The “Greatest” Aunt

This week, we lost my “Greatest” Aunt Natalie, Nana Hall’s sister, the youngest of eight, born four days shy of my grandmother’s 21st birthday.  My grandmother, the eldest, married at 22 and had a child about a year later.  I suspect three-year old Natalie got a kick out of having a nephew, perhaps requiring him to address her as “auntie” amongst their classmates, when they reached school age. She was seven when my dad was born, and adored “little Bobby”.

Life wasn’t easy. The Great Depression began when she was a babe. The family struggled; being unable to afford blankets, they used coats. They moved frequently and Natalie’s father, John Galatis Haines, held many different jobs (read about them here).  Natalie lost her dad at fourteen, just before Christmas, and her mom, Edith Bernice (Lansil) Haines, only eight years later.

July 13, 1935, 228 Main St., Malden, Massachusetts
Joan Newhall, Natalie (Haines) Thomson, Charles G. Hall Jr.

Aunt Natalie and Nana, Edith Haines Hall 

My grandmother married into a wealthier family and initially had little contact with her kin. Likely her new husband feared that the financial burden of Natalie’s struggling family would fall into his hands. Despite this inequity and the vast age difference, Ede and Natalie were close.  Aunt Natalie was the only of my grandmother’s siblings who was with us on holidays, birthdays and special occasions. She was our fun, wild, outgoing and crazy (in a good way) great-aunt who we jokingly referred to as our “Greatest” Aunt Natalie – she got a kick out of the pun.  Christmas gifts were delivered with the “wrong” labels –  Linda got David’s, David got Nancy’s and Nancy got Linda’s.  It was the same every year; she would claim exasperatingly, “I can’t believed I mixed things up again!!!”. We unwittingly believed, and laughed at her foolishness (while she likely had a good laugh at our gullibility).


On Christmas she came armed with handouts for our annual sing-along; poems she crafted from family history, set to familiar Christmas tunes.


Natalie, an avid genealogist, planned vacations around our heritage.  She tracked the Lansil’s in Bangor, Maine, dragged her husband and children through cemeteries and visited our homelands of Llanfairfechan, Wales and Richibucto, New Brunswick, Canada.  She spoke of Stephen Hopkins, our Mayflower ancestor and William Grout, our Revolutionary War hero – she “hooked” me and I became a genea-adict!  Several years ago, I was overjoyed to become the recipient of the Roots Research Books – Lansil & Haines  full of letters from many long deceased (and living) cousins, photos and other fascinating documents (such as”Mary Haines Diary” and the record of seaman Charles V. Lansil’s drowning off Bar Harbor) rich with details of our heritage, captured in the 1970’s, long before the public Internet.



This past summer, on a trip to New Brunswick, my husband and I followed her footsteps with hopes to locate the, “Welcome to Richibucto”, signs Natalie had visited in the 1970’s when she was about my age, and to FINALLY locate the “long lost” family of Jennie Ferguson, Natalie’s paternal grandmother and my g-g-grandmother  (her story here). Alas, we succeeded at neither.

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Natalie was ahead of her time and a “blogger” in 1999, long before the term blogger was coined.  She left a wonderful array of posts with touching family stories and experiences: click here for her BLOG and here for a post I wrote of her blog.

Natalie’s self-written bio reads:


Melrose, Massachusetts welcomed me on September 26, 1928. Of the two boys and five girls, I was the baby of the Haines family. That family moved to the next town, Malden, in 1931. My claim to fame was portraying the princess in the 5th grade operetta at the Glenwood School. I graduated in 1946 from Malden High School’s Commercial Course. Then, at a bank in Boston, learned how to wire the control boards for IBM computers.

Ed Thomson, a returned combat veteran of WWII, and I married in October, 1947, and had two outstanding children, Joanne, born 1953 and Edward, born 1958. Later, they further enriched the family by marrying Don and Patty and parenting five wonderful grandchildren.

For about a decade, I taught Sunday School while my children were growing. Ed served as a Deacon and we both worked on varied committees at church. In addition to our careers, our interests centered around our children’s activities. Starting in 1965, I helped organize the Central Little League Auxiliary in Malden. My husband coached a winning team. For many years I took various courses at local colleges. Ed died of cancer-from-smoking in April 1983.

It took a lot of money and several futile attempts for me to give up smoking. Then, by chance, I learned about a group called Nicotine Anonymous. I faithfully attended meetings, absorbed the message, and now it is eleven years since I’ve smoked a killer-cigarette.

For twenty years I worked for Intercity Homemaker/Home Health Aide Service. I retired as Administrative Assistant after years as a Caseload Manager.

In 1993, I moved back to Melrose. My stride has become comparatively a stroll, but retirement continues to be pleasant, productive and poetically progressive.

Rest in Peace my Greatest Aunt Natalie and thanks for the wonderful legacy….AND if you can hear me, please send a SIGN to help us FINALLY find Jennie Ferguson’s parents John and Elizabeth!!!!

Natalie Haines Thomson – Obituary


Natalie Haines Thomson, longtime resident of Malden and Melrose, died Friday, March 13, 2015. She is survived by her daughter the Rev. Joanne Thomson (Donald Hausch) of Madison, WI; her son Edward M. Thomson of Malden; by grandchildren Patrick Kelley, Paul Hausch, and Jessie Hausch; by her step-grandson Justin Maggs; and nephew Charles (Ann) Hall. She was preceded in death by her husband Edward Joseph Thomson; by her daughter-in-law Patricia (Carrico) Thomson; by her step-grandson Richard Maggs; by her parents Edith (Lansil) and John Haines; and by seven brothers and sisters (Edith, John, William, Doris, Walter, Marion, and Bernice).

Natalie was for many years a case manager at Intercity Homemaker Service in Malden, and through her work she became acquainted with almost everyone in the area who needed help caring for an elderly or disabled loved one. She thrived on the many relationships she made while matching home health aides and homemakers with her clients. In addition to her work at Intercity, Natalie worked throughout her life at a variety of jobs in Malden and Boston as a bookkeeper or as an administrative assistant.

She brought her considerable organizational talents to volunteer and community work. She belonged to the First Congregational Church in Malden, where she taught Sunday School, served on committees, and produced masterful roast beef dinners. She organized one of the first auxiliaries of the Malden Central Little League, raising funds to support players and teams.

But in her family, Natalie was known as a poet, writer and genealogist. Every family event, each birthday, graduation, or anniversary, was marked by a poem created uniquely for the occasion. Natalie kept journals throughout her life, recording her thoughts and observations. She spent years researching her ancestors long before the Internet, creating meticulous documentation for future generations. After retirement she became part of the Silver Stringers at the Melrose Senior Center, which developed an online newspaper for senior citizens, one of the first of its kind.

Natalie loved nothing better than being with people. She was the most extroverted person ever born, had a legendary sense of humor, and was filled with endless curiosity about people and their stories. She made numerous friends among the shopkeepers in and around Melrose Square while on her daily walks for the past 20 years.

Visitation will be held at Weir MacCuish Family Funeral Home at 144 Salem St, Malden on Friday, March 20th from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 21 at 11:00 am at the Melrose Highlands Congregational Church (UCC) at 355 Franklin St., Melrose, with the Rev. Beth Horne officiating. Visitation will precede the service at 10:00 AM at the church.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to The Special Olympics.


Meet Michael J. Hall – 2015 NERGC Speaker


I met Michael J. Hall, in July 2011, a fellow student, at the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), held annually at the National Archives, Washington DC (Mike later became the assistant director and instructed at NIGR 2012-2014).  I had no idea who he was, or of his role in the genealogy world.  We spoke because name tags revealed a shared surname (my maiden name is Hall and my brick wall, Brian Hall, b. 1727, of Taunton [now Raynham], Bristol County, Massachusetts). I was interested to discover if our family tree connected.  It did not (as later confirmed by Y-DNA).

I, a “wanna be” runner, mentioned a desire to run on the National Mall.  Mike, a Marine, indicated that it was far too dangerous to run alone and offered to join me (okay, so he didn’t offer, he informed me that I wouldn’t be running alone – once a Marine always a Marine!).  We met each day at 5AM (before the heat of the day, when it was still a “cool” 100 degrees) and ran/walked between trees then finished with some intensive stair-climbing.  By sharing these mornings, I came to learn of this amazing man.


Michael J. Hall

As a young man, Michael, a Marine, was first stationed in Okinawa, Japan where he found the LDS Church, and then later at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, he developed a desired to research his personal family history.

After discharge from active duty, he moved to Provo, Utah where he attained a BS in Anthropology from Brigham Young University (BYU).  He “tested out” of several genealogy courses, certifying proficiency as a self-taught genealogist.   Initially Michael became a Research Archaeologist and was recognized as among the top in his fauna research. He had the ability to identify and apprise everything about a bone, albeit a job not long lasting.  His love for genealogy emerged; he switched careers and has worked in the Family History field for over thirty-two years.

Mike is currently the Deputy Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch (, the largest genealogical organization in the world, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He is tasked with working with libraries, archives, historic and genealogical societies around the world to educate how FamilySearch might help these organizations and to build goodwill.

During his tenure, Mike experienced many ups and downs. He was present  on 15 April 1999 when a mentally ill man stormed the Family History Library, killing two and wounding four before being shot by Salt Lake City police. Mike, who was working as a reference consultant, remembers the “pop, pop” sound and knew immediately what was happening. He and library supervisor, Stephen Young, mobilized to evacuate people from the building. Both were awarded the “Sons of the American Revolution” Medal for Heroism.

Mike’s role at FamilySearch keeps him away from his beloved family at least 12 weeks a year; he participates in 6-7 conferences annually.  Mike, a member of the Bristol Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists is ALWAYS excited to come home to New England.  Although born in Germany to parents in the US military, over half of his ancestry has New England roots.

At NERGC, he will be speaking on one of his favorite topics, a lecture based on his maternal Portuguese ancestors who emigrated from the Azores to Fall River, Massachusetts (where Mike still has a lot of cousins). Mike began his Portuguese research by looking through church records on microfilm at the Family History Library using a Portuguese pocket dictionary.  Soon he could recognize key phrases. He jokingly adds “Don’t ask me to pronounce the words, but I am now pretty good at reading the language”.

Several years ago, Mike presented on the subject at a conference in Bologna, Italy in the presence of professional Portuguese researchers.  They inquired as to how he was able to translate the documents.  Mike asked “Why, did I do it wrong?”. They responded, saying they were just curious, the translations were perfect. Last year they honored Mike by inviting him to become a member of the Associação Portuguesa de Genealogia in Lisbon, Portugal (membership is by invitation only).

Mike has written various genealogical guides for the Family History Library, chairs the Genealogy  Committee of the American Library Association and serves in the Genealogy and Local History Committee on the International Federation of Libraries and Associations (IFLA). These groups allow Mike to participate in solving worldwide genealogy concerns.  For example, a group in Africa may be wary of losing their oral history as the younger generation might not want to learn. Mike offers creative solutions, not necessarily through FamilySearch but by working with whichever organization has the best resources to offer for a particular situation, be it Find My Past, or another organization.

Mike’s latest endeavor is that of “The War of 1812 Pension Digitization Project” (, an initiative of FGS. These deteriorating files, housed at the National Archives (NARA), are chock full of, as Mike puts it, “unreal stuff” – such as original bible pages and insane asylum records. Fundraising is in progress and 100% of your tax deductible donation goes to digitizing these records (.45 cents per page) which once online will be available to anyone forever for FREE. Currently 50% of the funds have been raised. has generously stepped up and agreed to cover costs to digitize half of the records. So every dollar donated will actually go twice as far.


The talented Mike initially crafted and sold little soldiers, and then dragoons for the project (now sold out) and was looking for another method to raise money and awareness of this cause. He has decided to run, bike and walk 1,812 miles this year and is seeking sponsors. He is registered to race in three 5Ks, three 10Ks, two half marathons, two sprint triathlons and one Olympic triathlon.  You can support him by pledging through The Legal Genealogist ( In addition, Mike has found a source for little sailors, and will have them painted and ready for the National Genealogical Society annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri this coming May.

A goal of 1,812 miles might have been difficult a year ago, but in the past 6 months Mike has lost 80 pounds!  His doctor gave him an excellent bill of health and he credits the “Fast Metabolism Diet” by Haylie Pomroy (and more importantly his wife’s inspiration and cooking) for this new “35 year old body” and renewed energy.

Mike and his wife Joanne, the love of his life, a classmate at BYU, reside in Orem, Utah. Together they had four children and are now the proud grandparents of fifteen.


Catch Mike at NERGC April 15-18, 2015:

Sailing Beyond Names, Dates, and Places in Family History Research: Using Newspapers to Provide the Rest of the Story  Michael Hall Int./Adv T-112 –  This presentation will focus on newspapers and how they can be used to provide clues to resources that can assist in proving the identity of your ancestor.

Sailing From the Azores to Fall River: The Documentation of One Family’s Journey  Michael Hall Beg./Int. F-236 –  This presentation will focus on how one emigrant Portuguese family from the Azores navigated through the various legal, cultural, and family obstacles to sail into a brighter future.

Early Bird registration ($120) ends 28 February 2015.
Registration after 28 February 2015 is $150.
Single day registration increases from $90 to $100 after 28 February 2015.

Register here, read the program brochure here.

Betty and Bob’s 53rd Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my parents, Betty and Bob. Today, 18 February 2015, they would have been married 53 years. The first year, they lay at rest, together again.

About a year ago, my mother wrote an account of their first date, courtship, engagement and marriage:

Pat, my friend since the age of ten, and I, grew up in a  neighborhood [the Bellrock section of Malden, Massachusetts] with lots of kids our age.  When we were teens, we hung around the corner drug store, owned by Hy Goldberg, a very good friend of your grandfather [Dr. Charles George Hall]. A coke was five cents, an ice cream was eight cents. It was Kerwin, Ferrick, Short, Sheehan, O’Keefe, Dean, Skelton, Winchell, Keough, Hall, Murphy, Nugent, etc.

The guys all went to Malden High or the trade school. Most were in the high school with me and played sports of some kind.  Pat and I went to most of the games.

Your father played football and baseball.  The guys on the football team dated the cheerleaders.  Your dad dated a girl named Alice.  She would take the bus home from school, pass the drug store, see Pat and me there with other girls and the guys, and accuse Bob of cheating on her. She didn’t like us.  We probably weren’t even paying attention to Bob with so many kids hanging out there.  All just friends.

When your dad joined the Air Force with Kerwin and several other guys and was sent overseas Alice would write to him often.  He hated writing letters so he gave her letter to a friend to answer.  The friend typed a reply and your dad signed.  He said he very often didn’t even bother to read it.  What a brat! When he got home she had moved on and was seeing someone else.  His friends kept fixing him up with different girls. He said it was usually just the one date.

One night, in 1961, I got a phone call from Bob’s friend Woody Short aka Lloyd Short.  He was calling from the Kernwood Restaurant and Bar.  I don’t think either one of them were entirely sober.  Woody asked me if I’d go out with Bob on Saturday night.  Thinking he was drunk and it was a joke, I said, “sure why not”.  Saturday came, I was sitting around reading a book or watching TV, when the door bell rang.  I was shocked to find Bob standing there.  I did go out with him.  It was the middle of May.  We went to a drive-in-movie to see “Rally Around the Flag Boys”.


We talked through most of the movie.  When he took me home, he said he never noticed how cute I was and what a good sense of humor I had, and then kissed me goodnight.  I figured it was one date and dismissed it.

He was a neighborhood friend!  Low and behold he called me again and again.

I did date a guy before your father, for seven years.  He was a Lithuanian guy from Salem, Massachusetts, named Eddie Piecewick.  I wasn’t seeing much of Eddie, with him working and going to school and living so far away, so I went out with Bob. We were not exclusive as you kids today put it.  That’s why I started dating your dad at the same time.  Bob and Eddie did not get along, the few times that they met.  Only because your father was rude to him or maybe just jealous. Bob and I went to Pat’s (she was married by then), out to dinner, movies, walking the length of Revere Beach, etc.  Pat was happy I was dating him, but my other friends were kind of cool toward him, because they were all friends with Eddie.

After your father got home from the hospital in Germany and recovered at home he got a an infection in the same stomach area and had to go into Chelsea Navel Hospital for medical attention.  Nana [Bob’s mother, Edith], who I had never met, called me and asked me to take her to visit him.  I had been invited to their house, because they knew we were dating, but thought “rich doctor, stuffy wife”, no way was I going there.  Much to my surprise, she was very down to earth and a lovely person.  Through a good part of her life she introduced me as her “daughter in love”.  We got along great.  Grampa [Bob’s father] told Bob that he made a good choice and he liked my sense of humor.  We all got along great.  I worried for nothing.


By August he asked me to marry him.  I said no, that was not for me.  He asked me again in September and then I said yes.  For my birthday he gave me an engagement ring.

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We planned a small wedding because I had little money, having spent it on funerals for my father and mother.  Also I had no family to speak of.  I wanted to wait a year to get married, he didn’t, so we picked 18 February 1962.


Pat was my maid of honor, Janice [Bob’s niece] my flower girl, who hated having to wear a dress.  She looked adorable in the dress, Helen, her mother, made for her.  Joanne [Bob’s first cousin] took care of the guest book and did a wonderful job.  Also looked so cute.  Back then a person took the book around for the guests to sign.  Because my godfather [maternal uncle, Edmond Sylvio Roy] could not make it up from Florida to give me away, I asked Tom O’Keefe [Betty’s foster brother]. Joking, he said he’d be happy to get rid of me!  By then he was married to Liz.  I asked Aunt Margaret [Betty’s foster mother] to stand in for my mother. She did and looked lovely.


We were married at Sacred Heart Church in Malden by Father Hart later to become Bishop Hart.  We were not allowed inside the alter as most brides were, because Bob was not Catholic. I had to get permission from the bishop to marry outside my faith. My bans, an announcement in the bulletin, was not allowed. Bob had to attend a meeting with the priest on the Catholic religion.  He met with Father Hart and said they mostly talked about the greyhounds [Bob and his dad and grandfather raised and raced dogs], after Bob promised to bring any children up Catholic.

The reception was at the American Legion Hall on Pleasant Street, because Aunt Margaret’s husband was a member, and she was too, so she got us a deal. We had a band. An old boyfriend’s brother in law.  I forget his name.  No special song.  Maybe fifty people or less.  I forget.  Mostly Bob’s friends, mine from Malden and work. Some of Aunt Margaret’s friends and relatives and Nana’s friends and her knitting club. A couple of doctors that were friends of Grampa. Grampa’s only request was that he not wear a Tux.
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After the reception we stopped to see Georgiana [Bob’s paternal grandmother], because for reasons I never heard, she did not attend the wedding.


We went to Pennsylvania for a week.  I remember staying the first night in New York and leaving my only pair of heels there. I had to buy shoes in Pennsylvania but the hotel did mail my shoes to me.  We met a lot of nice people. We went to a place called Mount Airy Resort in the Pocono Mountains. It’s still there but looking at it on line it’s been updated after fifty two years. It is or was a honeymoon resort with a hotel and outlying cottages.  Lots of things going on and most of the people there were our age. It had it’s own restaurant and night club.  You could ski, sled, hike, etc.  Dancing and entertainment in the club.


After the honeymoon we went to our apartment at 64 James Street in Malden, returning home in a miserable snow storm.  It was a nice surprise that your grandparents [Bob’s parents], went food shopping and left us food in the house.  We forgot to do that before we left!  Also we came back on a Sunday when the stores were closed. Would you believe I still have the giant sized can of Spaghetti O’s they left!!!


We planned to work for a few years before having children, but come April, I found out I was having a baby!!!  I worked until September [at John Hancock].  Back then you could not work beyond five months.  On December 29, 1962 we had a baby girl. The rest of that story is yours!!!

This is a reminder to document your own courtship and that of your ancestors to preserve your story for future generations!!

A French pen pal?

As part of your ancestor search, have you considered that parents or grandparents may have had a pen pal? Someone who might have preserved their letters?

As a “tween”, in the early 1970’s, I acquired two pen pals, by responding to an advertisement in the Boston Globe or Herald.



My first, Donna, grew up in Bondsville, Massachusetts.  I don’t recall the content of our letters – just that I was excited to receive mail. We corresponded until we departed for college,  and although we only lived 82 miles apart, lost touch and never met. The second (who’s name I can not recall), lived in Trinidad and Tobago.  The relationship was short lived; after several letters, she asked me to send money.

I was suprised to find that my dad may have also had a pen pal when he was 17.  He saved the initial letter of introduction, dated 26 Feb 1953, addressed to him at his childhood home, from Mademoiselle Solange Poncelet of the College Modern de Jeunes Filles at Thionville.  I haven’t had time to get this to a french speaking friend, but using “Google Translate” the jiste seemes to be: She has waited a long time for a pen pal. Miss Lawrence, an American was her teacher of English.  She is 17, small, with brown hair and dark skin.  She speaks of her father’s occupation and says that she doen’t see her parents much, other than holidays; she is boarding at school. She speaks of french examanations, perhaps related to college acceptance? She asks about his interests and schooling and whether they should correspond in Fench or English.  She asks that he send his photo first, before she sends hers. She thinks that Americans are friendly based on their apperance and gaiety.

Did dad write back? If he did, how long did they correspond?  My dad had a longtime girlfriend, Alice, during that time period (he didn’t start dating my mother until 1961) would she have tolerated a french pen pal? Where is Solange today? Although her initial letter is a bit commonplace, it would be interesting to track her down to locate further correspondence and to share the letter with her family.

Will our grandchildren know the meaning of the phrase “pen pal”?  Back in the day, it exposed us to other cultures in an era before the global economy, home computers, email, Internet and social media. Did you, your parents or grandparents have a pen pal?  Were the letters preserved? of what did you/they write?

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Elizabeth Norma “Betty” (Billings) Hall



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With a heavy heart, we said goodbye to my mom, on Friday, she has touched many lives and will be missed, although sad to see her go it is comforting to know that she is free of pain and suffering.

Elizabeth Norma “Betty” (Billings) Hall of Linden, Malden, Massachusetts passed away on 6 February 2015 from complications related to Multiple Myeloma at the age of 79. She was born 19 October 1935 in Gardner, Massachusetts to Charles Billings and Yvonne Marie Roy.

Elizabeth was interested in genealogy and proud of her heritage. Her father, a Lithuanian, was born to Juozas Baltrūnas (Billie) of Preibiai, Pasvalys, Lithuania and Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Morris) of Stanioniai, Pasvalys, Lithuania (both near current day Pumpenai, Pasvalys, Lithuania).  Betty’s mother, a French Acadian, was born to Pius Dosithée “Paul” Roy of Ste Marie de Kent, New Brunswick, Canada and Laura Marie Melanson of Scoudouc, New Brunswick, Canada.

In the early 1940’s Betty came to the Bellrock section of Malden and was raised by foster parents Joseph and Margaret Galiack. She graduated from Malden High School in 1955 and was awarded a gold key and college scholarship for her art talents. She then worked for John Hancock Insurance Company.

On 18 February 1962, she married Robert “Bob” Hall, son of the Malden veterinarian, Dr. Charles George and Edith Anna (Haines) Hall. Together they raised four children and lots of beloved (mostly stray) cats.

For many years, Betty was a stay at home mom. When her children were young, she was a Cub Scout Den Leader and a CCD teacher at St Joseph’s Parish in Malden. She completed the Religious Master Teacher Program at Aquinas Junior College in 1982. She also worked as a leader at Weight Watchers.

When her youngest child reached school age, Betty became part of the family at Robinson’s News Agency in Malden, where she was employed by the Kramich family until her retirement. In recent years, Betty enjoyed lunching with friends, drawing, reading, watching old TV shows, playing computer games and looking after the feral cat living in her garage, who she lovingly named Lily.

Survivors include her beloved children Linda and John Little (her beloved son-in law, good friend and caregiver, who she loved as a son) of Jackson, New Hampshire; Nancie and John Georgopolous of Raleigh, North Carolina; David Hall of Malden and Michael and Lauren (Fontana) Hall of Reading, Massachusetts.

Her grandchildren Makayla Georgopolous, Zack Georgopolous and Anna Hall, and step-grandchild, Kaitlyn Little were the light of her life. She also leaves a sister, Shirley Billings of Sylacauga, Alabama; a brother Ralph Charles Billings of Las Vegas, Nevada; a brother-in-law Charles George Hall Jr. and wife Ann (Bickford) Hall of Falmouth, Massachusetts; many nieces, nephews, cousins, an aunt and her lifelong best friend Patricia (Gowell) McDevitt of Melrose, Massachusetts.

She was raised with Joseph O’Keefe of Billerica, Massachusetts and the late Thomas O’Keefe of Brockton, MA who were like brothers to her and she thought of their wives and children as true family.

She was predeceased by her husband, who died on 12 December 1993 and a brother Charles Anthony Billings.

Visitation: Tuesday, February 10th from 4:30-6:30pm at Boston Cremation Funeral Home, 287 Main Street, Malden, MA.

Funeral Mass: Wednesday, February 11th at 9am at St. Joseph’s Church, 790 Salem St., Malden.  Immediately following the service she will be put to rest with her beloved husband at Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden.

In lieu of flowers, her wishes were that donations be given to The Kitty Connection, 6 Cudworth Street Medford, Massachusetts 02155 (who captured and found homes for a number kittens living in her garage), a donation in her name to your church, to an organization dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or to any charity of your choice.


Genealogy Do-Over – My Dad



This week, I started over. My whole genealogy, from scratch.

I started with “me” (offline) and have moved to my dad – Robert Hall – known as Bob or Bobby – with no given middle name.  Dad was born on 18 July 1935 at Melrose Hospital in Melrose, Massachusetts to Charles George Hall, age 30, a veterinarian, born in Malden, Massachusetts and Edith (Haines) Hall, a 27 year old housewife (who took care of kids, acted as a vet tech and hand fed the greyhound pups our family raised), born in Boston, Massachusetts. They resided at 228 Main Street, Malden.  Bob was the second of two children.  He was 2 1/2 when he got his first hair cut; in the orchestra at Beebe Junior High School;  J V Football Captain and track member at Malden High School and a baseball player for the Belmont Hill Teenage Club. When he graduated in 1953,  the “blonde hair, blue eyed very good looking” Bob had hopes to join the Army, wear bell bottoms and have a girl in every port. He was a “cool” guy with a ’55 green and white Chevy [likely purchased after he got out of the Air Force].

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My mother briefly documented my dad’s life:

Belmont School – Cross St.
Beebe Jr. High – Pleasant St.
Malden High – Salem St.
Wentworth Inst. (electronics)
Indiana State
U.S. Air Force
Lowell Univ.
Bentley College
1958 Honeywell 1973
Lockheed Martin
same company changed hands he continued to work there (35 years, until two weeks before his death) – was electronic engineer, working on space program, top secret clearance.

Sadly, Dad died, after a two year fight with Melanoma, on 12 December 1993, age 58.

BUT, he almost died before marrying my mom, when he was in the Air Force.  I don’t know much about this time is his life.  As part of the “do-over”, I have crafted a research plan to discover more of the 4 years, 3 months and 28 days of his military career.

My mother writes:

“Bob was in the United States Air Force. He was in Morocco when he got sick. They sent him to Germany. They sent for his parents because they did not think he would live. His mother went.  They took out part of his intestines. He lost all of his teeth because of all the medications. He did survive to get home to Chelsea Naval Hospital in Chelsea, MA. He had a scar the size of an 8 inch dinner plate. He did get better, but all his life had stomach problems if he ate the wrong thing (spicy/salads, etc.).  In 1960/1 he had more problems, a cyst. Dr. Auld lanced it and sent him back to Chelsea.  They put a drain in, after several weeks he came home.  He learned to endure a lot of pain for the remainder of his life”.

My grandmother’s journal, dated July 1958, which describes her trip to Germany, to see Bob in the hospital,  offers few clues:

“Vaccinated Sat. July 5th and applied for my passport Mon. July 7. The passport was rushed through. Thanks to Hy Goldberg [the neighborhood druggist, and friend of my grandfather] I had a ticket “economy” to fly to Frankfurt. The round trip ticket cost $513.20. The flight left Logan on Tuesday at 1:00 PM. My seat companions were an Austrian woman of 80 and a negress, 30. They were both very sociable.”

The journal goes on to describe my 50 year old grandmother’s “adventure” through Gander, Newfoundland; Shannon, Ireland; London, England; Dusseldorf, Germany – finally arriving in Frankfort, Germany at 8:25 AM Wednesday EST (1:20 PM German time). She was paged at the arrival airport and recounts “I was sure Bob was gone when told to see the Red Cross – I was so rattled I couldn’t remember a thing”.

She arrived at the Airforce Hospital in Weisbaden at 2:00 PM German time to Ward 2A and Bob.  He was glad to see her  “His breathing was shallow, he felt very cold to the touch and his nails were blue. I rubbed his arms for over an hour before he got warm… While I was there he got out of bed and walked with difficulty but without anyone holding him down the corridor, about 70 of my steps”.

The next day she writes”…Bob was very worried today, they found another abscess in the last incision and took 200 cc of pus from it. The doctor took out all the stitches, put the scissors into the incision [which she later describes as 5 or 6 inches long and 3 inches wide] and opened it all up again.  No anesthetic either…” She speaks of him having dysentery, pains on the right side of the waist, having to wear a “Nelsonbinder” (used to bind him tight to keep his incision together), “fixing the colostomy himself” and weighing 117 pounds. Although she remains positive, on July 24th she writes, “The Doctor says he won’t go back to the States”.

She visited twice daily, bringing ice cream, cake, candy, and other goodies, noting his increased hunger and weight gain. They celebrated Bob’s 23rd birthday, also her 28th anniversary – she writes “Miss Charlie something terrible”.  In August, she says that Bob is feeling better and told her about Morocco; “I had no idea what a mess it is nor how he happened to go there”.

Others mentioned in the journal: Miss Graham (who seemed to be a coordinator who assigned her to a hotel); Colonel Crouch; Dahl and his wife; Captain Chaplain Benjamin J. Shinn and two blond sons; Chaplain H. W. Wicker; Mrs Dempsey who had been in Morocco the “past two years”; Doctor Jernigan; Mrs. Thornton a Naturalized American from Australia her husband is a Colonel stationed in a “hell hole” in Turkey south of Istanbul; Mrs. Kinsley who’s birthday is August 3rd and who’s husband is dying of cancer; Colonial Thornton (army); Mrs Sweeny a friend of Mrs Nicolls from Arlington Virginia, Mary Calkins neighbor at the hotel.

She stayed at: First an unnamed hotel with a loud sidewalk cafe then after the first week Amelia Earhart Hotel. 

Finally on Monday, August 11th she writes: “I am so excited I can’t bear it!!!!! Bob is leaving Thursday (if the weather and conditions are right). He will be flown to the Azores then to Maguire in New Jersey where he will stay from 24 hours to four or five days depending on customs. He will then be flown to Chelsea Naval Hospital. I can hardly believe it.”

Nana stayed in Europe another several weeks to tour, on Bob’s insistence.  She agrees, only because his final operation will be scheduled after her return.  On August 18th, she notes that Bob has arrived at Chelsea Naval Hospital [Side note: In 1999 I purchased a 3 level town home at Admiral Hall in Chelsea, MA – this complex was the Chelsea Naval Hospital converted into condos/town homes – at the time, I had no idea that my dad was there recovering!] She had a fabulous sightseeing trip, but cheered with the others as her plane touched down in New York on 3 Sept 1958. She says “I called Charlie and he is to meet me at Logan”. Then, “Arrived at 3:30 PM and am beginning to live again”.

There is a 1957 article on Mocavo written by the Chaplain Benjamin J. Shinn of whom my grandmother writes:

16-thumb_709 (1)

What I Have

A photo of Dad at basic training dated November 1954 and naming Jim D’Eon [died 2004], Fred Kerwin [an usher at my parents wedding] and Carl Notorangile [Notarangeli?], according to my mother at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.


A newspaper article:

Bob operated on

Dad’s “DD Form 214 (Report of Separation)” – this is a free record which can be ordered here:

I submitted a request and received the document (image below) within 3 weeks.  My neighbor was informed that her dad’s record was destroyed in the fire and could not be recreated:

The document arrived 4 or 5 years ago, I looked at it quickly, thought “cool” and put it in his genealogy file.  “Check” – I have his military record.  I never transcribed it or did any type of search on its contents to determine what my dad might have done in the Air Force, where he was stationed or why he was discharged.



Personal data
Name: Robert Hall; Service Number: AF 11 293 532; Grade/Rank: A/2C; Date of Rank: 1 Sep 55
Dept: Air Force Reg/AF; Place of Birth: Melrose, MA; Date: 18 July 35
Race: Caucassion; Sex: Male; Color Hair: Brown; Color Eyes: Blue; Height: 5’8″; Weight: 148
US Citizen: Y; Marital Status: Single; Civilian Education: High School 4; Course or Field: Academic

Transfer or Discharge Data
Type of transfer of discharge: Retirement (T)
Station/Installment at which Effected: Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Reason: SDN 270 Par 8 SO C-98 Hq DAF, 18 Feb 59,
Sections 1202 & 1372 Title 10 US Code, Par 88c AFM 35-4
Effective date: 2 Mar 59
Last Duty Assignment: 357 FINTCPRON APO 30 (USAFE)
Character of Service: Honorable
Type of Certificate Issued: DD Form 217AF [The DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge issued to these members did not authorize retirement benefits. In the past, these honorary members were issued a DD Form 217]

Selective Service Data
Selective Service Number: 19 20 35 61
Selective Service Local Board: LB #20 Malden (Middlesex) Massachusetts
Date Inducted: N/A
District Transferred: N/A

Service Data
Date of Reserve Obligation: N/A
Current Active Service: Enlisted
Prior Enlistments: None
Grade Rate or Rank at time of Entry: A/B
Place of Entry into Active Service: Boston, Massachusetts
Home Recorded at time of Entry: 228 Main Street, Malden, Massachusetts
Specialty Number and Title: Flt Simulator Sp 34230H
Related Civilian Occupation: Radio Rpam 0-83,411
Net Service this period: 4 years, 3 months, 28 days
Total Active Service: 4 years, 3 months, 28 days
Foreign and/or Sea Service: 1 year, 6 months, 5 days
Decorations, Medals, Badges, Citations, Ribbons: GCMDL, AFLSA
Wounds received as a result of Action: None
School or Course: Chanute AFB Ill: Dates Jan-Sept 1955
Major Courses: Apr Elec Instr Rpmn
Other Service Training Courses: None
Gov’t Life Insurance: No
Amount of Allotment: N/A

No time lost under Section 6a Appendix 2b MCM 1951
60 days unused leave credit and rations paid on final pay.
Blood Group “O Pos”; FSSD: 15 Aug 58. Paid 300.00 MOP. IP $100.
AQE Cluster: Mech 7 Cler 7 Eqp 7 Rad Opr 6 Tech Sp 5 Svc 2 Cft 6 Elect 7
Secret Clearance NAC 5 Apr 56 4th OSI Dist (ADC). SSN 021-28-0603
Placed on Temporary Disability Retired List. VA Code: 7328
Permanent Address for Mailing:228 Maine Street, Malden, MA
Name Authorizing Officer: Joseph R. Dillehay Capt USAF (MSC)
Asst Pers Off USAF Hosp W-P-W-PAFB Ohio

Evidence that Dad perhaps joined the Air Force Reserves and was discharged effective 4 November 1962. It mentions a form 256AF.

letter (1)

And certificate of Honorable Discharge, form 256AF.


My “To Do” List

(1) Locate the men in the basic training photo and Earl Wiedner mentioned in the journal, if living, to determine if they have any memories of my dad. Locate fellow servicemen who were stationed with my dad at Basic Training, Chanute AFB and in Morocco. Locate nurses/doctors who might have worked at the same German and Massachusetts Hospitals.

I believe I found an address for Carl Notarangeli and have drafted/sent him a letter via snail mail [today]. My mother gave me some clues to help locate Fred Kerwin.

(2) Find out more about the Unit.

Google Search –

357 FINTCPRON is perhaps: Redesignated as 357 Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 11 Sep 1952. Activated on 1 Nov 1952. Discontinued on 8 Mar 1960.

Assignments – 316 Air Division, 18 Sep 1953-8 Mar 1960
Stations: French Morocco (later, Morocco), 28 May 1953-8 Mar 1960.
Commanders:  Maj William G. Dilley Jr., 28 Oct 1955; Maj Lyle E. Mann, 4 Dec 1956; Maj Raymond F. Farrington Jr., 22 Jun 1958; Lt Col Leonidas C. Bradley Jr., 1 Jun 1959-8 Mar 1960.
Aircraft: F-86, 1952-196

Wikipedia Reads:

The squadron was reactivated as the 357th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron under Air Defense Command ADC at Portland International Airport, Oregon in November 1952. The squadron took over the personnel, mission and F-86F Sabres of the federalized 123d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard which was returned to state control. A little more than three months later, ADC formed Air Defense Groups at its dispersed fighter bases and the squadron became the operational element of the new 503d Air Defense Group. However, the 503d soon converted to Lockheed F-94 Starfires with the activation of the 497th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and the 357th deployed to Nouasseur Air Base, French Morocco and assigned to the 316th Air Division of United States Air Forces Europe in May, where it provided air defense mission for Strategic Air Command forward bases used by Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft on Reflex deployment to Morocco. The unit received new HVAR rocket armed and airborne interceptradar equipped F-86D Sabre interceptors in early 1955. The unit remained in North Africa until 1960 when it was inactivated as SAC withdrew from its Morocco bases.

357 Fighter Squadron Emblem

(3) There are a bunch of abbreviations – what are they?

Rank at time of Entry: A/B – Airman basic (AB) is the lowest enlisted rank in the United States Air Force (USAF), immediately below airman. The pay grade for airman basic is E-1.

School or Course: Chanute AFB Illinois: Dates Jan-Sept 1955; Major Courses: Apprentice Electronic Instrument Repairman, Flight Simulator Tech School at Chanute AFB

Job: 34230H-Apprentice Flight Simulator Specialist

Related Civilian Occupation: Radio Rpam 0-83,411 – ?????

Rank: A/2C – Airman Second Class (there is no such rank anymore); but essentially an E2 with one stripe.


What are the awards listed?

GCMDL- Good Conduct Medal is awarded to any active-duty enlisted member of the United States military who completes three consecutive years of “honorable and faithful service”. Such service implies that a standard enlistment was completed without any non-judicial punishment, disciplinary infractions, or court martial offenses.

AFLSA – Air Force Longevity Service Award is awarded for completing four years of Active, Air Force Reserve, or Air National Guard service.

If he was discharged 18 Feb 1959 after 4 years, 3 months, 28 days, then he joined 21 Oct 1954.

(4) What are the discharge reason codes? SDN 270 Par 8 SO C-98 Hq DAF, 18 Feb 59, Sections 1202 & 1372 Title 10 US Code, Par 88c AFM 35-4

(5) Find out what other medical or military records are available. Would my dad’s Secret Clearance paperwork be accessible? I believe my dad had a small pension – is there a pension file available?

Thanks to FB readers at the Genealogy Do-Over page, I just requested my father’s Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) from NARA National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.  The FB post read:

“Here’s the form:  For next of kin, there is usually no charge (that may have changed though – double check). There is such a wealth of information contained in those records (including medical records)!”

If they’ve responded with the “there was a fire and the file was destroyed” letter, all hope is not lost. There are other records (and some are more informative) that are not necessarily kept with the standard military records. Morning reports, change of duty station, final pay vouchers, and other documents. I have a guy who occasionally pulls those records for me. His fees are quite reasonable and he is very thorough. Let me know if you’d like his contact information.

Also – if you need help with other aspects of the records (deciphering abbreviations, etc.), Jennifer Holik specializes in military research and has a WWII toolbox ( that will be helpful, even though your records are after WWII. She’s also here on Facebook and you can reach out to her that way as well.

(6) Learn what was going on in Morocco late 1957 to early 1959. Did he spend 1 year, 6 months, 5 days there and Germany or was he stationed elsewhere during his time abroad? Where was he stationed during the remaining 3 years? Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio?

(7) Scan and transcribe Nana’s entire journal of her time in Germany, for future generations to enjoy.

(8) Last, using the information collected, craft a narrative of Dad’s time in the Air Force and Military Hospitals.

I am enrolled in Military Records II at IGHR at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama this coming June. It is not on the syllabus, but I am hoping one of the course coordinators Craig Scott, Michael Hall, J. Mark Lowe and/or Richard Sayre can advise where additional information might be found. I plan to bring the DD Form 214 to see if they notice something that I may have missed.

Another Facebook poster suggested this site – – The Air Force Historical Research Agency – just 90 minutes from Birmingham! I may have to make a side trip.

If you are reading and have suggestions/advice, please comment here or email me at gmail – LindaHalLittle

A Genealogical Scam!


It has been two years since I wrote this post, but I think it is important for those just starting out, so I am reposting….

Originally posted on Passage to the Past's Blog:

My first experience at genealogical research wasn’t research at all.  But I didn’t know any better. 

I wanted to know more of my ancestor David Pinder/Pindar/Pendar/Pender/Pynder.  His Seaman’s Protection Certificate tells me he was a native of Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts, he was  5’11” with light hair, light complexion, blue eyes and a large scar on his bosom. He died at sea in 1815 at the age of 27.  His young widow and their two young daughters ages 3 and 5, relocated to Malden, Massachusetts a distance of about 20 miles. 

I knew how to research in Malden (or so I thought – keep in mind, this was my first week as a researcher), but had no idea how to research in Ipswich.  So, I “Googled” the Ipswich Historical Society and asked if they could help.  A few days later, they referred me to a local genealogist. We made contact, I sent…

View original 2,658 more words


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