One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Yeah gnomes have always come across to me as like dwarves but slightly more nature-y due to inhabiting forests more commonly than mountains due to providing more natural cover and not having to carve out the stone, IMO like dwarves gnomes are great craftsmen but without having the same size, strength and sturdiness that dwarves do they needed to turn to more trickery and smarts, magic and gadgets, things that don't rely on physical attributes to be effectiveIn the beginning, gnomes were simple ... small dwarves. Really. If you look to the 1e PHB and Monster Manual, they are described exclusively in relation to "their larger cousins, dwarves ..." In many ways, gnomes were simply dwarves who lived in rocky hills instead of mountains.
There just wasn't a lot to go on. Of course, lore began to spread around them, often because of certain peculiarities; for example, gnomes were often thought of as curious and "tricky" not because of the racial description, but because they were the only race, other than human, that could become an illusionist (and could multiclass into illusionist). But, again, there just wasn't a lot "there" for a lot of the early history of D&D.