Thursday, October 9, 2008

Keeping a Diary and Other Records

Since you are interested in family history, you need to be sure to keep your own living history on a regular, hopefully daily, basis.

The sad news we see today of bank failures, stock market plunges and countries falling into bankruptcy bring back memories of a very bad time in the world in the late 1920's - early 1930's. great_depression

The Great Depression destroyed many fortunes and seriously impacted the lives of millions of people worldwide.

My siblings were alive at that time, but but being considerably younger I only know about its impact through family stories. Or so I thought.

Recently, I reviewed the genealogical information my mother gave me and found an old account book that my parents and grandparents kept. The entries tell the story.

My parents had to move back on the farm when my father lost his job as a miner. The only lodging available to them was an old run down log cabin in Fort Canyon. Mom said that they spent days filling the gaps between the logs with mud mixed with straw to block out the wind.

They covered the walls of the children's bedroom with comic pages from old newspapers because they couldn't afford anything else.

Dad worked for his cousin Dewey Bennett to earn some hard cash. The account book entries tell the story for April, 1930.

Ten entries for cultivating for 8 hours a day.

One entry for hauling manure to the fields for 8 hours.

Seven entries for plowing the fields for 8 hours.

For all of this work, he was paid $42.50 of which $20.15 was returned to Dewey for rent and farm produce to eat. Another $14.30 was paid to the doctor and $7.00 for clothing. That left mom and dad with $6.85 cash to spend to support their three children for the month.

When the sheriff and posse came asking for dad's help in finding the deer poacher, he readily agreed. After a very long day, they returned home empty handed. The poacher had eluded capture. Little did the sheriff know that while my father was leading the group as far away from the cabin as possible, my mother was busy bottling the meat from the deer so her family would have something to eat.

I sincerely hope we don't see conditions like that again. Few people have farms today that can offer lodging and food in a failed economy.

Can I support my own family in similar conditions? I don't know. I hope I don't have to find out, but know that it is possible, thanks to my fathers handwritten entries in the old account book.

Do you have similar stories, old diaries, account books, family bibles, etc., in your possession? If so, protect them like they are gold, but don't forget to mine the family history 'gold' from them at the same time.

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