Today many folks journal. My personal blog is a sort of online journal. Many of our ancestors kept journals as well. Some historic journals were quite detailed and others recorded only a few sentences telling of the weather and about the crops. Unfortunately most of them don’t survive time. I am sure that as time passes they become more tattered, and eventually don’t look like much. When the keeper of the story for a generation passes on and the next cleans out their place it is mistaken for junk and is thrown out with the trash.
Our family has two missing journals. Both of them were kept by individuals who were recording invaluable history.
James Britton Timms, my 3rd Great-Grandfather, kept a journal as he settled in north west Illinois. I am not sure exactly what he recorded but based on stories by subsequent generations I am sure that there was a wealth of information. I am guessing he record the history of who came through and stayed in their rental cabins. James wrote about his children and news from them as they grew up and made their way in the world The most important part of history that he recorded that was lost was the battles that went on between the settlers and the local native populations. When they did pack up and head to Ft. Kellogg? Who was at the fort when they were there? How often did these skirmishes occur and last? The last person known to have this journal was Adeline his daughter.
Barbara Gagler Keeler, my 4th Great-Grandmother, was a well respected midwife in Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s well into the 1800’s. She kept a journal that included information about the children she delivered. What a great wealth of information that would be to read and to so many tracing family histories prior to government record keeping. Unfortunately it is unaccounted for. Reuben, my 3rd Great-Grandfather, left the family at age 37 and headed to the western frontier. He would settle in Kent, Illinois and would never return to Pennsylvania. I have been in contact with folks who have traced the Keeler family who stayed back in Pennsylvania, and none of them have the journal. No one is sure when or who last referenced it.
Though we are unsure if there were journals, Adeline and Harvey Timms, children of James B . Timms, both loved to write. Writings and stories from each of them have survived time and they are great to read and a source of much information.
So if you go to an estate sale, flea market or in some other way roll across what looks like a journal or a old family bible Take it home. Use the internet to find someone from that family who is still keeping history. Don’t let it be lost forever in the trash.
A fellow family history keeper in California, inherited a journal, family bible, and family pictures that had nothing to do with her family. It took her almost a year to find someone who was keeping family history, but she was finally able to return a journal that was kept from 1880 to 1930 to the family in Canada. I connected with her for the family pictures. It took both of us working to find the family bible owner. That eventually went back to a 93-year-old lady in Polo, Illinois. Returning family history to others is almost as rewarding as finding new details in your own family.