Introduction to my Genealogical Research

I live in a medium-sized Midwestern town (Springfield, Illinois - also the state capitol).  I've lived here all my life and admit to having a reluctance to live anywhere else - not because it is an especially wonderful town, but because I feel drawn to my roots here.  I found some of those roots lie less than 30 minutes away from me south of a small farm town named Loami.  It turns out that my great, great, great grandfather moved there in 1828 to farm this black, fertile land.  Even though I know very little about farming, my first cousin still farms the same land Henry Hall bought from the government over 180 years ago.  My father left farming many years ago, but I'm very proud of this heritage.  (It must be in the genes. Pun intended!)

When I began tracing my family's history, in the 1970's, I had a mental image of a "line" of people from me to some distant person who, I felt, would define me in some way - explain why I am who I am.  I also was interested in what life was like for my ancestors who lived so long ago.  Although I haven't find any famous Halls (so far) I did find some very special and fascinating people.

Of course, I did see some parts of "me" in the people I researched, and I experienced the great pleasure of finding the lineage of my family. But, along the way to these revelations, something odd happened. I began to notice the interweaving of families in the Loami area. The same names kept cropping up and it slowly occurred to me that some of the families traveled and stayed together. I became fascinated with why the Hall, Taylor and Hays families seemed to stay together from Virginia to Indiana (in 1816), and on to Illinois; and why they waited 13 years to make the last leg of their journey in 1828 instead of pushing on in 1816? How did the Jarrett's, from West Virginia, link up with the others, making their west?  These questions have partly fueled my quest.

Along with the genealogy work done by Lucy Dodd, I was lucky enough to find that Irene (Zaccagni) Hall, my aunt, had preserved a shelf-full of daily diaries kept by my great-grandmother Jennie and her daughter Lena.  These little books have an entry for every day from 1903 to 1947!  In addition, we found two daily diaries kept by my great-grandfather William Thompson Hall, written in 1863 and 1865.  (One of these diaries is transcribed elsewhere on this site.)  As I read these accounts of ordinary Midwestern life, I could not help but be fascinated.

In short, the lives of the people, and their stories, became more important than their birthdates. I suppose some of my interest comes from how different their lives were from ours today. For example, their daily lives depended heavily on not only those in their extended family, but on those they lived near. This dependence each family had on the others stands in contrast to our modern 'nuclear' families.  Their focus on what we consider the barest essentials of life - food, shelter, safety, clothing - seems quaint in this time of plenty, when all but a few have all these and much more. There were other differences, too.  Their pleasures were much simpler - a visit from friends, making an apple pie or taking a carriage ride on a warm night.  The church was an integral part of their lives, as much social as spiritual. 

However, a bigger part of my interest came from the fact that, despite these and other differences, they were so much like me.  They often seemed to do the same things, make the same mistakes, conquer the same obstacles that we all do. I was recently astounded when another researcher (Thank you, Letetia!) found the photo (right) of my great grandfather, as a young man, which he had signed across the bottom.  What amazed me is that this 19-year-old, who would be a farmer all his life, had written to someone, "Votre ami, Willie Hall" - 'Your friend,' in French!  I guess I shouldn't be amazed; our ancestors were at least as smart as we are (and perhaps smarter).  It reminds me not to take your ancestors for granted - they may surprise you.

After several years of doing this "work," I have come to love the stories of the people and families in southwestern Sangamon County and wanted to put together some of their stories in hopes that you will feel that same "community" that was obviously there. It may even make you look at life today a little differently. Do we have that sense of community? Are we better off with our wealth and technology? Are we missing something?  I leave the answer to you, the reader.

This site attempts to do three things.  First, I want to acquaint you with the earliest settlers in the southwestern part of Sangamon County, near Lick Creek, and provide, for researchers, my best information on who, what, where and when.  Much of that is reached from my listings, which have been compiled over the last 20 years.  Many are my relatives, but others moved to the area about the same time.  I have tried to accurately cite a source for all my information, but cannot vouch all sources, particularly those from the internet.  Proceed with caution, as with all genealogical information, in citing these sources.

Second, I have laid out the mystery of my ancestor Henry Hall (and his probable brothers).  He is my "brick wall" and telling the story may help me think through the issues.  If you see a relative or are researching the same people, write me.

Finally, I will try to give you a 'feel' for the life and times of those who settled here, their stories and perhaps some of the writings that I have discovered.  These are mostly the writing of Lucy Miller Dodd and the diaries of William T. Hall, Jennie Lowry Hall and Lena Dell Hall.

I am, of course, mostly indebted to Lucy Dodd, but also to a whole host of friends and researchers who helped along the way and will be credited for their work in due course, as you see the source notes.  Also, I want to thank my wife Jane for helping my to read and transcribe W. T. Hall's diary (written mostly in pencil over 140 years ago!)  And last, but certainly not least, a big thanks to cousins Bob Hall and Dick and Jane hall, who have allowed me to borrow photos, rummage through boxes and generally make a nuisance of myself for the last 25 years.  Thanks to all of you.


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