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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Dear Diary: 52 Ancestors - Week 24.

"Dear Diary" is the prompt from this week's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Unfortunately I have no diary or journal in an ancestor's handwriting  - the nearest to one is a little recipe book my mother compiled.  But:
How many of us would love  to find a journal of an ancestor,
                                 writing about her (or his) everyday life?  
Against that background, two online postings in late 2017 caught my eye.  We often write about our ancestors and our own  childhood memories, but what are are we doing to note down  our life today to leave a  record for our descendants? 
  • On my Reading List was an entry from Lisa of My Trails into the Past.  She referred to Randy Seaver of Genea-Musing who had started a  meme asking bloggers to record what they have been doing in the past seven days. 
  • Jessica Benjamin on We Are Genealogy Bloggers sparked a discussion, seeking  advice on encouraging bloggers to contribute their journal entries. 
I decided to take up Randy's challenge - and  had such a positive reaction to my initial  post,  that I launched:

Recording  my everyday life in the Scottish Borders for future family historian 

Here was my introduction:  

"A Bit of Background Information
I  live with my husband  in the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders, a rural area of small towns, rolling hills and flowing rivers.  I am retired, but involved in a number of  community groups and with my daughter and family who live close by.

I will be writing about my rural lifestyle, my day to day life and my activities, plus thoughts on the world around me - TV, News Items etc.,   but not my innermost thoughts on family and friends - they remain my innermost thoughts."

My first cover image - I tended to change this according to the season. 
Here with the local weekly Walk It Group.

I tackled this prompt with great enthusiasm, was pleased with the look of my  page and did my best to spark interest  through catchy titles and sub-headings.     I also wanted to convey through my photographs a picture  of the Scottish Borders (an oft forgotten corner of Scotland)  and used the website Pixabay for other free images, cartoons etc.  Besides my activities locally, I wrote now and again about "On my Bookshelf", "On the Box" (TV)  and "Making the Headlines" (News items).

A  constructive comment interested me - Why not write as if to an imaginary friend or "Dear Diary"?    But I never carried it forward.

A Review a Year On
I spent a ridiculous amount of time drafting each weekly post,  and struggled to come up with effective titles for the posts which might attract readers. For the  number of page views remained dismal - despite a handful of loyal readers. 

I played around with the post titles – sometimes highlighting Journal Jottings, or Life This Week, or sometimes the topics I covered. .  But I think it was difficult to come up with anything  that would be picked up by Google. It was rare to get page views before I posted it on Facebook.  Was it really worthwhile? 

Also an online journal by its very nature is quite restrictive and was not  totally representatives of my life.  I rarely made mention of family  and am wary of posting photographs online of our granddaughter  though I know many people do feature their children.   I had no wish to spark controversy and get involved in arguments, or,   even worse,  troll comments in this increasingly aggressive online world.  So I avoided giving my thoughts on such topics as politics, the church and the Royal Family etc. 

There was also the factor that I had to give priority to my other blogs -  Family History Fun, and Auld Earlston (my local heritage group title).  Three blogs  was becoming tomany to manage.  

Was it not time for a change?   Might I be better  composing a private journal  on Word just for myself?  This would have  the advantage of giving me more freedom of expression and also would let me feature images from the web which would be otherwise  be subject to copyright. 

So I said goodbye to "Journal Jottings", and began "Random Ramblings" on Word. (You can tell I like alliteration!)

That new  title probably says it all, as I do ramble on rather, still composing it on a weekly basis and including more trivia that I would do online. I don't, though,  spend as long editing ad nausam.  But I am still enjoying the task.  As with Journal Jottings, I am printing a hard copy of each post,  with my first lever arch file rapidly filling.

You will find my original Journal Jottings 2017-18 blog HERE 

What are you doing to record your everyday like for future family historians? 

 Do share your thoughts! 


Join  Amy Johnson's Crow's Facebook Group  "Generations Cafe 
 to read posts from other bloggers taking part in
 the 2019  "52 Ancestors" Challenges


  1. I understand how you feel! The closest I’ve come to telling my own story was a couple years ago during the A-to-Z April Challenge when I wrote about myself growing up. Even then it is fragmented and incomplete.

    1. Wendy, you and I followed a similar theme on that A-Z Challenge some years ago I.e. memories of our childhood and I remember reading your posts with great interest.

  2. I agree that publishing on the internet brings constraints about sharing information about your living relatives and opinions and must therefore be compromised if you respect those considerations. I think though that your descendants will be very grateful that you did document your life even for a short period. Regards Anne

  3. I completely agree with Anne Young's comment above. This article raises a good point. I know I'm so firmly back in the 1800s that I'm not recording anything about the family today. My mom texted me last night, "So many divorces!" Family life is very different than it was a couple of generations ago.

  4. Thank you Anne and Diann for your thoughtful comments. I am pleased to continue recording my life in a word document, with photographs, and hope it may be kept and be of interest to others in years to come.

  5. Private journaling has its place -- and because it is private, thoughts and feelings often flow more freely and can generate ideas for more public writing. "Mining your journal" is a tried and true method used by many writers -- sort of like creating your own prompts. I also wrote about my early childhood for an A to Z Challenge -- turning to private diary entries to help with the memories.

  6. I'd like to make time to do more everyday journaling, but likely there are things I'd not want to share on-line (for now). I have a few examples of my grandpa Walter's everyday diaries. He kept track of the weather, but as well he listed vegetables they planted, who they had dinner with, and the like. I never knew him so I do reread those often to 'recapture' a little of his life.


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