Other People's Journals Can Be A Valuable Tool To Genealogist

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

If you have been following me on TikTok you might see that I have been working on indexing some journals from the late 1800s as a volunteer project for a historical society that I volunteer at. It has been such an interesting project to be working on. Reading through the years of journals that the gentleman had kept has given me great insight into his life and even insight into the community he lived in.

While reading through his daily journal entries I was able to gain insight into what he did each day. Some of the entries included descriptions of what the weather was like, tasks around the homestead that he needed to do, and people in the community he had interactions with. In one entry he wrote about going to Sunday School at church only to discover that it was canceled that day due to a funeral going on for a child within the community that had recently passed. This event not only happened to him but would have impacted the church community he belonged to.

Even though the journal wasn't written by someone's ancestor, it is still a great resource to learn what was happening within your ancestors' community. You never know if your ancestor could be mentioned within someone else's journal. I recommend checking with historical societies to see if they have members within a community that had kept journals. Some journals may be index, which is the project that I'm currently working on. If journals aren't indexed you might need to take some time to skim through the journal. Even if your ancestor isn't mentioned in the journal you can still learn some things about your ancestors' community and events that happened.

Don't toss aside the idea of reading through someone else journal from the same time period of your ancestors. I have been using other Civil War Andersonville Prisoners journals to help me gain insight into what my distant great grandfather went through while he was a prisoner there.

I would love to hear if you have used journals as part of your genealogy research and what you discovered.