If you’ve lived in the area any length of time, no doubt you’ve heard of Andy Hall. His name appears on the plaque under the Hanging Tree on Broad Street. In August of 1882, while working as a Wells Fargo messenger, Hall was killed in the line of duty at Pioneer Pass. Two of the three murder suspects met their maker under the Hanging Tree.
To Becky Stephens, of Lantana, Texas, Hall is more than a name on a plaque and a century-old story. He’s her great uncle.
Stephens, a professional genealogist and family historian, spent 18 months researching Hall’s life. As a result of her efforts, Stephens says she now feels a personal connection with a relative who died long before she was born. And the world knows a lot more about the life and times of Andy Hall.
Stephens has 12 years of experience as a professional genealogist under her belt. At first, she thought the research into her great uncle’s life would be easy. After all, it had been only about 135 years since Hall was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Globe. How difficult could it be?
Following the cardinal rule of genealogy, Stephens began by attempting to work backwards. But almost from the start, the lack of documents stymied her progress.
Stephens found herself forced to break genealogy’s #1 rule. She went back to Hall’s birth and started from there.
Offering advice to other genealogists, Stephens suggests that, when stumped, researchers step back and widen their scope. Look at the subject’s “history, culture, family and friends of the time,” she says. In other words, research the people around your subject. Stephens calls it the “FAN” principle.
“If you can’t find your relative’s records, maybe you can find their neighbor’s records,” Stephens says. This can give the researcher the information needed to get around the brick wall.
Stephens researched conditions in Scotland during Hall’s youth, and learned about the Gaelic Potato Famine. Stephens next delved into the migration patterns of Hall’s Scottish friends and neighbors.
From there, she was able to pinpoint when Hall’s family emigrated to a Scottish settlement in Illinois.
Describing this event, Stephens quotes a line from the 1948 movie I Remember Mama, which chronicles the life of a Swedish immigrant family named Hanson. When Marta Hanson’s daughter asks her mother why they moved to America, Marta replies, “We came because they were all here.”
Many researchers are successful in using Ellis Island records, but in Hall’s case, no ship records could be found there. Instead, Stephens discovered that this group of Scottish immigrants relied on an agency that led them into Quebec and on to Chicago.
At times, even trusted history books may lead a researcher to a dead end. Although Stephens found books that mentioned Hall as a member of the 1869 Powell Expedition on the Colorado River, these books didn’t cite their own sources. Without an original source, Stephens couldn’t rely on the information.
Fortunately, with the help of someone else’s research, Stephens eventually found the key—personal letters written by Hall’s niece.
“That’s when Andy became real,” she says.
Unfortunately, that is also the moment when “genealogy melancholy” set in.
Stephens explains, “It’s when family researchers get a little sad—when you realize that they’re real, their death is real, and what they left behind is real.”
To overcome the grief and keep going, Stephens recommends stopping for a few days or even a few weeks, then starting fresh. “Breathe and take a break,” she says.
As owner of Kindred Paths Genealogy, Stephens says that nine-tenths of her research is for other people. As for her own family research, Stephens works on it in the evenings, after work. During her 18 months of researching Andy Hall, Stephens had to reduce her client workload, but she says it was worth it.
“I had to bring closure to Andy’s life for my family,” she says.
And as her research progressed, Stephens realized that her work was meaningful to an even larger community.
A bittersweet celebration took place in Globe on September 16, proclaimed Andy Hall Day by Mayor Al Gameros. Thirteen of Hall’s relatives from across the country gathered in Globe to dedicate his memorial marker. While the exact location of Hall’s final resting place in the Old Globe Cemetery remains unknown, after 137 years visitors can go there and read a bit about his life.
From a wealth of personal and professional experience, Stephens offers sound advice for anyone interested in pursuing genealogy or historical research.
First, always start with a plan, such as what you want to learn – your research goals. “Every successful search begins with a great plan,” she says.
After doing what she calls “backwards research” on Hall, Stephens knows that researchers are not always able to follow the accepted rules of genealogy. Even so, the cardinal rule of genealogy still stands: Start with what you know. That means yourself and your own documentation, moving next to your parents and grandparents, she says. Many people make the mistake of starting with a relative instead of themselves.
Second, focus on only one genealogical question at a time to avoid confusion. “When you’ve exhausted the moment, move onto the next target,” she says.
Third, keep a research log, writing down what you found and where you found it. Back up everything you find with proof.
During her research into Andy Hall, Stephens contacted local researcher Linda Lopez, whom she found to be very interested in the project. “I saw it expand into Globe history, as well,” Stephens says.
Lopez volunteers with the Gila County Historical Museum in Globe. The museum collects and preserves a variety of paper and electronic materials, including photographs, periodicals, Globe High School yearbooks, journals, letters, business and personal papers, maps, Gila County marriage records from 1881 to 1970, Palmer Mortuary records from 1885 to 1995, and Globe Cemetery records from 1889 to 2002.
Museum researchers also have access to Arizona birth and death records, as well as other documents related to area history. The museum does not charge for its research, but donations are gratefully accepted.
A Globe native, Lopez began her own genealogy research five years ago, after joining the LDS Church. At the museum, she helps field research requests from three sources: people who walk in the door with questions, those who call on the phone, and others who fill out a form on the museum’s website.
“It never fails. We get two or three requests per day,” Lopez says.
The reasons are as varied as those making the requests. A person might have bought an old house in town and want to know who owned it or built it, while someone from out of town might want to know where a relative is buried.
After completing research, the museum staff make a copy, creating a “people file” in case others come in later looking for the same people.
Lynne Perry heads the museum’s research department. A Pima native, Perry moved to Globe in 1974. She has been doing research since the age of 17.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together,” Perry said. “You have to be persistent and be able to sort and document.”
Lopez believes that, to be a good researcher, a person should have curiosity as well as an interest in history.
Lopez likens historical research to a treasure hunt with very rewarding results. Local researchers have seen many people become emotional after receiving family information they never thought they would find, Lopez says.
Over at the Bullion Plaza Museum and Cultural Center in Miami, research assistant Lee Ann Powers, who has lived in Globe 25 years, does her part to help researchers by digitizing past issues of the Arizona Silver Belt.
Powers says the seven-year project began when FreeportMcMoRan awarded Bullion Plaza Museum a two-year grant. When the two years were over, the project remained unfinished, so the museum kept her on.
Powers believes that the two most important characteristics necessary to be a good researcher include thinking outside the box and collaborating with others.
After doing her own family research as well as others, Powers reminds researchers that family stories aren’t always true, so they should find at least two more sources of information.
Lopez agrees, saying, “You can’t just go by hearsay or family legend.”
Other challenges researchers face include errors in documents, such as obituaries, where people often misspell names or give the wrong birth or death dates.
How best to overcome the challenges? With a lot of research, Perry says, adding that, when researching someone’s life, it sometimes helps to go backwards or forwards 10 years.
Although Stephens recommends taking classes and going to seminars, she does not believe a person needs to be highly educated in genealogy or historical research to be successful. A degree isn’t necessary.
What it does take is the determination to find proof and the ability to pay close attention to detail and analyze what you have found, Stephens says.
While she believes that DNA testing has its place, and she has used it with her own clients, Stephens cautions that although the results can be a guide, the legwork still needs to be done.
The local researchers use and recommend websites such as ancestory.com, familysearch.org, and findagrave.com, where Powers is a volunteer.
Those researching Arizona families specifically may also want to try the website genealogy.az.gov, which has birth records going back to 1855 and death records back to 1870, Perry said.
Powers recommends working with both of the museums in Miami and Globe. The Gila County Historical Museum works closely with the family history center at the LDS Church in Globe, which has access to any information housed in Salt Lake City, Perry says.
“You don’t have to be a member of the LDS Church. They will help you,” Lopez says.
The local researchers plan to continue researching and digitizing obituaries, allowing genealogists to access them on the Gila County Historical Museum website (gilahistoricalmuseum.org).
They are also working on a history of territorial sheriffs, titled From Bert to Rimrock, in time for next year’s Old Dominion Days celebration.
Perry believes that people are “seeking who they are and where they came from more than ever.” But less than 10 percent of the information they’re looking for may be available online. That’s why in-person visits to museums and family history centers matter so much.
“You need to go in person, but go prepared. Take with you what you have already,” Perry says. “Call ahead to make sure that a researcher is going to be there.”
She adds, “Tell me what you already know. That’s the key – make these people come alive.”
Award winning journalist with over 18 years experience in covering local news and issues affecting rural communities. Married 37 years, my life has taken me from Phoenix to Willcox to Globe. My husband and I are both overjoyed to find ourselves in Globe-Miami, with its rich history and sense of community. This is truly home.