Category: Oral History

#MyGenealogyStory

My blog has been dormant for a while now, and one of my goals for 2022 is to remedy that neglect. What better way to get started than to participate in the January 26 #MyGenealogyStory challenge? 

My genealogy story began, appropriately enough, as stories. I can remember as a child eating at Great Western Pizza in Caldwell, Idaho, and asking my dad to “tell me more stories!” Later I made the same request of my grandparents and (thank goodness) took notes. I was also intrigued by the “green booklet,” a pamphlet written about my Hoffmann ancestors’ journey from Alsace-Lorraine to America in 1883.

Stories started to take on a more structured framework when I stumbled across a family history book my second cousin David Johnson wrote and printed for his grandparents’ 50th anniversary in 1989. This plastic comb-bound book traced our common ancestors back many more generations than I had imagined possible at fifteen.

While in high school I read all the genealogy books I could find in my public library and visited my local Family History Center. I wrote out pedigree charts and family group sheets in longhand and filed them in 3-ring binders, then eventually migrated that data over to genealogy software programs. 

It wasn’t until I started graduate school and had consistent access to the internet that things really took off. I found myself corresponding with David Johnson and other newly-found relatives, writing away for copies of records, and continuing to expand my family tree. As technology advances, I continue to take advantage of what it can offer through DNA testing, accessing online documents, and viewing images of headstones and scans of newspapers that would be too distant (or too numerous) to see in person. That same technology then allows me to reach back out to relatives and strangers alike and share those stories that got me hooked over Great Western pizza in the first place. 

Start: High School Sweethearts

Start: High School Sweethearts

Mom and Dad, 1962

So it’s January 2. As usual, I’ve made about 45962 resolutions, one of which is to resurrect this genealogy blog. I’m trying something new this year; I recently came across Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Each week has its own prompt, intended to encourage selecting one ancestor or relative to share in some way.

This week’s post? “Start.” There are many ways to interpret that one (the system describes the prompts as “intentionally vague”), but for me, and for all of us, we get our start from our parents. So where did my parents’ shared story start?

For Theodore Richard (Ted) Montgomery and Linda Jo Hoffmann, that start was in the first grade. They were in the same class at Van Buren Elementary in Caldwell, Idaho, though both had been born elsewhere (Mom in Portland, Oregon; Dad in Scottsbluff, Nebraska). Both have very different memories of that first grade class, as well, and not much memory of each other at that time. Mom seems to have a fairly positive memory of the class; for Dad, everything was marred by the fact that during a fire drill on the very first day, he asked the teacher (who shall remain anonymous) if there was a real fire, and she slapped him. I don’t like that teacher much, but she is long since dead. I checked.

Mom and Dad continued through school together, but it wasn’t until they were in high school that they had much contact. If I have my story straight, they got to know each other as more than just vague acquaintances toward the end of their junior year. The following summer, while Mom visited relatives in Illinois, Dad wrote her letters. A lot of them. At some point in here, they had their first date, playing miniature golf. Mom won. It wasn’t until Homecoming of their senior year, however, that they became more serious – Mom was elected Caldwell High School’s Homecoming Queen for 1959, and Dad was her escort and crowned her during the game. At least I think it was during the game; a secondary goal for 2018 is to gather more oral history details from family….

Soon after Homecoming, Mom and Dad began going steady. They dated all through their senior year and graduated in May 1960. Both attended the College of Idaho for one semester that fall (both had scholarships to cover that much college), but they knew already that they wanted to get married and start their lives together and not just “soak up knowledge,” as Mom accused my brother and me of doing when we went on for impractical degrees in English/Classics (Matt), and Medieval Studies (me).

They were engaged in December 1960 (again, I’m waiting for Mom to correct me if I’ve got that wrong). Dad then went to work at The Crookham Company, and Mom took classes at a business school. They were married at Grace Lutheran Church in Caldwell on August 26, 1961, which was also Dad’s father’s 60th birthday. Dad was 19, and Mom was still 18; she would turn 19 in about 6 more weeks. They would wait more than a decade to start a family; my brother was born in December 1971, and I in April 1974. But I still consider that first grade classroom where their shared history first began.

One final postscript: Mom and Dad’s glamorous honeymoon was spent at the 7K Motel in Garden City, a suburb of Boise. Like their marriage, the 7K is still in existence, 56 years later.