I spent the day doing research for my writing. It took me a while to decide on the question to use to find the resources I needed online but I finally decided on “What weddings were there in Leeds and Grenville in 1812?” To my delight, there was a listing of all the ministers and marriages on one site. I revisited the list of resources and found an even more engrossing amount of information from the Historical Archives in Toronto. There was the complete text of “The History of Leeds and Grenville from 1749 to 1879” as compiled by Thadeus Leavitt. God bless the amateur and professional historians, but even more, God bless the journal and diary writers of the time.
Within the memories of the early settlers was a gold mine of information, including a description of the earliest log cabins and even the method of grinding corn before the coming of grist mills to Eastern Ontario. The method was exhausting and time consuming. It consisted of making a pestle out of ironwood and a mortar out of a hollowed-out log. Eventually, grist mills were constructed, but traveling back and forth to Kingston took a great deal of time and trouble.
Another part of the history, described the basic seeds given to the earliest settlers and the equipment they were given to begin farming. Throughout the manuscript were little gems of information and facts that showed me my ideas were not that far from the facts. For instance, there weren’t many clergy in the area at the time, so couples often had to wait months to marry or go to the magistrates of the county for their ceremonies. Tea wasn’t very available either, so instead the settlers used sassafras, hemlock, and something called, “tea-plant” which I want to find out more about.
Researching is so interesting, especially when finding out about family members and history. My daughter was looking up the family background on my father’s family. We had always been told their names were “Hall” but in looking through my grandfather’s papers I came across a wedding certificate from England giving the maiden name of my paternal great-grandmother as “Alcock”. This fact made all the difference to her research and brought up a mystery as well. I wish one of my ancestors had written in a diary about the name change.
So, if you write a diary or journal pat yourself on the back and please, leave it for your grandchildren. Even if you think that the information is too mundane. Mundane is what historians love. It gives them a window into the culture and concerns of the times. Sure, a journal written by an historic figure is valuable, but even more so are the diaries of “ordinary” people. Besides, there’s no such thing as ordinary when it comes to the stories of people’s lives. Everyone has intrigue and mystery about them, and drama in their history. So, God bless the journal and diary writers! You are rendering a true historical service.