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Shirley G. Hodges
The Importance of Journals
Published: 12 March 2012
By Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Several people have asked about the types of things that you can find in journals. I have been able to find a lot of things that I could incorporate into our family's histories by reading journals that have been written by family members.

As an example, I would like to show you how we can learn about someone from reading their day journals.

It happens that Alice Susannah Ongley is a second cousin, once removed of my husband. She married a gentleman named John Morgan. After their marriage she wrote in her day book.
    "I was 19 years old and John 23 when we were married. In two weeks we went to keeping house in Wheeler Carter's house. We lived there three months, and then moved into a house by Mother Bingham (John's mother). It was a very cold winter. John bought five acres from my Mother. We hired Samuel Dobbs to build us a house on it, 16 x 24."
We also have access to John's day book and he told in great detail every step concerning the building of the house for his lovely bride. It was wonderful to be able to compare their entries and to have a glimpse of their feelings about each other and their lives.

In a later entry Alice writes
    "We moved in May the next Spring. Oh how proud I was of my new house. I kept my floors so white and clean. (She scoured them with sand.) This was our happiest time."
For 32 years Alice Morgan lived and loved and worked in the little house John Morgan built for his bride. In later years, widowed then remarried, she went to live in another home near Townville, Pennsylvania, but the Rootville house remained first in her fondest memories.

In her day book dated 1905 Alice Morgan wrote:
    "March 29th I was married to James Pratt. We were married at James Ongley's. Dudley and Mary Thomas were there. Barry Cummings, Justice of the Peace, officiating. We started for Mr. Pratt's home about three o'clock. Bessie and Lue Davison came to welcome us. I have been here two weeks, I am happy and contented. This is a pleasant place. Last Sunday at Rootville we went home with Mary. Had dinner. Fred and Nina, Gene and Sylvia were there. Gene has moved my things....had a big load...broke the glass out of my bureau. I have been cleaning house."
In a statement dated Jan. 10, 1925 she says.
    "Feb. 25th is Jim's 82nd birthday. If I live to Aug. 17 I will be 72... We are growing old together. Have many things to be thankful for. ..We are thankful for the comforts of life and our dear children. I thank God for them every day of my life."
I was so grateful that we were able to see that last entry and know that Alice truly was happy and contented in her later years also. Because the entry after their marriage had sounded so formal if we hadn't seen the later entry, I would have always wondered how things turned out for her.

If you are lucky enough to find a journal make sure that you are going through it page by page looking for those wonderful clues.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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