Genealogy builds bridges between generations
by Janet Keeler Wilcox
Most people spend the long, cold days of January reading, eating or watching TV, but for Lawana Pratt Palmer and her nephew, Gehrig Pratt, the past month has been all about keeping the internet warm while editing and digitally uploading hundreds of files, covering several generations of family history.
In doing so, they also drastically reduced the number of historical “stuff” boxes that Lawana had collected over 60 years!
Lawana has always been an avid curator of history, and in the past has even helped Blue Mountain Shadows document interviews conducted by students at San Juan High School, entering data into spreadsheets.
However, Lawana is now blind, and she needed someone with good eyes, technological intelligence, and patience to help her with her family history projects. His nephew (his brother’s son) from Gilbert, AZ matched every aspect.
Together, they literally moved mountains of “boxes” by uploading hundreds of photographs and documents to FamilySearch.Org.
Gehrig’s interest in genealogy was sparked at age ten, when his uncle took him to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City and taught him how to do research. Gehrig quickly discovered that he enjoyed this kind of family detective work.
At one time he served as a youth counselor at the family history center in the Gilbert, AZ Stake, where his family lives near the temple. His Young Men leader involved him in indexing and he learned how to upload photos to Family Search.
Gehrig later discovered that his mother, Sharon, didn’t even know his own father, George King Black, and his father knew nothing about his father, William Parker Pratt Jr. Thus, two family mysteries had to be solved.
His father, Chris, was only ten years old when his father died. All they knew was that he had served in the Navy in World War II and had joined up because he knew he was going to be drafted.
His mother, however, had some of his grandfather Black’s story, but Gehrig still had a lot to learn about both grandfathers.
William Parker Pratt’s oldest family letter is dated August 12, 1943, the day after Lawana was born! There was a three cent stamp on it and it was sent to his mother, Virginia Mae Adams Pratt.
The first task of Palmer and Pratt’s genealogy team was to dissect and digitally save photos, letters, and data from ten memorabilia books and other binders that Lawana had on his overflowing shelves.
Some of these genealogy books contained only 10 to 20 pages of history, but many contained hundreds of pages of data and photographs of the Adams, Pratt, Sorenson, and Grow family lines.
In their research, they also gathered information about their uncle, Marvin Adams, who never married. He was a career soldier and had no posterity. But he still had a story!
When the Palmer-Pratt team started in January, boxes and boxes of letters, photographs, maps, certificates, and even old calendars (with historical events in pencil) lined every wall of the “genealogy” room. by Lawana.
These have now been reviewed, dissected, and the data added to the histories and several genealogy files on Family Search.Com.
Since Lawana could not “see” the photos, Gehrig had to describe them to her or read the information on the back.
This presented another problem unique to young people today: they were not taught to read cursive script! But Gehrig jumped that barrier too!
Due to Lawana’s above normal memory, they were thus able to determine who the person was and where they should be downloaded.
Once everything has been digitally copied and uploaded, they – like Elsa in Frozen, “Let it Go” – in the trash. For any history collector, that’s a hard thing to do!