Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How will you inspire your ancestors?

One of the best sources of learning about life on the trail in the 1800s is the Covered Wagon Women Series, published by the University of Nebraska Press. The eleven volume series featured firsthand accounts of women actually traveling on the trails on which moved families west. Kenneth L. Holmes who complied the series also put together Best of Covered Wagon Women. Here's the description which summed up the whole series well.

The diaries and letters of women who braved the overland trails during the great nineteenth-century westward migration are treasured documents in the study of the American West...They were selected for the power with which they portray the hardship, adventure, and boundless love for friends and family that characterized the overland experience. Some were written with the skilled pens of educated women. Others bear the marks of crude cabin learning, with archaic and imaginative spelling and a simplicity of expression. All convey the profound effect the westward trek had on these women.
For too long these diaries and letters were secreted away in attics and basements or collected dust on the shelves of manuscript collections across the country. Their publication gives us a fresh perspective on the pioneer experience.

This series always makes me think of my own life's record. My mother gave me a page-a-day diary for Christmas the year before I got married. She thought that I could record the planning of my August wedding in this little hard bound book.

I started on January 1st, 1976, my fiancé's  
birthday, telling of what we did for his special day. And I continued to write short bits of my daily life, besides the intended lists of preparations for our wedding.

Forty years later I’m still writing in a page-a-day book. I sometimes get behind and don’t write for a week or two, but the majority of my life is recorded the forty books that are stacked in a file cabinet.

The neat thing is I can go back to any given day in any of those years to see what I did, or what the weather was like. I can go back to remember a special person’s birth or death, and be drawn into the same feeling I had that exact day.

My family knows I’ve written down my life—and theirs— through the years. I haven’t written down anything that will embarrass anyone, but I think the entries will give the next generations a good glimpse of their ancestor’s lives, and the times we’ve lived in.

Will that inspire them to keep their own diaries? I really doubt it, although it would be great if someone was motivated to write and pass down more of the family history.

What I hope my diary entries would do is to inspire descendants to remember family members as I mention their birthdays, to learn the history of the family pieces they inherited, and to give them a sense of whom their family was—and did during their lifetimes.

How you could pass on your life story to your descendants. How will you inspire them? It’s up to you….

Thanks for stopping by to enjoy today's Sweethearts of the West Blog.

Linda Hubalek


  1. Excellent post. I believe in keeping a journal, although I write sparingly in mine now. I occasionally find a book entry or family history with an excerpt from the journals of one of my family ancestors and often wonder who has possession of them now. This is a good reminder that if some of our ancestors had not written in theirs, we would not have the small details of what made up the lives of everyday people. Thank goodness they didn't have television back then to distract them.

    Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott

  2. My dad wrote in a diary like that every day from his youth. I'm afraid his entries were rather dry and contrite...nothing exciting there.
    When my sister and I entered the world, he began slipping those leather bound daily diaries in our stocking every year. Mine were always red. I didn't always write in mine. I guess I didn't have anything earth shaking to say back then.
    Later in life, I began writing or drawing pictures in artists' sketch books. I don't make an entry every day. I do when it's important to me. I also paste news clippings, theater tickets, funeral and wedding notices, and other things like that.
    I know your family is going to appreciate your diaries. Keep writing in them! I enjoyed reading about your unique way of keeping your family aware of their history.

  3. I wish I had done this, but I didn't have enough sense back then. I would never have thought of saving anything for relatives or descendants. Oh, I wish I had. But I had a good memory and have written about 30 or so short anecdotal stoties...not exactly day by day, but just how we lived.
    Thanks, Linda. This is a wonderful post. I enjoyed it, and it made me think.

  4. Luckily letters and diaries written in the past has been preserved.

  5. Thanks for the note, Celia. My mom was a keeper of family history, so I have boxes of papers, etc in my basement. Unfortunately I don't have children to pass them on to. WE'll see if my great nieces will want all this someday.

  6. Sarah, isn't it fun to look back through your notes? I marvel about the cost of our first microwave, where we went on vacations, etc. I like to look back at my 10, 20 and 30 year books. Keep it up!


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