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Creator of "Hall's Index" Passes

The man who preserved our past in scrapbooks of newspaper clippings -- now the most-used volumes in the library system -- has, himself, become an entry in local history.

Dr. William K. Hall, who earned the gratitude of genealogists and amateur researchers alike, died March 2 in St. Louis at the age of 93.

If you’ve never searched old family records or birth announcements, “Hall’s Collection” may mean little. But news of his death is rippling through the communities of genealogists and historians because of what he gave us.

Hall spent nearly a lifetime creating an index and scrapbooks of the vital records that appeared in Springfield-Greene County newspapers dating to 1865.

These kinds of records are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in family research or the history of southwest Missouri. People use them to trace relatives – perhaps family fortunes – through birth records, marriage or engagement announcements or obituaries.

Local History Librarian Michael Glenn praised Hall’s contribution.

“Dr. Hall’s 145-year index to items of genealogical interest from Springfield newspapers has proven to be an invaluable tool for historians and genealogists, saving many people countless hours of searching newspapers day by day for death, marriage and divorce information,” Glenn said.

Hall began indexing the newspaper items while attending Central High School. He said he did it to keep up with hometown news and to support his own research while at Yale, studying medicine at Harvard, serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy and World War II, and practicing medicine in St. Louis and St. Charles. Hall also wrote numerous genealogy books.

All the while, he continued to cut and paste articles into old magazines. He indexed the items in the back and had photocopies made and bound into books, which he then gave to the library and genealogical groups. The library’s collection of 230 volumes stretches 45 linear feet.

Ongoing work to digitize his books and indexes appears on Missouri Digital Heritage, under “Hall’s Index & Items of Genealogical Interest from the Springfield, Greene County, MO Newspapers.”

“I was saddened to learn…of Dr. Hall’s recent death,” said historian Sally Lyons McAlear. “There are many genealogical and historical discoveries I owe to his contributions.”

McAlear’s hope is to see a notice honoring his passing in the 2011 Hall’s Index. She added, “His death certainly needs to make the index, after he included countless thousands of other deaths and items of local interest.”

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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