Historical Diaries & Journals Online

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Explore thousands of historical diaries and journals online, by writers from all walks of life. Experience the past lived by your ancestors and other people from history, through personal narratives and writings depicting time, places and events from around the world.

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Ella's 1874 Pocket Diary

An 1874 pocket diary from an antique store in Fort Ann, New York, didn't include the name of the author but is rich with other names and stories from her life as a schoolteacher in Vermont. You can also learn more about the author, Ella Burnham, and her family in this genealogical exploration.

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The Diary Junction

Browse links and information to over 500 historical diaries online, many to diaries or journals of famous figures, but some written by every-day people as well.

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Wisconsin Historical Society - Historic Diaries

Each year the Wisconsin Historical Society posts an original historic diary online, with each day's journal entry posted on the same date as the original entry was written.

Among the online historical diaries available include the handwritten journal of the only member of the Lewis and Clark expedition to die en route, Sgt. Charles Floyd; the 1834 Diary of Presbyterian missionary Cutting Marsh (1800-1873); and the 1863 diary of Emily Quiner, who went South in June 1863 to work in a Civil War hospital for wounded soldiers.

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Sallys Diaries

Sally's blog focuses on sharing some of the more interesting and heartfelt entries from her extensive personal collection of "other peoples" diaries, on both this blog and her second blog at sallysdiaries2.wordpress.com.

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Wynne's Diary

Winifred Llewhellin, born on 15 June 1879, began writing in a diary at the age of 16 and continued doing so until her death. This extensive online collection includes 30 large volumes that document her daily life in Edwardian England - there are even photographs!

Not all of her diaries are online, but there are currently entries from 13 diaries available covering the time period 1895 to 1919. Navigation is a little confusing so make sure to visit the HELP page as well as click on "More info" for all entries.

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Do History - Martha Ballard's Diary Online

This site explores the remarkable eighteenth-century diary of midwife Martha Ballard, with both digitized and transcribed full-text versions of the 1400-page diary; the latter is searchable by keyword and date. It also examines how historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich pieced together the diary to write her amazing book "A Midwife’s Tale."

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First-Person Narratives of the American South

Focused primarily on the words and voices of women, African Americans, laborers, and Indigenous peoples, this site from the University of North Carolina offers a variety of narrative documents, including personal accounts, letters, travelogues, and diaries, relating to the culture of the American south in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters

Approximately 3,000 pages of family letters, from collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society, describe the trials of establishing a homestead in Nebraska and everyday life on the Great Plains as they follow the Uriah Oblinger family’s sojourns in Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri. Part of the Library of Congress American Memory Project.

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Valley of the Shadow

The story of two separate communities -- Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in the North and Staunton, Virginia in the South -- and the political events that encompassed them between 1859 and 1870, are told through this searchable, online collection of more than 600 letters and diaries. From the University of Virginia.

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Camping with the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

Alice Fletcher, an unmarried anthropologist, spent six weeks living with the Sioux at the age of 43. Her journals presented online by the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, including sketches and photographs.

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Documenting the American South

Look under "D" or search for "diary" to turn up a number of wonderful online historic diaries and journals, including the colorful Diary from Dixie written by Mary Boykin Miller Chestnut, wife of U.S. Senator John Chestnut from South Carolina between 1859 and 1861.

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Iowa Digital Library: Civil War Diaries and Letters

Almost 50 digitized Civil War diaries, plus letters, photographs, and other items, tell the story of Iowans during the U.S. Civil War. Don't miss the Civil War Diaries and Letters Transcription Project where you can also search completed transcriptions, or give back by doing some transcribing yourself.

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African American Odyssey

This free online collection from the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a number of diaries, such as the emotional Michael Shiner diary, which tells the story of an enslaved man who rescued his wife and three children in 1832 after they were sold to enslavers in Virginia.

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The Overland Trail: Emigrant Diaries, Memoirs, Letters & Reports

Explore a collection of over 100 links to diaries, journals, and recollections of individuals describing their journeys west along various migration trails. There's a large emphasis on migration through Oregon, but emigrants through most western states are represented.

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BYU: Mormon Missionary Diaries

Read the journals and diaries of 114 LDS missionaries from the collections of BYU's Harold B. Lee library, through both digitized images and searchable text transcripts.

These missionary diaries do include some individuals fairly prominent in the LDS Church, such as James E. Talmage, Moses Thatcher, and Benjamin Cluff; however, most of the 114 missionaries represented were every-day people from all walks of life.

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Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries & Letters, 1846–1869

This outstanding digital collection from BYU's Harold B. Lee library includes the original writings of 49 voyagers on the Mormon, California, Oregon, and Montana trails who wrote while traveling on the trail. Accompanying the original diary images and their searchable transcripts are contemporary maps, trail guides, photographs, watercolors and art sketches, and essays on the Mormon and California trails.

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Powell, Kimberly. "Historical Diaries & Journals Online." ThoughtCo, Sep. 24, 2020, thoughtco.com/historical-diaries-and-journals-online-1422040. Powell, Kimberly. (2020, September 24). Historical Diaries & Journals Online. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/historical-diaries-and-journals-online-1422040 Powell, Kimberly. "Historical Diaries & Journals Online." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/historical-diaries-and-journals-online-1422040 (accessed March 22, 2023).