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 spent keeping the internet hot while digitally editing and uploading hundreds of files, spanning multiple generations of family history.
Whilst doing that, they also substantially diminished the number of boxes of historical “stuff” that Lawana had collected for 60 years!
Lawana has always been an avid preserver of history and in the past even helped Blue Mountain Shadows document interviews done by San Juan High School students, by entering data onto spreadsheets.
However, Lawana is now blind and she needed someone with good eyes, technology smarts, and patience to help her with family history projects. Her nephew (her brother’s son) from Gilbert, AZ fit the bill in every aspect.
Together they have literally moved mountains “of boxes” while uploading hundreds of photographs, and documents onto FamilySearch.Org.
Gehrig’s interest in genealogy was triggered at age ten, when his uncle took him to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City and taught him how to research. Gehrig quickly discovered he liked that kind of family detective work.
At one time, he was a youth Family History Center Consultant in the Gilbert, AZ Stake, where his family lives near the temple. His Young Men’s leader got him involved in indexing and he learned to upload photos on Family Search.
Gehrig later discovered that his mother, Sharon, didn’t even know her own father, George King Black, nor did his dad know anything about his father, William Parker Pratt Jr. So, two family mysteries needed to be solved.
His father, Chris, was only ten when his dad died. All they knew was that he served in the Navy during World War II and had joined because he knew he was going to be drafted.
His mother, however, had some of his Grandpa Black’s history, but still Gehrig had a lot to learn about both grandfathers.
The oldest family letter from William Parker Pratt is dated August 12, 1943, the day after Lawana was born! It had a three-cent stamp on it and was sent to her mother, Virginia Mae Adams Pratt.
The Palmer and Pratt genealogy team’s first task was to dissect and digitally save photos, letters, and data from ten Books of Remembrances and other binders that Lawana had on her overflowing bookshelves.
Some of these genealogy books only had 10-20 pages of history in them, but many had hundreds of pages of data and photographs of the Adams, Pratt, Sorenson, and Grow family lines.
In their research they also collected information on 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 first began in January, boxes and boxes of letters, photographs, cards, certificates, and even old calendars (with historical events penciled in) lined every wall in Lawana’s “genealogy” bedroom.
These have now been examined, dissected, and the data added to histories, and multiple genealogy files on Family Search.Com.
Because Lawana couldn’t “see” the photos, Gehrig would have to describe them to her or read the info on the back.
This presented another problem unique to youth today: they haven’t been taught to read cursive! But Gehrig jumped that barrier too!
Because of Lawana’s above par memory, they were thus able to determine who the person was and where it needed to be uploaded.
Once everything was copied and uploaded digitally, they – like Elsa in Frozen, “Let it Go” – to the trash. For any collector of history, this is a tough thing to do!
by Janet Keeler Wilcox