Capes woman Shellie Cummings has completed a years-long project to cast light on her family’s roles in the early history of the Margaret River region. Painstaking work to track down, transcribe and organise the diaries of her great-great-grandparents Eliza and James Armstrong resulted in two books Ms Cummings recently published and presented to the Margaret River and District Historical Society. “While the existence of the dairies were part of family folklore, it was not known if they had survived,” Ms Cummings said. “My grandmother, the late Enid Bell of Busselton, spoke often of Eliza’s diaries and spent many years researching the whereabouts of the original diaries without success. “After Grandma’s passing, I decided to continue the search.” Tracking down the 130-year-old diaries was no easy feat. Ms Cummings put the word out far and wide, recruiting far-flung family members in her quest to find any details. “It was a pleasure to discover that a number of my relatives were custodians of their family’s papers and photos,” she told the Times. “I spent many hours over the last few years looking through the different family collections without success. “Then the breakthrough that I had so dearly hoped for came when a distant relative called to say he had heard that I was looking for Eliza’s diaries and he had found Eliza’s diaries amongst his family’s collection of old papers that had been passed down through his family.” Assembling the missing fragments also let Ms Cummings reconnect with other branches of the family, sharing stories and filling in her family history’s blanks. MRDHS secretary Shelley Wightman welcomed the new books to add to local history records. “The benefits of receiving factual family history of local people would be that the history has been written by a relative and the information will always be available to future generations,” Mrs Wightman said. “This book that Shellie has achieved through several years of research is amazing and the historical society appreciate the kind donation of the books.” The diaries showed Eliza was a prolific writer. Ms Cummings said her ancestor’s journals shed fascinating light on the people of the early settlement years, their interactions, hardships, achievements and also how they celebrated social events despite the difficulties of the era. During her search, Ms Cummings was also delighted to find out Eliza’s husband, James William Armstrong, kept a diary too. Most of his entries covered the latter years of his life from 1923 while living at Mouquet Farm near Margaret River. The diaries recorded mentions of more than 110 local people from the time, as well as historical events such as the opening of the Busselton-to-Margaret River train line.