Tips from the Pros: Seek Out Diaries, by Jana Sloan Broglin, CG

Diaries. Have you ever really thought about using diaries in researching your female ancestors? Many women kept diaries for their early traveling from home to a new home in the “wilderness.” One early Ohio settler kept not only a diary of her journey from the old country, but included marvelous drawings to supplement her words. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a vacation following her route through the United States to her final destination?

My great-grandmother (while not the artist like the woman mentioned above) gave insight to her life during the Depression. She wrote of her son going to Detroit, Michigan, to find work; daily cleaning, laundry, canning, and mending; plus visits to family and doctors, where she complained mightily of the cost. One thing that stands out in her memoirs was her marvelous sense of humor. While she recounted her birthdays and one son-in-law’s gift of money matching her age, she commented about being older so she could get more!

You may not have the creative writer in your family’s history, so check historical societies, genealogical societies, and published diaries for people who lived in the same area as your family. Who knows? You may even find mention about your relatives in a long-lost journal!

5 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Seek Out Diaries, by Jana Sloan Broglin, CG

  1. I have three unusual books that have given me many clues, one is my own baby book. Someone in the family wrote each visitor I had the first year both in Nebraska and California. By tracking these people I found my Granmothers sister. The another book was my fathers mother’s recipe book. She had the birthdays, what she made for wedding dinners and even what she made and took to funerals. She even recorded the sizes of clothing her family wore. And she had a work journal, if you borrowed money and if she owed money to someone else, it gave me great prepective of her life and life in general during the depression. Read everything, then go back and read it again. Lee

  2. Where/how do I go about finding any diaries from my family?
    No diaries have been found among family members papers.

  3. Back in ’51 when the family farm was being cleared out and auctioned off,
    my mother threw out just about anything touched or related to ‘that nosy old *itch’
    [my father’s mother].. One of the things salvaged from the fire by my 14-year old
    sister was several pages of journals that Grandma used to keep of the daily
    goings-on of the neighborhood before and after the turn of the century.
    Copied and typed to a computer file, those old pages have proved invaluable in
    providing clues to whatever happened to so-and-so ‘way back when’..
    To this day, my sister keeps a journal of just about everything she deems worth the ink.
    Me, I’m the family genealogist..
    My mother, long dead, never saw any sense to any of ‘that foolishness.’
    Makes me wonder how many other families were cheated of their heritage by the impulsiveness of a spiteful ancestor?

  4. I found a branch of the family who wrote in diaries from 1855-1888. It was my 2x’s great uncle. His father lived with him and his brother, my ancestor lived next door. The diaries were transcribed and published by the historical society in the town where the family lived and are a gold mine of information.

  5. I am most fortunate to have the near complete set of my great gandmother’s diaries from 1924 to 1954. She included daily entries of farm life in New England, how much she got for the eggs she sold to the local store, what farm work was going on both outside and in, (how many loads of hay were broght in by whom and how many and what kind of pies she baked that day), birthdates, deaths & funerals of family and neighbors, who came to call, who she called upon, who she wrote to and received correspondence from etc. etc. I have been transcribing these and making them available to other family members. I am so lucky!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *