the early records the best that they could, knows that many gaps were left never to be filled in. It takes finding other types of primary documents to take the place of vital records.
Without the benefit of primary vital records, we initially looked to the naming patterns of the first few male children to try to help identify Lydia’s parents. The first son born to Jonathan and Lydia was named Jonathan, which would fit in naming the first born son after Jonathan Hall, Sr. The second born son was named Seth. It also fits the naming pattern of the 1700’s that the second born son might be named after the wife’s father. There were no Seth’s in Jonathan’s ancestry. The third born son was named Silas. No one in Jonathan’s family was named Silas, so we looked deeper into the Leonard family and found that Lydia had a first cousin born in 1708, the Reverend Silas Leonard. It is therefore conceivable that Jonathan and Lydia named their third born son after Lydia’s cousin. And even though the recorded birth in the Raynham Town Records shows him listed merely as Silas Hall, in various documents and records of later years he is identified as either Silas L. Hall or more often as Silas Leonard Hall. Since it was highly unusual for a child to be given a middle name in the early- to mid-1700’s, this extended name provided us with valuable information.
During email conversations with a Leonard researcher in the continued attempt to document Lydia’s birth date and parents, it was learned that a document existed in the Seth Leonard Estate papers whereby “children and near relations” signed a petition to have Seth Leonard declared incompetent and placed under guardianship. Learning about these sorts of documents is like finding a huge nugget of gold, estate papers being wonderful primary sources. I ordered the estate papers from Bristol County and the packet did indeed contain the Petition to have Seth Leonard declared Non Compos Mentis and in need of a guardian, dated Raynham, September 15, 1761. The Petition was signed by those described in the document as “children and near relations”. Jonathan4 Hall, Jr. was one of the 18 signers of the Petition. Jonathan Hall also signed the obligation bond, dated October 3, 1761. In addition, the Petition was signed by Seth Hall, probably the grandson of Seth Leonard and son of Jonathan and Lydia Leonard Hall, and by Amariah Hall, a first cousin of Jonathan Hall. This document, coupled with the naming patterns of Jonathan and Lydia’s first three sons gave us both the primary and strong circumstantial evidence we needed to declare Lydia the daughter of Ensign Seth Leonard and his wife, Dorcas White, when no vital records were available.
In addition, although Seth Leonard’s headstone has never been found, the headstone of his wife, Dorcas White Leonard, is found in the row next to the Jonathan Hall family in the Pleasant Street Cemetery in Raynham Center, Massachusetts.
Not quite a year after Lydia’s death, Jonathan married Hannah Keith Leach Hall on 25 April 1764 (Raynham Town Records). At the time of Lydia’s death, Jonathan was left with 7 children under the age of 20 years in his home. Jonathan was Hannah’s third husband. She was born 7 April 1721 in Bridgewater, Plymouth, Massachusetts to John Keith and his wife, Hannah Washburn. Hannah married first Benjamin Leach, 10 January 1739/40, second to Philip Hall (a great-grandson of George Hall of Taunton [not related to the subject Hall family]), and third to Jonathan Hall. After Jonathan died on 25 February 1789, she married Israel Washburn on 14 June 1790. Hannah died 4 January 1796 and is buried in the Pleasant Street Cemetery in Raynham Center, Bristol, Massachusetts.