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June 16, 2008

Keeping a Journal for History & Genealogy

I wonder how many of us read those old Pioneer Memories and think "Boy I wish my ancestor had kept his (or her) memories in a journal!"

I've often thought that. I've often wished my ancestor were mentioned in a Pioneer or Settler's Memory book.... then one day I realized that all the years I'd spent wishing I could have put to better use. Why not write my own "Pioneer Memories"?

I know, I'm not a pioneer. But I have lived in the same small town for 35 years. I could start keeping track of friends and neighbours and relatives, documenting events and other happenings. I don't mean spy on them! Basically I started a journal with a two-fold purpose

I started with my memories of arriving in the town I now live in, the people I met, jobs I held, who I worked with, socialized with and so on. I talked about changes in the town since I first arrived - such as new subdivisions where once there was forest. I drew little maps showing who lived where. I made a decision early on to not put in any gossip or unsubstantiated stories unless they were humourous and of a positive nature.

As I began writing, more ideas began to unfold. I copied out obituaries, births and marriage notices from our local newspaper. I wrote about my friends' parents or backgrounds - things like "Linda F.'s father was Harold and he arrived from England sometime around WW2" "Louise M has 2 sisters named Margaret and Ethel" Essentially I simply wrote about the people I had met and everything I could remember about them.

My journal was a leather bound old-fashioned journal with hand made paper which I purchased from Iona Handcrafted Books. For me it made writing in it much more fun and something I looked forward to at the end of each day. I felt like Leonardo Da Vinci keeping his notebooks for posterity! But you could use any kind of journal that suits you

As Journal #1 began to fill, my husband suggested I start another one for the town I grew up in. In that one I would write about my memories of childhood friends, their parents and so on. Since Journal #1 had begun to take on a historical as well as genealogical slant, I thought this was a good idea and Journal #2 was born.

I filled 100 pages which was Journal #1 in 6 months. I'm going to talk about Journal #2 and what I've done to ensure the journals are cared for in my next post.

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