Diaries, Journals & Manuscripts


Unique, one-of-a-kind items such as diaries, journals, correspondences, and manuscripts can be found in a variety of places including personal collections, libraries, and archives. Do you have a collection of letters from your ancestors in a box in the attic? Does you cousin have the family Bible? These and other unpublished, handwritten items can be filled with vital information about your family as well as information on historical events that place them in a particular time period.

Hand written accounts made at the time of an event can add color and detail to your family history. If you are not able to find handwritten or typewritten items in your family collection or the collections of your relatives, don't despair; you may be able to find similar accounts written by others who lived in your ancestor's hometown during the same time period. What was it like to grow up on a farm, to travel in a wagon to a new home, to be a soldier in the Civil War, to live through a grasshopper infestation that ate the crops and trees, to see an automobile for the first time, to be present as a child was born at home? Descriptions of social events that were common in our ancestors' lives can be found in archive collections across the country.

We recommend a book called Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2000). 

If you find an interesting account in your family papers, you might consider sharing the information on the Internet or donating a copy of the paper to your local historical society for others to see.