Did you know you own a "Crystal Ball"? Well, you do. "What?" you say. I'm not a Fortune Teller. I have no "Crystal Ball".
Our Crystal Ball is our Genealogy research that we have been working on...some for many years...some for a few years. Genealogy research lets us look into the future of our ancestor's life. That's pretty much like having a Crystal Ball to see the future of our ancestor.
Why it is so important to transcribe those handwritten family diaries, journals, historical documents into a readable form
I recently transcribed an 1883 diary for a client. The author wrote about the husband's efforts to locate another house to rent. She described the daily routine of moving to another house, preparing the house to be lived in, she noted the relatives that came to help sew the carpets", "make new shades for the rollers", "wash the mantel and globes in the front parlor".
Noticing the change of an address in the 10 year Federal Census record gave a clue the family had moved, but the 1883 diary gives us the exact day and time period when the move to the new address occured. Through the diary, in this case, we have detailed information of the event. It makes a connection of what we know now to what the historical document lets us know happened back then to cause a certain event in the lives of our ancestors. We can call it a "Back to the Future" method of genealogy research.
We find in our Genealogy research the mention of a new child in the family. Census reports won't give us the time or the conditions under which the baby was born. In this case the diary did just that with daily entries.
Health issues were mentione after the birth, finding a girl to hire and help out with children and housework, checking Castle Gardens each day to find a girl arriving from, in this case, Sweden who needed work.
Yes, we could find in our research there had been a new baby born to the family, but we would not have known "everyone thinks she is the prettiest of all my children" and "I must teach her not to be vain". Those are the details we need to know in order to understand and know our ancestors. They were so much more than names and dates.
If we read carefully the writings of the diary's author, we may find other information that gives us clues as to why things happened as they did.
For example, in this transcription project of the 1883 diary, the author carefully notes in her daily entries - "Ike came home from work with a headache and he was tired"...or "he couldn't sleep well last night because of a headache". By noting the unusual number of times the husband had a headache, was tired or didn't feel well, we begin to think perhaps he was ill. When a Death Certificate is located indicating he died in 1886 just 3 years later, you realize these could have been some of the first warnings to his condition.
Have you read the diary or journal left by your ancestor to find clues to why events happened? Reading someone's handwriting is difficult. Especially from another time period. Writing styles change, words become obsolete. We know there are changes in a person's handwriting even on one written page.
It isn't an easy task to transcribe the written word of our ancestor, but it is certainly worth the committment to do it ourselves or hire a professional to do it for us.
We do have a Crystal Ball to see into the future of our ancestors. With their old diaries, journals, documents, and the wonderful records and documents we have access to, WE can piece together what we now know was THEIR future.
If your ancestor left you a diary, journal or document, either transcribe it yourself or hire a professional to do the task. Get committed to the project. Then, share copies of that transcription with your siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. It is so rewarding.
Once the document is transcribed into an easier format to read, sharing with others outside your family is always so appreciated. Placing copies in the local library or museum where your ancestor lived is such a good idea and can be helpful to other Genealogists, especially if THEIR ancestor is named in the document. You know...the one they are sure lived in the same town as your ancestor, but can't find a bit of information about them...except in YOUR ancestor's diary.