Hale Family History

Multi-generation family relaxing together outdoors

Although it is not one of the most common surnames, the last name "Hale" has roots stretching back hundreds of years. There are Hales all over the globe, including almost 83,000 people with that name living in the United States. The fascinating story of this important surname and the people who bear it is a great addition to any family genealogy project.

History of the Hale Family

Surname Database reports Hale is an Ancient British surname referring to someone who lives near one of these two landmarks:

  • "Halh" - a hard-to-reach valley
  • "Heil" - an estuary filled with seawater

It may also refer to a village named after one of these landmarks as there are many similarly named villages throughout Great Britain.

One of the earliest records of this name appears in 1214 in the Curia Regis Rolls, records of the royal council. The name is John del Hale, who resided in Hertfordshire, England. This record is from the time when surnames were only just beginning to be used, and the name likely refers to John who lived in the village of Hale or near the valley or estuary.

Common Variations of the Hale Name

"Hale" is the most common modern-day spelling of this surname, but it's not the only one you'll see in records. If you're searching for Hale ancestors, be sure to expand your research to include these common variations:

  • Hales
  • Hail
  • Haile
  • Hayle

Hales in the New World

Hales were in the New World as early as the Mayflower although the first pilgrims in this family travelled to Virginia instead of Massachusets. According to Virgina Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635 by Martha W. McCartney, there were several very early Hale settlers in Virginia. Likely the earliest was George Hale, who was employed as a drummer and servant by the Virginia Company. He travelled on the ship Supply in the year 1620 and was still residing in Virginia several years later.

Emigration Patterns

Many other Hale family members tried their fortunes in the Americas in the decades and centuries to come. Ancestry.com reports the vast majority of them came from England and other parts of Great Britain. They came in a steady stream throughout the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. Many settled in New York, but over time, they moved West to Ohio, Tennessee, and many other states.

Canadian Ancestry shows Hales also immigrated to Canada throughout the centuries. However, immigration peaked around 1919. The majority of Hales settled in Ontario.

Notable Hales

There have been several famous Hale family members, according to Biography.com. The following people have helped to distinguish this surname:

  • Nathan Hale (1755 - 1776) - One of the most notable patriots of the American Revolution, he was hung for spying on the British. His last words were, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
  • Sarah Josepha Hale (1788 - 1879) - A popular poet and editor in the 19th century, she wrote the nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb. She was also instrumental in making Thanksgiving a national holiday.
  • John Parker Hale (1806 - 1873) - A senator and lawyer, he vocally opposed slavery and supported forces against it. He is famous for helping pass a bill against flogging as a punishment in the Navy.

Learning More About the Hale Family

There are a number of online genealogy resources to help you learn more about the Hale family. If you have Hale relatives in your tree, start by establishing what you already know about them. From those names and dates, work backwards using all available information.


A family crest offers a great image to include in your genealogy research and a helpful glimpse at the origins and history of your family. According to House of Names, The Hale family crest features a red and blue background with a cross and three arrows. The motto is "Cum principibus," which means "with my chief."

Hale Genealogy Sites

You can use most regular genealogy sites to research Hale relatives, but it's nice to check out the resources at sites that specialize in this surname. Include the following in your research:

  • Hale Family Genealogy - This small site is no longer updated, but it includes lots of helpful information about Hales residing in England and Wales. It's a good resource for census records and other information if you know of specific ancestors who lived in these regions.
  • Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Hale of Walton, England and of Newbury, Mass - Available online through Archive.org, this 1889 text has a wealth of information for those descended from this Hale line. It's a great resource for specific stories and memories of people in the family.
  • Hale-Genealogy.com - Covering Hales in England and Australia, this helpful site is organized by country. You'll find parish records and other important documents related to many Hale family members.
  • Hale Family Organization - This helpful organization compiles information about the descendants of Jonathan Harriman Hale, who lived in Bradford, Mass. It's a great way to connect with other family members and build upon their research.

Augment Your Genealogy Research

It's fun to augment your genealogy research with the background of the Hale family. Learning the history and origin of your surname gives added dimension to your family tree.

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Hale Family History