Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Transcribing a Piece of History

Today I transcribed a small diary. It was written by a widow in 1943. She lived alone, as all her children were grown.

The diary started with a January 1st entry. The tone was muted, lacking the usual New Year's optimism because the country was in the midst of World War II. The lady's son had been drafted. He shipped out a couple of weeks after the diary was started, leaving behind a pregnant wife.

Entries in the journal are short, yet descriptive. The mother missed her son, and worried about her daughter-in-law who gave birth the day after her husband shipped out.

Much of the diary focused on day-to-day events: going to church, going to town for groceries, visiting family and friends. The woman enjoyed time with her new grandchild and thought often about her son. She was very honest about feeling lonely.

It is not clear why this woman started a diary, or what she intended to do with it. It was penned in a small memo book and doesn't look like a diary at all. It could have easily been mistaken for junk by a clueless descendant and thrown away after she died. Luckily, it was saved because it is a very moving picture of one small family during one big war.

Makes you wonder how many other nondescript items are sitting around our own houses and attics waiting to be discovered.


  1. What happens to the diary now?

    1. It's in the grandson's files (he's the baby in this story). Eventually, it will hopefully be uploaded online so others can see it.

  2. Yes, it does make you wonder. How much lonelier she must have been, in the middle of WWII with her son in harm's way. The history of my mother and aunt is involved with people trying to "keep busy" during the war so that they could endure the stress. Even so, they didn't endure it too well. I imagine she wrote her thoughts down to make herself feel a little less lonely, a little less "erased" by circumstances.

  3. I have two of my grandmother's journals, and like the one you transcribed, she did not write her journals in a "diary" style book. Rather, they look like school scribblers. They are not in the greatest of condition, but they are priceless to me, as they give me an insight into my grandmother's life. Most telling is how she felt about her parents - when her father died, it warrented a good half page entry. Her mother? Perhaps a line!

  4. What a wonderful family heirloom. This sweet widow's family must be so thankful to have this priceless treasure.

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/05/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-may-3-2013.html

    Have a great weekend!