My Biz: Family history business in Cedar Rapids 'Rooted in Story'

Grandmother's memories, photo albums helped inspire woman to start business

George Ford
Published: January 24 2014 | 6:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:35 am in

For Rachel Cochran, the revelation came after the death of her grandmother.

“She went quickly. We thought it was just a cold and then all of a sudden she was gone,” Cochran recalled.

Cochran and her family began helping her grandfather sort through the house.

“We kept pulling out album after album of pictures my grandmother had put together," Cochran said. "The pictures had tiny bits of information such as names and dates about people in our family.

“It was all so interesting. It was fun to study some of those photographs and compare how my grandfather looked so much like his dad."

“It occurred to me what a wonderful thing it would be to put not only my family’s stories and photos together, but to do it for other families as well," Cochran said.

The web site for Rooted In Story, her book-making and publishing service, was up and running in October 2012.

Rooted In Story specializes in books about people and their life story that is unique to their family. The books incorporate the family’s recollections of experiences and events, family recipes and heirlooms, and much more.

“My grandmother’s death was kind of the apple in the basket that made me realize the importance of preserving the memories," Cochran said. "I spent more time with my grandfather.

"He started telling me stories about this and that, and ‘Remember when grandma did that’ and I knew I needed to be writing those things down.”

Cochran is grateful for that time. Her grandfather died less than a year later.

Cochran received her bachelor of arts degree in creative writing from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., and double majored with Japanese studies. She went on to obtain her master’s degree in Japanese literature from Boulder, Colo., before returning to the Midwest.

Cochran taught linguistics and writing at the combined campus of Indiana University/Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Ind., eventually returning to Cedar Rapids to be closer to her family.

Working on projects from her home, she uses a laptop, printer, scanner and two types of software that assist her with the layout process.

Cochran's clients provide her the photographs. Personal interviews -- however many it takes to gather the material -- are recorded on a digital recorder.

While Cochran offers a wide variety of service levels that clients can choose from, she has one stipulation. There is a 20-page minimum for a project.

“I offer different packages at different levels, and different types of work that I will put into a project,” Cochran explained. “There are projects where the customer hands me a lot of completed writing and their photos.

"I finish the layout for them, and then send it to them to look over before I send it out to the book printer.”

Cochran also will do the complete book -- start to finish -- for a client.

“I will make the book all the way from doing the interviewing of the people, writing their material from scratch, laying it out and seeing it through the printing process.”

Cochran frequently promotes her new business venture at craft fairs and has noticed a trend that bothers her a little.

“Younger people always walk by unless they are with their mom or grandmother," Cochran said. "They wander away without even giving me a second look.”

Cochran encourages people to talk to their family members and listen to their stories and preserve them while they can.

“This is for people of all generations,” she added. “As you learn more about your family, your connection to them will grow and strengthen.

"Once they are gone, the opportunity is lost."

At a glance

  • Owner: Rachel Cochran
  • Company: Rooted In Story
  • Phone: (319) 531-8956
  • Website:

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