I have been transcribing a handwritten (pencil) diary written in 1873. The author was a lady living in Berlin, Wisconsin in mid 19th century. She is writing about her daily life. Although it might seem a bit tedious reading about the weather, whom she had tea with, her shopping trips, how much she spent on groceries, household goods and monies she gave her children, family illnesses; there are moments of wondering how in the world did she manage all that she did.
One entry of “having 11 teeth removed”, with the next day’s entry being “did the wash and cleaning” without missing a beat or a day of rest seems remarkable. Later you read about “my teeth came today” and still later “teeth sett”.
Without TV and cellphones there was an enormous amount of socializing and “having ladies in for tea as well as reciprocating visits for afternoon tea. There were women who were seamstresses. They came to the house and did the sewing as opposed to taking a garment to their house or sewing studio to be completed. Ladies gathered at the author’s house to quilt. A great deal of socializing went on every day.
She starts each day with a description of the weather. I wondered if somewhere it was mentioned this was “how you created a diary or journal”. Always start with a description of the weather. Or… maybe she was just a latent weather forecaster. Someone reading this diary in 2011 would certainly know what each day’s weather was like in 1873 in Berlin, WI. Her own moods fluctuated with the weather. Sunny, pleasant….her activity that day seemed to be lighthearted.
By connecting “the dots” or in this case the documents available, we can get a good sense of what life was like and who the people were who lived those lives. Isn’t that what makes genealogy research so interesting and justify the time we spend looking?
Along with transcribing this diary, I have done some research on the businesses the author mentions. I found an article on the Wisconsin History website from the Berlin Journal, November 15, 1912. A Mr. W. E. DeRiemer had written an early history of the people in Berlin, WI. He describes many of the people who were mentioned on a daily basis in this diary. “The Wrights were a splendid family of six adults and two youngsters”.
This diary holds a years worth of information of what this family’s life was like in the year 1873.
A sample page of my transcription
Many families have old diaries, letters and manuscripts in their possession. They possibly have glanced at them. Reading is sometimes difficult due to the handwriting, deterioration of the document, etc. However, they still want to keep the original source in the family to be passed down. A transcription to save along with the original source would be of great help in deciphering the document years later. These documents should be transcribed and the transcription should be placed in a library, archive or some repository where researchers can have access to them.
If you have a family historical document in your possession, either take the time (warning: it is a very time-consuming and tedious project) or find someone out there who provides this service for a fee to transcribe it and put it in the correct form to be placed in a repository for people to view. It is important to transcribe the document exactly as the author wrote it.
If you are interested in having a transcription of your family heirloom created, please send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also do searches for auxiliary people mentioned in your ancestor’s diary or journal to bring the whole project to life.