Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Diaries and Journals

Early in my genealogy search I wrote to the Meade County Historical Society in Meade, Kansas. These local groups and museums are a goldmine of local information. Through them I met a man, Don, who's mother was friends with my grandmother when they were young. Don's family still lived on the ranch where they were neighbors with my ancestors.

Through Don's research in his family and local history he came across the Branch family. Young Elma Branch kept a diary of her life on the plains and Don made copies of all the notes that referred to his family and happily for me my family was included in the notes he made.

A few of those notes are:

December 24, 1890: cooked some this fore noon and cleaned up. went up to Cash (City) this evening got Rosa Rees and Nellie Kieth. we got pretty cool.
December 25, 1890: well we all have had a good time I guess. I have any way. Ben Johnson took dinner here to. it turned out a nice day.
December 26, 1890: Elias (Elma's husband) took Rosa & Nellie back to Kieths. I dont feel very well. we churned this evening. the wind blew hard this fore noon.

September 20, 1891: Lizzie and Charley Kieth came & got 1 bushel of peaches

Nellie Keith is my great grandmother and Charley her brother. I can still remember the excitement of seeing these little bits about my family.

Photo of a school outing including my Great Grandmother Nellie Keith (center of the three ladies on the left.)

In 1990 my daughter and I drove to Kansas and met with Don. He took us out to the area where our families settled. This is still known as "Keith Canyon" and those two collapsed areas are where the family had dugouts.
The site of Don's families ranch in southwestern Kansas.

My family were not ones to keep journals or much of anything. Quite a few pictures survived but that's about all. I never would have thought of a neighbor's diary if it wasn't for Don.

There are a lot of published diaries and journals now. With the interest in genealogy and easier access to publishing there seems to be a boom of memoirs and old family records.

I found Covered Wagon Days: From the Private Journals of Albert Jerome Dickson, edited by Arthur Jerome Dickson at a used book sale a month or so ago. I haven't had time to read it but I'm sure it will be a help in understanding what Nellie Keith and her family went through on their own covered wagon journey from Illinois to Kansas when she was a young girl.

Understanding the times is important for family historians, historical fiction writers and everybody who wonders about the history of our country.