Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's my blogiversary and I'll post if I want to ...

Peach cobbler, suitable for any celebration--or any day, in my opinion!

Hey, it's my blogiversary!  I've been lax about blogging in the last year or two, though I have been continuing to explore my family tree.  No big excuses, I just work more now than I did a couple of years ago (better for the budget, less so for research/writing time), and lately, I've had a tweaked neck (blame years of flute playing and my iPod touch).  

I find the more blogging I do, the less research I do.  So when I have had free time, it's been more about the research.  This year, one of my goals is to blog a little more (another: "desk-cavation").

(Note: You can blog without being an overachiever.  You still get the benefits of the occasional e-mail from a cousin and also the benefits that come from evaluating your research by writing about it.)

So what was I up to in 2012, genealogically speaking?  Here are some highlights:

• I attended all three days of Southern California Genealogical Society's 2012 Jamboree.  I met more bloggers and visited with others I previously met there or online.  I even saw Saturn (courtesy of a stargazing geneafriend) and chatted up Washington Post associate editor Steve Luxenberg.  His book about unraveling family secrets, Annie's Ghosts, is a compelling and moving read, and he was an interesting and entertaining speaker.  Info for this year's SCGS Jamboree (in June) is here.

At Jamboree, I met a Californian genealogist with ties to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, Denise Spurlock.  Go read her blog.  I'm a cousin to her Kilpatrick cousins.  Which makes us "almost-cousins," I think.  Yes, small world.  I also met genealogist Kim von Aspern-Parker, who has cousins from my Southwest Louisiana hometown, of all things.  Smaller world!  Go read her blog, too.

• I've gotten hooked on DNA.  I've done more research on my "mystery grandpa" Robert Hall's paper trail (promising but not definitive), but now I'm adding DNA to the toolbox.  Dad's Y-DNA has been in a Hall surname study for a few years now with no close matches, so I got myself a Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA and have been slooooowly putting together who might be related and how.

Since roughly 25% of my genes are from Grandpa Hall (unknown parents), I'm looking especially closely at anyone with a surname list with Hall and/or full of unfamiliar monikers.  This takes a lot of time and patience.  Thank you, Cajun and Acadian cousins, for helping me weed out Grandma (Elia Legere) Hall's ancestry!  Your surnames are easy to spot.  (Trying not to think about Acadian cousins who also have Hall or British Isles ancestry--one problem at a time!)

I got a 23 & Me test for Christmas, and I think I may ask Mom to test, then transfer her results back to FTDNA (for a fee) to help sort out which cousins belong to which side of my tree.  Plus we'll be "fishing in two ponds."  A bonus could be that we extend a few of her lines (the two Smith lines, please? I'm in no hurry to research them!).

• I met another new-to-me cousin in person, a "2nd-and-change" Guidry cousin I enjoyed lunching with, and made a few new "e-mail cousin" friends.  One posted a portrait I think solves a photo mystery (more to come), and another shared some good research on our Hollier and McBride ancestors (his web site is here).

• A Trahan cousin sent me a photo of my great-aunt "Philo," Philomene Stemmans (Stemmann) Weber.  It was the first time I've seen her, at least since I was maybe two or three--I may have met her once.  Thanks!  I'll share it here if they don't mind.

There's more, of course: loads of fun with the 1940 census, death notice and obituary finds on Google News Archive for my McCoys, FamilySearch finds for McCoys and McBrides (updated here) and others, Facebook groups, reading, stories scribbled down from Mom every other time we talk.  I hope to share a bit more with you this year and perhaps next year's wrap-up will then be shorter!

Happy blogiversary also to Thomas and fellow bloggers posting at Geneabloggers--you provide a lot of inspiration and food for thought even when I'm not blogging so much!

And thank you all for reading!

Text copyright © 2013 and photo copyright © 2011 Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved.
Original post URL:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day and my Hall family

Originally posted in 2009; worth a repost.  To all our veterans out there, thank you for your service.

For Veterans Day, I'd like to salute my dad, his four brothers and one of his sisters for their service to our country. All five of the Hall brothers of Sulphur, Louisiana, served in the U.S. Navy. How they felt about their sister serving as an Army nurse, I'm not sure, but I'll have to pose that question at the next family gathering!

My late dad, George Hall, served as a fighter pilot in World War II in the South Pacific.

George Hall, c. 1944. Photo privately held by author.

He originally trained on dive bombers, but switched to fighters when he heard more fighter pilots were needed. He flew an F6F Hellcat from the aircraft carrier USS Hancock in 1945, and years later, was still thrilled to see and discuss planes he trained in or flew in the war. Kudos to our family friend who recorded Dad's reminiscences a couple of years ago on DVD.

(By the way, Thanksgiving gatherings are a great time to record family memories! See the StoryCorps website for ideas.)

Dad was following in his older brother Bob's footsteps by joining the Navy. Robert Lee Hall (1920-2003) was a baker and petty officer on the troop ship APA 117 Haskell during World War II, and later on the aircraft carrier USS Boxer. He helped set up bakeries on ships and on various Pacific islands, including New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and islands in the Samoas and Fijis.

Robert Lee Hall, 1940s. Photo privately held by author.

Uncle Bob told his hometown paper 50 years later, "I remember the terrible heat below deck in the ships' kitchens and also in the tropical island kitchens. And sailors. I got so tired of seeing sailors, day after day, year after year, for the six years I was in service." The monotony was no doubt alleviated when my aunt Martha Burch, as his fiancée, took a troop ship to meet Uncle Bob in the Samoas, where they married and lived for a time.

John Bunyon Hall (1923-2008) was the third Hall brother to serve in the South Pacific during WW II. He worked in the torpedo parts room aboard the sub tender USS Fulton. He was part of a gunner's crew that shot down two attacking enemy planes during the Battle of Saipan.

John Bunyan Hall, 1940s. Photo privately held & digitally edited by author.

Two other living uncles served in the Navy after World War II, and one of my aunts was an Army nurse.  To respect their privacy, I won't name them here but will just say how proud we all are of all our relatives who have served in the military! Happy Veterans Day!

Explore your family's military history.  Talk to relatives, find out more about requesting military personnel files here and check out free records available at, for a good start.

Text copyright 2009 & 2012 by Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved.  Photos courtesy of Hall family.
Originally posted at:

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: Great-Grandma Maggie's Quilts (updated)

Sampler quilt by my great-grandma Maggie, made from samples of men's suit material.  1930s or earlier, Marsalis (Crossroads community), Claiborne Parish, La.

Today I'm "treasuring" a quilt owned by my mom and made by my great-grandmother Maggie Elizabeth McCoy Stevenson.  I'll have to ask Mom where Maggie got the suiting material for the quilt, perhaps from a local merchant's sample book.

My mom & sis took several family quilts in 1989 to be photographed for the Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project.  You can see four more photos of Maggie's handiwork here; more quilts from across the country can be found at the Quilt Index website.

10/6/2012 UPDATE:  Mea culpa.  The quilt above is by Maggie, but the pink one previously pictured here apparently is not.  Not all the family quilt photos Mom sent me were labeled, and I confused my mom's grandmothers.  I've removed the pink quilt's photo until I verify its creator (probably Etta Cotter Pate).

This time I plan to send my mom large printed thumbnails of the photos with questions jotted next to them on the paper instead of attempting to describe the photos over the phone (the hazards of long-distance family history gathering!).  I'll post more quilt photos in the future, after I verify the info as much as possible!  Genealogy is always a work in progress, yes?

Text copyright © 2012 Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved.  Photos copyright © 2012 J. Marler, all rights reserved.  Read more "Treasure Chest Thursday" posts at Geneabloggers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Remembering Ulysses Sonnier

Ulysses Sonnier, circa 1942.  Courtesy of the Sonnier family, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana.

This Memorial Day weekend, I've been thinking about a second cousin I never got the chance to meet.  Ulysses Sonnier ("you-LEASE" in Cajun French) was the brother of my Sonnier cousins of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana.  He was born to Jean Baptiste ("John B.") and Aline (Legere) Sonnier on Sept. 1, 1922, the ninth of their 14 children, in the small community of Ossun, near Scott, Louisiana.

I didn't know him, but I can tell you that his family spoke Cajun French as well as English (probably more French at home), were devout Catholics, and lived in a rural community of farmers near a larger college town.  He attended a local elementary school where, in the '20s and '30s, he probably was punished if he spoke French instead of English.  The 1940 census indicates that he completed high school.

The Sonniers attended Sts. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church in Scott, where many family members were christened or married, and where several are also buried in the small cemetery.  If he were like other cousins in the area, he probably had plenty of farm chores, but may have enjoyed fishing and hunting in his spare time.  Social activities revolved around the church and visiting with relatives.  His maternal grandparents Euclide and Eugenie Legere lived very near and he probably saw them quite a bit, along with other relatives who lived in the area. 

A muster roll I found on gives Ulysses' Navy enlistment date as July 14, 1942, at the age of 19. (He may have joined the Naval Reserves before then.)  Two older brothers may already have joined the Army by that time; they also served in World War II, while a younger brother served in Korea. Ulysses was an Aircraft Machinist's Mate 2nd class who was assigned to the Pacific escort carrier U.S.S. St. Lo (CVE-63). 

The muster roll reports the date he "was first received on board" as April 18, 1944, so Ulysses would have been aboard the carrier to support the invasion of the Marianas and the epic air battles now known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," as well as the invasion of the Philippines.

Just after that action, Ulysses and the St. Lo's task group faced overwhelming odds on October 25, 1944, when a large Japanese force was spotted approaching the Leyte Gulf.  The small escort carriers, then off the Philippine island of Samar protecting transports and Gulf beaches, were no match for battleships and other heavy-duty vessels--no large-scale American backup was nearby--but somehow they prevailed, though with losses, in the "Battle off Samar."

The battle was, for the most part, over in about three hours, and the Japanese ships were retreating. But according to the official action report, the sailors of the St. Lo had no more than about half an hour to ponder their unlikely victory before everything plunged into chaos once again. With watches in place, a few St. Lo planes and a couple from damaged sister carriers were being landed on deck, refueled and reequipped with bombs.  There was even a chance for those in combat since 0700 to have a cup of coffee and breathe again, when antiaircraft fire was heard, an alert went out, and two minutes later at 10:53 a.m., a kamikaze pilot struck the deck of the St. Lo.  The plane and its bombs exploded, triggering several more explosions, fires and the eventual sinking of the carrier.  Just when it seemed the crew could celebrate a David-and-Goliath-type victory, an attack by one Japanese pilot changed everything for the St. Lo, its crew, their families, and for the Sonnier family back in Louisiana.

I have not heard the story of how the family got the news of Ulysses' death, and I do not know exactly how it affected them.  I have only recently come to know a few of them myself, but I wanted to pay tribute to the one relative I know of who lost his life in war, at least in recent memory.  One sister wrote me that they are proud of all their family members who served in the military, and I suspect that Ulysses, and the Sonnier family, would probably echo that sentiment: If he was a hero, then all who served were heroes, whether or not they died in action.  He was, like many other young men from small towns across the country, just doing what needed to be done.  It's a sentiment I have heard more than once from World War II veterans.

At least a couple of siblings have been active in the St. Lo Association, and some of Ulysses' siblings, nephews and nieces have attended its reunions.  Ulysses was survived by his parents, his maternal grandfather, and 12 of his 13 siblings in 1944.  Today, more than 67 years later, three siblings remain who remember Ulysses at age 22, and perhaps a handful of older nieces and nephews, cousins, classmates or St. Lo crew members.  But many, many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, cousins, and other family members will remember his sacrifice and keep his memory alive for years to come.

Thank you to my Sonnier cousins for the use of the photo above and information about Ulysses, and to the several military historians, amateur or professional, who have made info about the U.S.S. St. Lo and the Battle off Samar available online.  Additional sources include the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census and several military records from  Any errors are mine; corrections and clarifications are welcome.  Text copyright 2012 by Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: John & Emily (Morgan) Kilpatrick

John Milton Kilpatrick headstone, Arcadia Cemetery, Arcadia, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, October, 2011.  (Photos courtesy of John Hinton; see bottom of post for copyright info.)

John Milton Kilpatrick and Emily Coleman Morgan are my 3rd-great-grandparents, the great-grandparents of my maternal grandfather Alvin Jasper Stevenson.  In a bit of genealogical serendipity, posting their headstone photos has led to the discovery of a new cousin.

A few months ago, I was discussing Kilpatricks via e-mail with a couple of cousins, and I noticed that that John & Emily were listed on Find a Grave, so I thought I'd request photos of their headstones.  A wonderful volunteer, John Hinton, posted photos within only a couple of days! (This is not necessarily typical or even expected.)  Click the name within each photo caption here to go to their Find a Grave pages.

Anyhoo, when I contacted John again to ask if I could post these photos on my blog, I noticed he had added some surname interests to his Find a Grave contributor page.  One of them was Stevenson (my mom's family).  John was posting photos from North Louisiana (where Mom's from), so I had to ask.  Yes, we're cousins!  Fifth cousins, I think.  Our common ancestor is James Stevenson, Jr.

But back to the Kilpatricks:

John was born 6 Feb. 1824 in Franklin County, Tennessee, and married Emily there on 28 Dec 1843.  He died 3 Apr. 1863 (according to his headstones; one researcher I trust has 18 Apr, so I will have to ask about the source), probably in Arcadia, Louisiana, where he lived.  Granddaughter Loda Duckworth said his father's name was Tom Kilpatrick, but I don't think this has been proven as of yet. (If you're up on the current research of this family, let me know.  I have not done in-depth research on the line.)

Emily Coleman Morgan Kilpatrick headstone, Arcadia Cemetery, Arcadia, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, October, 2011.

Emily was born 28 Dec. 1820 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, to John William Morgan and Sarah Elizabeth "Sally" Coleman. She died 14 May 1899 in either Arcadia or Athens, Louisiana.

John Milton Kilpatrick headstone (older broken stone), Arcadia Cemetery, Arcadia, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, October, 2011.

Thanks to "Tombstone Tuesday" prompts at Geneabloggers (which prompted me to "inventory" my direct line for grave info), my Kilpatrick cousins, Find a Grave, and especially cousin John, I've now "virtually" visited my 3rd-great grandparents' graves, and met a new cousin.  Happy dance!

Want more sources? See my preceding post here.

All photos courtesy of and copyright © 2011 by John Hinton, all rights reserved.  Text copyright © 2012 by Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emily Coleman Morgan Kilpatrick

Emily Coleman Morgan Kilpatrick, photo from Hall family collection, probably taken in Bienville or Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.

Emily Coleman Morgan was my 3rd-great-grandmother, the daughter of tobacco farmer John William Morgan and Sarah Elizabeth "Sally" Coleman.  She was born 28 Dec. 1820 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  Her family moved to Franklin County, Tennessee about 1833, where she met and married John Milton Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick was hired by Emily's father to teach him to raise corn; he stayed with the family for four years and ended up growing a crop of Morgan grandchildren as well--including my great-great-grandmother Hannah Kilpatrick Stevenson Dobbins.

(I don't know of any connections to my husband's Northeast U.S. Morgan line, unless there are common roots in Wales, perhaps.)

Emily looks rather formidable, certainly a lot taller than most in my family, though some Stevenson descendants were tall, and a Kilpatrick cousin tells me she has tall relatives. Her fingers are so long! Wonder if she ever played piano?  (Also wondering about Marfan syndrome, though I have not heard of it running in the family.  I'm doubtful there's a death certificate available in 1899 Louisiana; most parishes began recording them in the 1920s.)

Emily's granddaughter Loda Duckworth confirmed her formidability in a memoir: "Grandma was never afraid of anything, not even a bucking horse, she could ride like a man, get on a horse and go out and tend to business as well as any man."  Loda wrote (or told to someone) more colorful history about the family; when I find out more, I'll post a link to read or buy if possible.  I believe it may be part of a published family history.

After brief stays in Mississippi and Texas, John and Emily finally settled for good in Arcadia, Louisiana, just before Christmas, 1859.  John died in 1863; Emily lived another 36 years and moved again to nearby Athens, passing away either there or in Arcadia on 14 May 1899.  She and John are buried in Arcadia Cemetery.

Next week on "Tombstone Tuesday," I'll tell you how a photo request regarding her turned into a bit of genealogical serendipity.

Sources: Memoir of Loda Duckworth, excerpts in my possession; Arcadia Cemetery transcription by Maxine Morgan (no relation to my Morgans, though her husband is a Cotter cousin) at USGenWeb Archives; U.S. Census records; Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002, at;; original research of Mary Urban (note: her research is well documented, despite the lack of sources at that link); additional notes in my possession from others. Please note that Emily's family is a work in progress.  Questions, corrections, additions? Contact me at hallroots [at] sbcglobal **dot** net.

Copyright © 2012 Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved
Read more "Treasure Chest Thursday" posts at Geneabloggers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: Dad's Tombstone Tuesday and a treasure chest of memories

Note: This began as a Tombstone Tuesday, but being about my dad, it ended up as a Treasure Chest Thursday kind of post.  And yes, it was my "blogiversary" a few days ago, and I'm still here, but as I had the flu last week and now a cold this week (bleah!), the festivities will keep.

George Constant Hall headstone and military burial marker, Antioch Cemetery (within Big Woods Cemetery), Edgerly, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, Nov. 2011.  Photos courtesy of cousin Janice M.  (My (living) mom's info is on the other side, so I'm just posting Dad's half of the stone.)

My dad died two years ago Tuesday.  It was the night the New Orleans Saints won the championship that sent them to the Super Bowl.  He wasn't really responsive that night, but I'm sure he hung around just to find out how the game ended before he left us; we had the TV on & kept updating him on the score.

I want to tell you so much about my dad; where do I possibly start?  He was complex, like most--well, many of us humans (I can be a bit cynical about some of them), but also a man of simple, "old school" tastes and values.  

In the last year or so of his life (he had terminal cancer but managed to hold it off for 2 1/2 years on chemo in his late eighties), I delighted in, um, "showing him off" to a few people.  I know that sounds condescending, but he was, at times, a real "character" and enjoyed telling stories, whether it was Cajun jokes at my wedding in California or to his newly-discovered first cousins once removed in Louisiana, or World War II tales of derring-do to anyone interested in the war or in planes (he was a fighter pilot in the Pacific and loved, loved, loved flying). 

He blossomed in late life as a bit of a raconteur with his Baptist church's choir, the "Agin' Cajuns," who toured area churches and occasionally went on out-of-state concert excursions.  And he could be a real ham, too.  It occurred to me a few years ago that maybe I got the performing gene (I studied music in college) from him, only I break out in a cold sweat if I actually have to talk in front of a group of people; give me a flute & I'm fine.

I didn't think of the date Tuesday until I was doing genealogy research and came across an obit for someone who died last January.  I thought, "Hmm, he died a year after Dad," then I remembered.  I was a little sad, but mostly I just miss him in certain moments here and there when I think of him: in seeing a trailer for the movie "Red Tails" and thinking he really would have enjoyed watching the fighter plane footage, in joking about "evening up" some leftover cake with my husband.  (Dad had a habit of late-night snacking on sugary food he wasn't really supposed to eat; when caught, he'd say, "Oh, I'm just "evening up" this cheesecake.  Look at how ragged that edge is there!")

And then sometimes his words come out of my mouth or I hear his voice in my head (not as scary as it sounds).  The other night I was ready to eat dinner and my husband told me to go ahead and start while he finished using the microwave.  And before I knew it, I heard my dad's voice saying, "Yeah, I'll wait for you like one hog waits for another!"  Which I promptly repeated to my hubby, who laughed.  We already have a constant joke about Dad's saying, "that's good eatin'" about almost any critter you can name, catch/shoot and throw sauce over.

Other mealtime Dad-isms that come to mind every time there's a holiday gathering (I suppose because it always seemed to follow saying grace aloud and that's when that usually happens), are "Grab it and growl" and "Take some and leave some."  I'm guessing Dad may have been repeating my Grandpa Hall's words.  When you have seven kids in the Depression, you definitely have to grab food you want before it's gone and you might have to remind them to leave some on the table for others!

Those are just a few of the things that make me think of him often.  There are still many stories to tell about him:  I have to tell you about the time he and his brother were interrupted fishing by a truck flying off the interstate into the pond (they couldn't save the man but they did meet the Governor), Dad's "pet" alligator (yes, alligator), his penchant for cooking steaks on the car manifold while traveling, his incredible generosity and much, much more.

I miss his stories, the twinkle in his eye, his growly drawl, hearing a joke for the third (or fifth, or seventh) time, his flirting with his nurses or waitresses or whoever new was in the room (it was completely harmless, though), even his stubbornness.  (Yeah, I inherited that.  It's the Cajun/Irish-ness, I think.  But it comes with tenacity, too, not a bad inheritance.  It certainly impressed his doctors.  How many late 80-somethings do you know who fish and garden and ride an exercise bike on chemo?  He even fished once while wearing a chemo pump.  He put it in a plastic bag.)  I probably got his sense of humor, and his storytelling influenced me a lot, I'm sure.

We butted heads at times, but that became less as we both grew older.  In searching for clues about my grandpa in the last 20 or so years, I have somehow also come to understand my dad a bit more.  A year before he died, Dad told me something that let me know he had finally come around to understanding me, as well.  He had an episode of internal bleeding so bad I was told to fly home to Louisiana immediately because they didn't know if they could stop it.  I stayed a few weeks and when I left, it was very emotional because, though Dad was better, I wasn't sure I would see him again.  I might not make it home in time the next time. 

Dad told me something that day that stays with me now: "I wish you could stay a little longer.  I feel like I'm just getting to know you."  Now maybe it sounds a little sad that my dad was just getting to know me at 45, but I've lived in California since I was 25, and our phone chats were never exactly heart-to-hearts (Mom's department), so it was really more like: "Hey, I'm seeing you as your own person now, not just my daughter.  And I like what I see."  I think that was better than all the "I love yous" that he ever said to me.

I started this blog for fun, as an experiment and a way to share some info with family and possibly connect with cousins researching the same lines, and hey, maybe eventually solve the Grandpa Hall mystery!  After Dad died, blogging became a bit of therapy at times, a way to remember him.  I wish I had shown it to him, but his spirit is in it, with every story I tell about him or his side of the family (Mom gets less mention because I want to respect the privacy of living relatives--though she's thrilled whenever I write about her ancestors).  I guess I'll just have to keep writing about Dad to tell you all out there more, or perhaps I'll learn to edit digital video so one day I can post a clip and you can hear him tell a story or two himself.

Miss you, Dad.  Love you always.
p.s. You know why a kiss over the phone Internet is like a straw hat?  'Cause it's not felt.  That one's for you, Dad. :)

© 2012, Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved