“Dear Diary…” Day: A Perfect Record for Genealogy Research

Today is “Dear Diary…” Day.   Keep a Genealogy Diary–with entries made, in detail–preferably every day.  A legal, usually well-preserved source.  Sought by libraries and archives everywhere–contemporary record of  what happened.  And to whom. 

Write it down.  Add to it.  Make your entries “chatty.”  The way you would speak to your family as you relate what you did.  What prompted you to action.  Why you attached importance to your actions.  Who else was involved.  Where you stood, and what you took from the shelf.  Add comments on the colors, the size, the format, the contents, the names important to you–whether you found them present or not.  

Step-by-step, as you proceeded, describe the whole scene–so we can follow in your footsteps.  Doing what you did.  Saying what you said.  And accomplishing something valuable with our lives as you do.

Keeping a diary is becoming a thing of the past.  Do you write in a diary every day? 

Neither do I.  Oh, I went to a local stationery store and bought a diary–with blank sheets, not a fill-in-the-blanks book.  I’m changing my ways–going to keep a diary and record all of my life.  First, for myself:  so I have something to refer to which has some factual accountability built into it.  Second, for my family:   when I am no longer around, they can see how I responded to my daily experiences.  They will have an authentic source they can go to to learn of me.  If there is a bias–it will be my bias!

And third, for my ancestors:  I’m adding my ancestors to my genealogy research list.  About time I got mine in order!

My ever-so-many-greats-grandfather kept more than 38 volumes of diaries.  Day-by-day he recorded aspects of his life.  He jotted down facts about his family and how he felt about each one of  them.  He chronicled his activities and all his doings for his work, and his church, and his countries–his birth-land (Wales) and his adopted land (Utah, USA). 

When he emigrated to America, he described how he left his beloved sister standing on the shore with her small children gathered around her skirts.  How bitterly she wept, because she couldn’t go with him.  How devastated he was because he could not bring her too.  Would he live to see her again?  And, later, how he schemed to send for her and her family–including her husband and his brother-in-law who had steadfastly and stubbornly refused to consider emigrating.  All his plans were successful, for she arrived a few years later with her whole family in tow.

When he returned to Wales to settle the estate of his mother, he recorded all her property and things–room-by-room on the pages of his diaries.  These pages were copied into the court record verbatim rather than create another version.  He even drew each room with furnishings and hangings so he could place a value on each item.  Each entry recorded neatly and precisely in his own clear, fine hand.  What a treasure to have such documents.

And scattered through the volumes, are more than 40 different recipes for restoring hair!  No picture of him is available to us.  Just these gosh-awful, fowl-sounding (and I am convinced equally fowl-smelling) concoctions to rub on and swill down. 

So let me encourage you, too, to change your ways–if you don’t keep a diary.  Begin.  Write it down–your life.  And please include a blow-by-blow description of how you traced your hardest-to-find ancestors.  You will discover that each account can become a session in how-to-research ancestors.  “Twill inspire, motivate, and instruct us all.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://arleneeakle.com

PS  And stay tuned.  Big gaps in posts will disappear, as I share the many evidences hard-to-find ancestors have piled on me these past few months!

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