Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: My Newest Treasure

My most recent "treasure" acquisition is also a convenient excuse for blogging only sporadically until now: it's my wedding gown, which I donned October 10 to marry my longtime sweetie. (I would also consider him my latest "treasure," but I'm not sure he's ready for blog stardom. :) )

Wedding gown in ivory with champagne lace and sash; furry genealogy assistant Roux.

Genealogy hounds will no doubt be amused to hear that we are 7th cousins once removed, our common ancestor being a Stevenson born about 1700, probably in Scotland (father to James and William of N. Ireland & the Carolinas). Some online trees have the ancestor as Henry Stephenson, b. 1698 in Roxburghshire, Scotland, but I don't know if this actually has been proven, and I haven't been investigating the Stevenson trail lately.

Wedding gown, back view.

We'd been dating 10 years before I even discovered we were related. I decided to visit his mom's online tree one day, spotted a familiar surname, and before you knew it, we were "kissing cousins"! Of course, at the 7th-cousin level, there's not really much "ick" factor to worry about, as we'd have only a speck of genetic heritage in common.

Bodice detail

Still, it makes a good story, doesn't it? His parents and siblings always made me feel like part of their family; little did we know, I already was! :)

Train and sash detail.

All text and images copyright 2009 by the author.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day and the 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.