Do you have a goal to write a family history of an ancestor? Does the project seem overwhelming? If so, you can draw hope from today’s guest blog post. Lorna Gorringe Coombs shares the challenges and the triumphs she experienced in collecting and writing family stories of her grandmother. She overcame technology issues and a lack of starting material to produce a book complete with narrative, citations, and pictures. Lorna joined our Research Like a Pro Course to learn the process that would ultimately help her reach her goal. Enjoy her story! Diana
By Lorna Gorringe Coombs
I was first introduced to Diana and Nicole by my sister, Kaye Shelley. She had been a part of the Research Like a Pro Study Group, and knowing my love for family history, she thought it might be something I might enjoy taking myself. As I looked through Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide, I thought it looked like a very logical process. I decided to take the e-Course because I was a little fearful of one more thing being added to my schedule. It worked very well for me, allowing me to work at my own pace.
Because I knew very little about my maternal grandmother, Lila Marion Mooso Hale, I decided my research project would be about her. She had died at age thirty-four and at the time of her death, my own mother was just fourteen years old. I remember asking mom about her mother. The things she told me were not exactly positive. Life was very hard for them. As the oldest daughter, my mom had a lot of responsibility. As a teenager, my mom lived in a home without running water, plumbing, or electricity. You can imagine that her recollection of that time was not positive.
My first research objective was very direct. Why did my grandmother get married in Rupert, Idaho? This was thirty miles away from her home in Oakley, Idaho, so I was curious about the location. As part of the timeline analysis, I wrote down everything I knew about her – only nine things on that list. I knew her parents, the day of her birth, her siblings, her spouse, where she lived, her children, when and how she died, and where she was buried. That was about it. I had a lot of questions.
As I started the locality research, I immediately found the answer to my question about why she married in Rupert, Idaho. Well, that didn’t seem like much of a project! So…. I decided to change my objective. After reading just a bit about Oakley, Idaho, a place I had visited dozens of times growing up, I decided I needed to find out everything I could about my grandma. I wanted to know how she met my grandpa and what her life was like. My first objective was too narrow and my next objective was too broad. I did, however, finish the broad objective. It’s what I really wanted to know.
My research was so fun! All of Lila & Loyal’s children had passed away so I asked my siblings and cousins what they knew. Everyone had about the same information – not much. One of my sisters had recorded a cassette tape interview with my mom years ago. She said she didn’t even know where it was, but she would look. Miraculously, she went to a box, saw a tape that was upside down, pulled it out and it was the tape! She transcribed the tape and sent it to me. It was really helpful.
One sister had an old metal suitcase that had belonged to my grandpa. It was filled with receipts and other tidbits that gave a glimpse into the lives of my grandparents. I went through a box of old papers in my basement that I had taken from my mom’s house when she died. Much of my research came from that box. Mom had written a few things on scraps of paper. Several postcards were found which were written between Lila and her husband, Loyal. Those postcards had addresses on them that led me to the places where they were written. When I put them all together, I found quite a bit of information. There was a manilla envelope that contained things that were precious to my grandma. I didn’t even know it existed and it was right in my house!
I contacted the children of my grandparent’s neighbors. I found the name of a neighbor child on a picture and looked her up on FamilySearch. The information there gave me a phone number. I called the number and spoke with the daughter of my mom’s childhood friend. She answered on the first ring. I sent her the picture of our mother’s. She had never seen a childhood picture of her mom – such a great experience. My new friend helped solve the mystery of where my grandparents lived since some of her family still live in Oakley. She remembered the day her dad came into the house and told them that Loyal Hale had died of a heart attack. I was able to access Google Maps and she “drove” me to the very lot where my grandparents lived!
I used the FAN club! I had never even heard of the FAN club before hearing Diana and Nicole talk about friends, associates, and neighbors. I thought there was no information about my grandma, but through a lot of digging, I discovered something about every location where my grandma had lived. I had never thought of learning about a person by reading the history of a locality until I took the RLP course. After reading histories, things began to make sense. I wanted to read more and more.
So……..I ended up getting a new computer. What a mess! I don’t have any computer whizzes at my house. I had never used Windows 10, so there was a new thing to learn. Also, Word was updated and things were saved differently. I thought I had lost my project several times. I’m not really a crying person, but thinking I had lost my work brought me to tears a few times. I’m not sure how I finished, but I did. Finally holding the completed, printed book was a great feeling! I had originally known nine things about my grandma and now I had written a seventy-two-page book about her, complete with pictures that I didn’t even know I had.
It took me over a year to complete my book about Lila Marion Mooso Hale. I learned many new skills and discovered so much about my grandma. Now I want to write about my grandpa and write my own story! Writing about my grandma I found I really love being a detective. I have always loved puzzles. It was so rewarding each time I found a little bit about her life.
With a finished product, I was able to share the book with my siblings and several cousins. I’ve had many calls thanking me for taking the time to learn about our grandma. They kept saying things like, “I didn’t know that about our grandma.” I had to answer, “Neither did I!”
I have continued to use the Research Like a Pro method as I am now back in my comfort zone of doing Swedish research. It works!