52 Ancestors Week 24: Dear Diary

+14 votes

52 Ancestors and 52 Photos sharing challenge badgesTime for the next 52 Ancestors challenge!

Please share with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:

Dear Diary

From Amy Johnson Crow:

 "Dear Diary" is the theme for Week 24 -- and I've already seen some questions about this theme :-) True, not everyone is fortunate enough to have an ancestor's diary or journal. (I haven't found any in my family yet!) You could write about an ancestor who you can picture keeping a diary. You could write a diary entry telling about researching someone. You could do a bit of creative non-fiction and write a diary entry as if you were one of your ancestors. 

And if you are fortunate enough to have an ancestral diary or journal, tell about who wrote it!

Either way, have fun with this prompt


Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know hereClick here for more about the challenge. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
edited by Eowyn Langholf

Unfortunately none of my ancestors kept a diary that I know of. However, I can peice together a story of my great grandfather, Sherman Andrew Miller, as he was on the road very often and wrote a lot of postcards back home. 

53 Answers

+20 votes

My great great grandfather Dr. James M. Pruett kept journals.  His son (my great grandpa) Ralph transcribed an original journal on his father's family history in the 1950's.  The typed document was passed on to me by my Grandma.  I scanned the document and uploaded it here to use in his profile as a source/ PDF.  

Out of the blue some months later, I get an email from an unknown distant cousin who saw his profile and wanted to know how I was related and how I had a copy of his "Pruett Book".  We learned in our email correspondence that he (Dr. James Pruett) had written a copy in 1914 and sent it to his Uncle Joel who is this cousin's ancestor.  We compared copies and our journals are not exactly the same.  My version contains information that his does not.  The coolest thing is he had the "original" handwritten book that my great great grandpa wrote.  It is passed down to the oldest in each generation in his family.  I was thrilled when he took pictures of the journal and sent them to me.  Here is the first page of his "Pruett Book" written by my great great grandpa.  

Thank you wikitree for all the good things you have brought to my life!

"The Pruett Book"  

by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (116k points)
I keep hearing that handwriting is becoming a lost art. Glad you can keep this in your family.
That is so cool and something that is a result of the internet - genealogy has opened many new doors and it full of discoveries.  Thanks for sharing.
I love that you found this.

When I joined WikiTree, I did it because I knew that I was going to have to have sources for my ancestors, but here you have shown that you can actually find very exciting things on this site.

You don't know how happy I am for you.
I don't quite know why, but I'm always moved when I have the opportunity to read an ancestor's handwriting. This is a treasure!
+20 votes

My great grandmother, Clara McIntire, was a school teacher, and she had this little book for her students to write in, so it was actually more of an autograph book than a diary. In 1896 my grandmother, Pearl McCleery, was 9, and she wrote this in it to her mother, so it was more of a diary writing from my grandmother. She told me that she made sure that my grandfather never had any alcohol after he married her, but she would laugh and say that she did not know why she wrote this to her mother. 

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Mach 4 (47.7k points)
edited by Alexis Nelson
Alexis, this is very cool. I am so glad that you have this.

Thank you for sharing.
That's adorable!  And marvellous to hear your ancestor's 9-year old voice.  Maybe she wrote something she thought her mother would approve of.
Thank you Cheryl, so much of what is in this is very faded that it is good to be able to read what my grandmother wrote.
Laurie, that is certainly insightful, maybe she was trying to please her mother. Thank you for the good comments.
+14 votes

I wrote a bit as my grandfather writing to me. You.....you aren't prepared for the feels this week. 


by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (226k points)
+17 votes

I don't know of any family members who kept a diary or journal of any kind, except me .. and I don't think I count for this (and I doubt anyone would want to read the things I have so far written down).

Instead I have a family bible on a collateral line.  (Well, *I* don't have it physically, but a descendant in the direct male line does.)

In this are the records of the births, marriages, and deaths of many generations of the family (sometimes including descriptions of people, or events).  A true treasure trove of information!

Although the physical book still exists, it is in such precarious condition I doubt it can be read much, anymore, even with gloves on.



If the Bible doesn't qualify, then maybe a letter written to my great-grandmother by a friend who was travelling by bullock wagon to the far west of Queensland in the very early 1900s would.  In it my great-grand's friend wrote of her experiences along the way, things that occurred daily, in an almost journal-ish way.  (Wednesday we did this.  Sunday this happened.  Monday so-and-so died and we buried him.)




24 weeks, 24th answer.

by Melanie Paul G2G6 Pilot (154k points)
I think they both qualify, Melanie. Real treasures!
+17 votes

Like many others, I do not have access to a personal diary, but I am blessed to be able to access some of my father's letters he wrote home from World War II to his mother. You can read the letters here if you're interested. It's photographs of the letters, but they're high-quality and fairly easy to read. 

The letters discuss trivial things and big things. Home life, siblings, getting work after the war, and war life. Much isn't told in the letters, and some important stuff is hardly mentioned, like the one-liner postscript about saving 22 men from the ocean. "They were sure glad to see us." 

He also talks about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge as he sailed home from war. "Boy those Golden Gates really looked swell."

He was discharged on his 18th birthday. 

by Patricia Ferdig G2G6 Mach 2 (23.8k points)
Well I certainly would think that letters written home during the war would be considered a diary of sorts. He is probably writing his feelings down, and isn't that what a diary is about?

Thank you for sharing.
+20 votes

My 4th great-grandmother, Susannah (Wilson) George (abt. 1814) migrated to Iowa and along the way and after arrival she kept some journals.  We were lucky enough that a 5th cousin came upon an old trunk full of photos and letters and was able to publish them to his website.  I put some of them on a space page: Susannah (Wilson) George short journal

Circa 1856, some excerpts:

The old cow we got of John Bevans at 35 dollars had a calf the 10th of march was dry only 25 days our old Sure cow had a calf the 8th of april She was dry 1 month and ole bet had a mare colt on the 10th April and Mr. ( )oliny moved the Same day.

december 12 1856 butchered our hogs and the boys went to James bevans to a dance that night.

december the 19 1856 the weather was warm and raing in the morning and in the evening it turned cold and blowed and Stormed so that we could not See one hundred yards it was alful in deed.

Wilson was at School and I was uneasy About him he went to James Bevans and stayed that night and on the next Sunday

by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (486k points)
edited by SJ Baty
Wow!  I love reading old letters and journals.  What a gift to find that cousin and to get to read your g+ grandma's thoughts and words.  Thanks for sharing.
This is very cool. I am so glad that you have this.

Thank you for sharing.
+15 votes

It seems no one in either my ancestry or that of my husband kept any kind of diary except my paternal grandmother, Edna Lucky Millar Dodge. Unfortunately that has been lost, but I did have the opportunity to read it once. My grandmother was a very strait-laced, tee totaler, who kept her feelings very much to herself. But her diary showed a very sensitive and emotional woman. One excerpt that I recall was how hurt she was when my grandfather was dying, yet we never saw any of those feelings at the time. All the family were familiar with her lack of outward emotion, yet we all knew that we were loved.

by Robin Shaules G2G6 Pilot (228k points)
Well, Robin, at least you had the opportunity to read it, and see the other side of your grandmother.

What an eye-opener that must have been.

Thank you for sharing.
Yes, Cheryl, it was a bit of an eye-opener. One of my cousins, who did not see the diary, was always a bit skeptical of it.
+14 votes
My grandaunt had collected the letters her sister (my grandma) had written her from the early 1970s until 1990. When her children had to clean the house, there was a big physical file with all those letters. My father's cousin first asked my aunt if she wants it ("hmmmm I don't know, would be interesting, but not now") and then asked me. I took it, and several weeks ago I have scanned all those letters. It's really interesting to read all this stuff.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (161k points)
I love reading old letters and hearing what people had to say about what was going on.

It must have been very interesting for you to read all of those letters.
I'm so glad this treasure went into your hands, Jelena, so the letters could be preserved.
+13 votes
Our family moved often from house to house, and so many letters have been discarded along the way. But this letter from my dad (in Korea in 1953) was saved. He wrote, "Gosh Connie How does it feel to be 8 months old?" and "I hear you got 3 teeth now".  To my 19-month-old sister he wrote, "Are you helping mama around the house?"

He must have been scared for his life, wondering if he would even make it home.
by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 3 (33k points)
edited by C Ryder
I am sure that our men and women in service were very scared when they were away from their families. You are very lucky to have the letters from your father.

What a cherished gift you have.

Thank you for sharing.
I think it also shows how much he loved and missed his family, half a world away. So glad you have this.
+13 votes
I haven't been lucky enough to find journals/diaries for my ancestors.   Luckily my great grandmother Josephine Owens (Owens-1302)   left notes placed inside her Bible (on loose sheets of paper)  that documented some family history including 2 children who died in infancy/early childhood who weren't documented anywhere else.
by Brandi Morgan G2G6 (9.5k points)

What a very lucky find for you.

Thank you for sharing.
+11 votes
My maternal grandmother, Stella MacCormac Lawson, didn't keep a diary or journal but did record important daily events on her yearly calendar. She passed this habit onto my mother and her youngest daughter.  When I visit my aunt's house I don't really have to ask her what she's been doing lately - I just read her calendar. I've told her she can keep track of all that information electronically on her phone calendar, but she tells me that wouldn't be the same. I agree with her. It seems this tradition will pass along with my aunt.
by Pamela Culy G2G6 Mach 1 (13.7k points)
Your grandmother is one smart gal. A computer can crash, but her written word will always be there, unless it is accidentally thrown away.

She must put a lot of things on her calendar.

Thank you for sharing.
It shows that a diary can take many forms!
+13 votes

It's not *exactly* a diary, but here's the telling of the death of my 4th GGfather, Andrew Sharp (the same guy who is Alexis' DAR patriot), as told by his youngest child, who was born 11 days before he was killed.  It is written with her original spelling and grammar. Maybe Alexis can hook us up with his profile.

"All is well. With your request, I sit down to write some particulars about my Father's death. He was a Militia Captain and served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

My Father, Andrew Sharp, was married to my Mother, Ann Woods, in the Year 1783 in their native place in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and with a family of one child moved to Crooked Creek, Indiana County. This being a new county, there was no chance for schoolihg his children. My father after settling there ten years, he was determined on having them schooled. He swapt his place for one in Kentucky.
We moved to Blacklick River and got into our boat. We started in the evening. The water was too low. We had to land over a night and a day. We started the next day. We got two miles below the falls in the Kiskiminetas River. We landed. My father had a canoe tyed to the side of the boat. It got loose going down over the falls and father went back for it. When he was away there was a man came and told us the Indians was coming again. By the time Father was got back all the women and children were in the boat.
The men went out to tye up the horses. The sun was an hour and a half in the evening. They thought it was best to go up to Halls and stay to morning. When they were tying up the horses, seven Indians fired on them. They were hid behind a large tree that had fell down about fifteen steps off.
The first fire they shot fathers right eyebrow off. When he was cutting one end of the boat loose, he got a wound in the left side. When he was cutting the other end loose, they shot him in the other side.
Father got the boat away before they could get into the boat. He saw an Indian among the trees. He called for his gun. Mother gave it to him. He shot him dead.
The boat got into a whirlpool and went round and round for awhile. When the open side went toward land, they shot in at us. They folowed us twelve miles down the river. They called for us to go out to them or they would fire again.
Mrs. Conner and her son wanted to go out to them. Her husband was laying. He died the next morning. They were all killed and wounded. Father told him to desist or he would shoot him. He fell dead that moment across my Mother's feet by a shot from the Indians. There were two dead men and two wounded. One of them died the next morning. There was no woman nor child hurted. There was twenty in all.
One man run up to Mr. halls. They took my fathers horses. The others got theirs. My mother work the boat the whole night. We got within nine miles of Pittsburgh. -Again daylight. There was men out on the Land burien some that was killed the same day my father was wounded. Jhey came in a canoe to the boat to help us a long. One man went on before us and had the doctors reddy when we got to Pittsburgh. There was a great many kind neighbours come to see us when we landed.
Father lived forty days after he was wounded. He was willing to died. He said if it had been the will of providence for him to live to see his children raised he would have been satisfyed. He left them to the care of providence.
Many a time I went and covered my self up and wept when I heard him moaning when his wounds was adressing. He got b~tter and could sit upon the bed and talk to people when they came to see him.
They shot the cannons the fourth of July. The Doctor did not want them to shoot the cannon. He said it would make the wounds run. The one in his back began to run and mortyfy. There was three wounds in him.
He died the eight day of July in the forty second year of his age in the year ninety four. He is buried in Pittsburgh.
There was friends to follow his remains to the grave but a younger sister and myself and my mother was not able to go. The youngest child was, eleven days old. There were plenty of neighbors to go. It was a wet day. He was buried with the honors of war.
After my mother got well, I went with her to the graveyard and showed her where father was buried.
He (Father) went over the mountains to see his father and mother before he went away. He bought school books and Bibles for all that was able to go to school. He did not live to see his children sent to school. He had a brother come to see him when he was laying on his Death bed. He went home after some time.
My father sold the boat himself. He knew he would not go ~own the river any farther. His brother came back again; he was dead before he got back.
My uncle stayed with us till there was wagons sent for us. We went over the mountains to Cumberland County and lived there three years. When we got there, my father had another brother come to see us.
The clothes that was on father when he was wounded. Mother showed them to him. He looked at every bullet hole that was in them. He wept like a child.
We lived in Cumberland County three years and went to school. We were all good common schollars but oh it was at the expense of my fathers life.
We got our own place back. We moved home and we all lived together. We did not hire abroad. We got along wonderful well. Providence was very kind to us oh how thankfull we ought to be to God for preserving us through such dangers.
It was a party of twelve (Indians) at went to Pittsburgh to trade. The people would not trade with them. They got angry and killed all Lhey could that day.
There was three men went down the river i n a canoe before ~s. One of them was shot dead. The other two was wounded. One of them died- The other got well- He lived in a room next to fathers room. He would come into see father before he died. It was the last war that was in that part of the country. It was in the year ninty four when all these things happen.
I never had any spite at the Indians. They were very bad treated.
There was seven children living at the time of my fathers death. They are all dead but myself. I am the olds of them. My mother lived fifteen years after fathers death.
I was born in the year one thousand seven hundred and eight four in february fourteenth. I was married to my husband, Robert Leason, in the year one thousand eight hundred and two. He departed this life February twelft aged eight seven.
Hannah Leason"

by Lynn Bensy G2G6 Mach 1 (16.5k points)
edited by Lynn Bensy

This is the link to Capt. Andrew Sharp https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Sharp-243 , and I would like to brag on you Lynn for actually going to the cemetery where his children are buried to take the photo on his profile and making the great improvements to honor him.

Thank you, Alexis.  I grew up not knowing a lot about my ancestors, but I can't remember a time when I didn't know that Andrew Sharp was a Revolutionary War patriot.  I've always been proud and honored to be related to him, and he was the main person that made me return to Pennsylvania to do some research.
That is very interesting. Thank you for the read.
I'm glad you enjoyed it.  I went to Pennsylvania to look up his land and see what I could find.  Found a church on his property, and a cemetery behind that had several of his children buried in it.  He, of course, is buried near Pittsburgh, where he died.
Thanks for that link to the profile, Alexis.  You do such a great job, telling the story of your people.!
+12 votes

My mother has always kept a diary. She never writes much and her diaries also served as an account book and address book rather than an extensive journal. I did come across an old diary from the 1960s recently where on a particular day she had recorded the cost of her rent (£2 14s 11p), eggs and sugar (3s 7p), and the birth of my sister.surprise
Her address book entries have been helpful in identifying some second and third cousins who I have never met and otherwise would have known nothing about. One entry gave the address of my dad's "Aunt Bob" Doris Collins although I have never found out why she was known as Bob.

by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 1 (15.1k points)

That is interesting. Did you mother keep all of her diaries? That would have been a wealth of information if she had.

Thank you for sharing.
Your description reminds me of one of the most interesting diaries I've ever read. Like your mother, this diarist wrote about facts rather than emotions - he was a merchant, so its all about measurements, dates and debts - its like reading an accounting ledger.  But separated by a few generations, his journal entries have given me incredibly rich insight into the daily life of several of my ancestors, who were his neighbors, employees, and business partners.  

I suspect your mother's journal entries and factual notes will also be super-interesting to future genealogists, who may not have the opportunity to know her or her contemporaries in any other way.
+11 votes

I'm struggling to find someone to share this week, as the obvious person in my tree is still alive even though they are almost one hundred years old.

Casting the net a bit more widely and taking a few liberties with the brief, I was recently contacted by a distant cousin, due to the profile of a shared relative I had posted on WikiTree.  Quite a few lovely email exchanges later she shared a fantastic new resource with me.

A fine gentleman called George Alexander Bailie of Augusta, GA authored a genealogical hsitory of a section of the Bailie family from Dunain, Scotland and Duneane, County Antrim, Ireland, which was published in 1902.  He compiled it when visiting Ireland, although he does also credit a section as being 'furnished by Joseph Gaston Bailie Bullock, M.D., Author, etc., etc., of Savannah, GA'.

The Preface says:
' In Company with my wife, Sarah R. Bailie, and my brother, Joseph Bailie from Wisconsin, I visited Ireland in the Summer of 1900, and we had a family reunion at brother Adam Bailie's, "The old home place." '

The book contains many old quotations, folk songs, religious epigrams, poems and a couple of original photographs as well as many wonderful family trees "as told to" George Alexander Bailie.  Not all of these stack up to the facts when cross-referenced against 'official' sources - quite a few people didn't seem to know the right number of their children or siblings or their ages but the richness of the information and the sheer lyrical style is amazing.

I'm looking forward to finding time to go through it thoroghly rather than the quick skim I've given it so far.  I will also create his profile and join it on to my family tree - the To Do list just keeps growing wink

by Linda Hawkes G2G6 Mach 1 (13.1k points)

I agree with you - To Do Lists are always growing. When you think you are getting close to finishing something, ten more things appear.

I bet that book is going to be an interesting read.

Thanks for sharing.

I agree about the to-do list, every time I break through a brick wall, there are at least 2 more puzzles waiting on the other side.  

I also want to acknowledge your decision to safeguard the the privacy of your living diarist. The time will come to share this story, but there's no rush.  I think its important that our senior family members don't feel any pressure to go. My thumb's are up!  yes yes

Laurie, thanks for the kind comment.  I was a wrench not to write about the first person, mainly because they are so fascinating, but it would not be fair to invade their privacy.

I do find this whole 52 ancestors challenege very thought-provoking in a good way because it makes me reconsider the people in my family tree.
+9 votes

My gr. gr. gr. grandfather William Huckel's life story was compiled and written by his son, also named William, some time after 1910. This manuscript was later typed up, copied and shared around the family at the Huckel reunion in 1952. It can now be found included in the book, ''Pictures of Many Years'', researched, compiled and written by Glenda Dykes nee Huckel, to commemorate the later, 1988 Huckel Family Reunion.

by David Urquhart G2G6 Mach 3 (34.6k points)
That is interesting, David, and makes a lot of sense. We have kind of a family history that we are sending around trying to gather more information from each section of the country.

Trying to gather family history is more than a one person job.

Thank you for your story, and thanks for sharing.
Thanks Cheryl,

I'm happy to see somebody else is looking at my family too.
+8 votes

My great grandmother, Sophia (Rayman) Musel, didn't keep a diary, but she did keep the books for the family farm. In her account ledger, she also listed names, dates of birth, death and marriage, children's names, etc. for family members on her Rayman side and also for her married (Musel) brach. This account book has been very helpful in my research and has provided dates and links that I would never have found otherwise.

by Traci Thiessen G2G6 Mach 6 (63.9k points)
I will bet that those books were very interesting, and great help in your research.

You are very lucky that you had the books.

Thank you for sharing.
+9 votes

52 Ancestors Week 24: Dear Diary


I have the diary for Mary Ellen Dutcher Porter for one year (1911). She is living in Momence, Illinois with her husband Martin Porter, who is a farmer by trade with his two sons Ellic and Niles who help him on the farm.

Three daughters, Agnes, 22, Grace 18 who is continuing her education to become a teacher, and Gertrude who is 9 years old and still in school.

Mary wrote in the diary every day in 1911, unless she was sick or out of town. On those days, her husband Martin tried his best to continue the diary as thoroughly as Mary. They did manage to put in something about the weather daily. I am guessing that is because they were a farm family.

by Cheryl Hess G2G6 Pilot (292k points)
+6 votes
My grandmother, Oma M Allison-Rammel (1895-1995), kept a diary or journal for many, many years.  She started while in Junior High School and continued until she was in her 80s. Not sure why she stopped ... she live to be over 100.

It seems she would go to the local bank and get one of those small appointment books that most banks use to offer at no cost to their customers ... the books have a space for each day of the time covered ... technology has made such books a thing of the past ... maybe she quit writing when the books were no longer available.

As one might speculate ... there are numerous family facts included ... some things might embarrass some ... but most were pretty calm ... and almost anyone mentioned has already left this earth

It will be a major undertaking ... but I hope someday ... as time permits ... to begin scanning the pages ... then they can be shared by all!!
by Bill Sims G2G6 Mach 1 (19.7k points)
What a treasure! I suspect the reason she stopped had to do with either arthritic hands or diminishing vision. I rarely handwrite anything anymore and I'm only 66 because my hands cramp. It's a shame that we didn't all do what your grandmother did. I've done it in fits and starts, but never as consistently as your grandmother. It's wonderful she has someone who cares about what she wrote. My musings will probably end up in the dump.
+6 votes

My 2nd-great grandfather, Reverend Eliakim Archibald kept a diary/memoir in his later years. Another descendant has the original, but I received a typed transcription.

He was a Baptist Minister, whose calling took him from Prince Edward Island to the wilds of Illinois, then the south shore of Nova Scotia, and around to PEI again, with his wife and children in tow. They logged a lot of miles on a buckboard waggon.  

Unlike some of his peers, his diary doesn't make much mention of weddings, baptisms or funerals he performed, but it provides rich insight into his life and family, and some of his strongly-held beliefs. After reading it, I feel like I'm acquainted with an ancestor who died some 60 years before I was born.

by Laurie Giffin G2G6 Mach 4 (48.8k points)
+6 votes
A couple of years before she passed away, my mother wrote a memory she named ‘My escape from France’ .

I have put it on computer and kept the original, one day when I can face reading it again I will upload it.
by Marion Poole G2G6 Pilot (408k points)

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