Thursday, December 17, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - 1869 Diary of Mary Weber

I scored a major ebay win last week but I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag until I actually had said item in hand. And literally in hand, for this tiny church diary of Mary Weber dated 1869 and measures 3 inches by 2 inches!

Why did I bother to purchase this very old item once owned by someone who may not even be an ancestor? Here's why:
  • Mary Weber lived in Lowville, New York when the diary was completed. I consider Lowville my ancestral hometown since my great-grandfather John Ralph Austin was born there in 1896 and his ancestors settled there around 1840.
  • Given the commonality of ancestral locations, chances are pretty good that I have some relationship either with Mary Weber or perhaps someone in her diary.
  • At the very least, the entries - once transcribed - would give me a better idea of what life was like back in 1869.
  • And finally, how could I pass up a chance for such an artifact? While I did have to outbid others, my presumption is that all of us would have wanted to somehow tell Mary Weber's story.
So what's next? Here are my plans:
  • Transcribing will be very difficult - entries are hard to read, in small print and in pencil.  My best bet might be to scan the diary and then use photo editing software to make a negative image and enhance the results.
  • The next step is to type the text up probably in Microsoft Word.
  • Then I need to select a platform in which to present the text to the rest of the world on the Internet.  One option is to use Blogger or WordPress and create a new blog (just what I need, right?) using a diary format, with a post for each day.  Perhaps if I start this on January 1, 2010 I can have the posts follow sequentially for 1869.  
  • Another option is to use one of the newer platforms such Tumblr or Posterous.  I like this idea since it would get me to learn a new platform.
  • Finally, I could somehow incorporate it into my Lowville Long Ago wiki which is currently offline.  One of my genealogy New Year's resolutions is to revive the wiki and make it more robust.
I'd appreciate any input from readers especially ideas as to how best to preserve Mary Weber's legacy.  Ultimately, I may reunite the diary with a proven living descendant who is interested in having this piece of history.  Or I  may donate it to the Lewis County Historical Society along with the transcription.

Oh, and by the way, this was just the first Lowville-related item I scored on ebay last week.  Next Treasure Chest Thursday I'll post about the 1879 Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Lewis County, NY booklet I purchased!

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee


Myrt said...

Years ago before digital cameras, I had very good success reproducing old photos and documents with a SLR camera, plus lenses and various colored filters. The red one seems to work the best. It is amazing to see what the naked eye cannot detect, but is still in the paper.

Good luck, Thomas, and keep us posted.

footnoteMaven said...

There are amazing things on eBay. And you are so correct in that it may provide social context for your own research.

I am so pleased for you.


p.s. just bought two very old year books. I love eBay!

Apple said...

Great find! I look forward to reading it as Lowville isn't that far away. It looks fragile so I would recommend trying to photograph it first and scan only if that doesn't work out well. 2x3" is so tiny!

I am unfamiliar with the term "church diary."

Heather Rojo said...

A few years ago someone read about one of my brickwall ancestors from a posting I put on a bulletin board. He had this New Hampshire farmer's 1830 account book in a box of used books in Washington State! Inside the book, some adoption papers were found. The gentleman mailed it to me, and I scanned the book and papers. I think I'll donate the book to the local historical society were the farmer lived, now that I have all the scanned images. I think they'll be able to care for it, and share it, better than it sitting in my basement.

Thomas MacEntee said...

Thanks for the comments and advice everyone!

Apple: a church diary seems to be one which was produced by a specific denomination (usually Protestant) - for Mary Weber's it is the Protestant Episcopal Church. It would also list all holidays as well statistics for the denomination (number of parishes, number of baptisms, etc.)

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Old diaries are so precious. We believe they need to be shared as well as preserved. Best wishes on whichever technique you decide to use. Thanks for sharing this, today!

Bill ;-)
Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"