diaries & connections to the past

This post has some great thoughts on the value of handwritten diaries and journals. Makes me want to increase my efforts to not just use technology to record my life but also do things the old-fashioned way too.


Accidental Pen


I have been thinking a lot about diaries – especially the old, hand-written ones.  In our local news, there have been several recent articles about a Civil War diary that is being examined by local historians.  It chronicles the daily life and struggles of a young Union soldier as he passed through this area.  The story is fascinating, but for me it is even more remarkable to look at the images of those pages … his handwriting on the old paper, the scribbles in the margins, the entire personal image that is captured not only by his words transcribed, but by the physical pages themselves.

It made me contemplate my own journaling and diary-keeping.  The mark of my pen, the paper and the books I choose to write in, the ink, my penmanship.  While I know there are many distinct advantages to maintaining a digital record – and there are…

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Martin’s Cove Journal – Finished

Here are my finished journals for our family reunion in Martin’s Cove. On my prototype I used some scraps of mat board. But to keep the project on a tight budget mat board wasn’t practical for the real thing. I thought about chipboard but when I stopped at Hobby Lobby to see what they had I didn’t find any sheets of chipboard. What I did find was a package of 80# cardstock on clearance in neutral colors. It has some texture with coordinating core designed for sanding to make it look more rustic.

I cut the 12″x12″ sheet to 6″x8.5″ – two for each journal. Then using my wire binder punched holes in the journals and the covers. I didn’t want to use the usual wire to bind it together because I was looking for a more rustic, old-fashioned look. So I dug into my yard scraps and using a darning needle put the yarn through the punched holes is a criss-cross pattern and then tied a bow. I also tore the edge of the right edge of the front cover. I will have coordinating colored pencils at the reunion so that family members can personalize the cover of their journal if they would like.

I’m happy with how this project turned out. I kept it from getting too complicated (one of my challenges) and I kept it from getting too expensive to execute (another challenge). I hope that my family enjoys their journals and that the journals help them to connect with Mary Taylor in a new and more meaningful way.

Martin’s Cove Journal – Finishing up

I’m really excited about how this came together. I was hoping it wouldn’t take too much time and I really tried to keep it simple. But at the same time I wanted it to have some personality, to help draw people into the experience at Martin’s Cove. When I did this cover with the only photo I’ve ever seen of Mary Taylor, I noticed how much she reminds me of my Grandmother. I don’t know why I haven’t seen the resemblance before.

credit page & find your why page - Martin's Cove Journal

This first spread is a place to give credit where I got my information and to give space for family members to journal about why they came to Martin’s Cove and what they hope to learn from the experience. My hope here is to help each person take the this opportunity to do their own generation project.

Our Family Tree - Martin's Cove Journal

This next spread is for the second step of a generations project – populate your tree. I filled in the basics of the information that is common for everyone who is coming to the reunion. They will each have to fill in the left side of the tree depending on who they are. This was a little tricky to figure out how to lay it out. I hope that it is clear on how each family member connects back to Mary Taylor.

content pages - Martin's Cove Journal

The rest of the pages up to the last page look like the page above. On the left had side there is a simple timeline of events along with excerpt from “Some Must Push and Some Must Pull; Mary Taylor, handcart Pioneer And Her Descendants”  by a distant cousin Kenneth L. Rasmussen. The right hand page of each spread is for journaling. At the bottom of the journaling pages is a date from history. The purpose of these pages are to help each person to “mix it with history” and “walk in their shoes” as suggested by The Generations Project.

The Handcart Song - Martin's Cove Journal

The last page of the book is the words to a favorite song of my great-great-grandmother, “The Handcart Song”. She sang this song not just while she was crossing the plans but all her life. I want to learn all the verses and help my family to learn it too.

I’ll do another post later in the week on the “how to” of putting this journal together and if I figure out how, I’ll have an InDesign template that you can download and adapt to your needs.

Martin’s Cove Journal – getting started

One of the things I’m working to improve in my projects is my workflow. So I’m experimenting on new ways to approach the process. To start with I am going to try to follow Nancy Barnes’ method of

  1. imagine
  2. plan
  3. create
  4. edit
  5. design
  6. publish

and see how that works for me. In the past I have jumped to the design stage too fast and it ends up taking more time than necessary. Part of the journey of this blog is for me to learn and improve as I share what I find with others. So I took some time this week to imagine what I want the end product.

  • compact
  • rustic
  • durable
  • timeline of events
  • excerpts from journals & stories
  • space to journal, draw, add photos
  • historical info
  • pedigree chart

I’ve decided to make it simple to self publish with my printer and a copier, I’ll make it 8.5″ x 5.5″ (half sheet of letter size paper). Don’t know how I’m going to bind it yet. If I can’t figure anything else out I’ll use wire binding because I can do that myself. I think I’ll have a bit of rustic/grunge on the pages that will help add an old feel to the journal.

I started working on the timeline of events and journal excerpts from sources on the internet and a book recently published by a distant cousin, Kenneth L. Rasmussen “Some Must Push and Some Must Pull: Mary Taylor, handcart pioneer And Her Descendants.” I found a great timeline for the Willie company but I found out that much of the documentation for the Martin handcart company was lost. There is some conflicting information that I’m going to have to decide how to resolve. Plus I need to decide how much is enough. I don’t want a big long comprehensive journal, just enough to give my family some background and a sense of what happened to Mary.

The general plan of the layout of the journal is to have the timeline in a side bar down the left side, with excerpts from journals on the rest of the left hand page. Then I’ll keep the right hand page on each spread open for thoughts, sketches etc.

What kind of approach do you use when you start a new project and as you progress through? I’d love to hear and learn from your experiences.