Was your ancestor on the Oregon Trail, a California gold rush miner or an Army wife on the frontier? If so, you may be one of the lucky ones whose family kept historic diaries or journals. However, your family, like mine, may own only a few photos and little else. If that’s the case, you may have to rely on published journals for a peek into their great adventures.
My own bookshelves are filled with women’s diaries. They primarily cover journeys on the Oregon and Mormon Trails, as well as life in the frontier Army. I love reading how women like Martha Summerhayes, a well-bred New Englander, lived through the Arizona summers and the terror of the Apache Wars. Or, how Margaret Carrington faced the possibility of death at the hands of Army soldiers in the event Sioux and Cheyenne warriors overran Fort Phil Kearney. There’s nothing like a period journal to transport a family researcher into the thick of “real life”.
If you’re interested in reading historic journals, try these Web sites:
• Emigrant Narratives and Biographies
• John White’s Return to Roanoake
• From the Diary of Albigence Waldo, Surgeon at Valley Forge, 1777
• From the Diary of Ebenezer Denny, 1781
• Journal of a Voyage Up the Missouri River, 1811
• Albert Underwood Civil War Diary