Friday, October 29, 2010

Recording my life's stories

Do you keep a diary?

I have a couple of shelves of hard copy diaries in my garage. There are work diaries and personal diaries. I started recording a personal diary around 1980 but missed a couple of years in the eighties.

Around eighteen years ago when I first acquired a PDA I decided to move to an online diary as I realised that I could move entries from my PDA into a file on my computer, enhance these with anecdotes and keep them as a diary. In those early days there weren't many pieces of  journalling software around and I don't think blogs were around either. I decided to keep my diary in a simple spreadsheet. Today it is still in that spreadsheet and still using the headings I set up all those years ago
Diary Headings

It's not meant to be pretty just functional.


I started by importing all of my PDA calendar entries into the spreadsheet then I  transcribed all of my diary entries; these triggered memories so I was able to add detail to the dry dates and facts. Once this was completed I was on a roll. I then added entries for events prior to the days when I kept a diary. I added dates and memories of family events, looked at my dated photographs and recorded the stories these told me. My kids let me look at their old school diaries and calendars; these provided more dates and memory prompts.I have since gone through some of our old credit card bills and added details of important purchases.

From time to time family members make a comment about an event in the past and their recollections of it.  I note these on either a scrap of paper or a note in my phone and put them in the diary as time permits recording the source of the comment. I always record my sources, not in a formal academic sense but with labels like Aunt May, 1983 school diary, Letter from Fred to Sue, Current, Photo etc.

When my Dad passed away I discovered where my hoarding gens came from. He had kept every receipt from every purchase he had made. I added these and the memories I have related to these purchases: our first refrigerator, our first radiogram, our first television, holiday dates. One of my dear friends had saved all the postcards I have sent to her, when she knew that her days were numbered she gave these back to me. I have added all of the test to the diary; these entries demonstrate in my words the awe and excitement I had when visiting distant lands.

I cannot remember when my friends got married or had their 21sts or when their kids were christened but I have vivid memories of some of these events. Whenever I come across someone whose wedding I attended I ask when they got married and add this to the diary. I then record my memories of the event.

As technology has developed I have added entries from other sources. My daughter's emails from boarding school tell of the fun times she was having. My Facebook wall posts are wonderful sources of my thoughts and activities at a particular point in time. Each month I import my outlook calendar into the diary. Whenever I travel I record my doings on a spreadsheet on my smartphone as I go and import this into the main document on my return.

The diary now sits in a folder called OurDiary into which I paste scanned images of tickets, invitations, programs etc. I hyperlink to these from the Excel spreadsheet. I also add hyperlinks to information about people, places and events. I once started to transcribe old letters and didn't get far but now I scan and hyperlink them.

What started out as a simple spreadsheet has now grown into a multimedia resource that spans my lifetime. This diary is much richer than a simple paper based diary as it combines information from a range of sources to give a picture of our family and work life. When I finish digitising my photos I will add selected ones into the folder. Whether it will stay in Excel or migrate to some other product I don't know.

Hopefully some of my descendants will be interested in our family life and gain enjoyment and enlightenment from Our Diary.

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