Looking for online diaries and journals
August 22, 2017 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for online diaries and journals, such as travel journals or diaries kept by immigrants or settlers - ideally, ones with short entries in simple language.

This is partly general interest but mostly for translation practice - I want to practice translating these entries into other languages for iTalki posts, so simpler language is better. So ideal entries would be things like:

"Mon 20 April. Bread and butter for breakfast. Worked in the garden. Tomatoes are nearly ready. Went into town. Neighbors here for supper."

I'm looking for things that are
* online (not books)
* public domain
* ideally, with a transcribed/text component (not just scanned images)

I'd especially like to read diaries by women.

Things I've found that are along the lines of what I'm looking for (although not QUITE as simple as I'd like):

A Journal from Japan, by Marie Carmichael Stopes
Diary of a Provincial Lady

I've also found Pioneering the Upper Midwest and California as I Saw It at the Library of Congress, but I haven't yet identified any specific items that are quite what I'm looking for.

Links to collections would be great, but links to individual diaries would be even better.

posted by kristi to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
George Orwell's diaries are written very simply. They were published here daily as a kind of quasi-blog.


"Strong wind, which has dried the soil greatly, but beautiful spring weather in the morning. In the evening overcast, but no rain... Cleared the ground where peas & parsnips are to go. Dug a little more. 17 eggs."
posted by Beardman at 10:18 AM on August 22, 2017

I immediately thought of A Bride's Passage: Susan Hathorn's Year Under Sail, but I have not found it online. There was a article about it in The Log Of Mystic Seaport, but I can't find the date for that either. It's interesting as a study of marriage in the late 19th century, as a travelogue, and as a description of a sea voyage.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:54 AM on August 22, 2017

The Emilie Davis Diaries
Emilie Davis was an African-American woman living in Philadelphia during the U.S. Civil War. This website is a transcription of Emilie’s three pocket diaries for the years 1863, 1864, and 1865.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2017

Ooh, online diaries.

Did you see this question from 2008? Help me find old diaries published or placed online. There are some good links there, including one to a MeFite's project, The Diary Junction.

For simple diaries, you could try Martha Ballard, Dr Lucas or Mary Bowers. Maybe Gilbert White but the naturalist stuff is more complex than his remarks about his family and the villagers.

You might also look at the diary tag on MetaFilter. Lots are probably too complex for your purposes, but you could try these:

Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker. The site just has images, but MetaFilter member teponaztli transcribed chunks in the MF post.
Bill Davenport, diary of a 12-year-old from the 1970s.
Robert Dickinson, prisoner of war diary.
Dorothy, 1945.
posted by paduasoy at 12:50 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

And the diaries tag, too.
posted by paduasoy at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2017

Probably outside your scope on a few fronts, but The Diary of Samuel Pepys was impressive when it was first posted, for its scope and cross-references, but 1) it's a man, who 2) lived a rather urban life and 3) had some more complicated entries.

Otherwise, the Internet Archive and Hathi Trust are likely valuable sources of numerous online diaries from the past, given the scope of their collections, but I don't know of any particular examples to call out that meet your criteria.

One thing that you've probably already considered: the older the diary, the more likely they are to have language that is outdated or archaic, making it a bit more complicated to translated accurately.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:16 PM on August 22, 2017

A whole bunch of diaries and journals from 1830ish to 1852. Emigrant information online, mostly Oregon Trail stuff.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:08 PM on August 22, 2017

This link is more than just a diary.
It consists of information and stories of the family life on the Oregon Trail from the Journal of 17 year old Abigail Scott. There's info from letters, pictures and tons of background.

This is the cast of characters:

The Party:
There were five Scott family wagons including one for William Gowdy, nephew, and his family, and one for the Levi Caffee family.

Scott Family:
John Tucker Scott, 43, or "Tucker", father, shared driving the "mother wagon,'
Ann Roelofson Scott, 40, the mother, and wife of Tucker.
Mary Frances, 19, or "Fanny", the oldest daughter, assigned to cook
Abigail Jane, 17, or "Jenny", principal author of the "Journal".
Margaret, Ann, 15 or "Meg", assigned to help with the cooking
Harvey Whitefield, 14, or "Harve", shared in driving the "mother wagon"
Catherine Amanda, 13, or "Kit", responsible for the care of the two youngest children.
Harriet Louise, 11, or "Duck" or "Etty", drove the loose stock
John Henry, 9, or "Henry", "Jerry", or "Sonny" helped drive ''mother's wagon."
Sarah Maria, 5, or "Maria" or "Chat".
William Neill, 3, or "Willie".
posted by BlueHorse at 2:14 PM on August 22, 2017

These are all great! Thank you so much.

I hadn't thought about Orwell at all - great suggestion!

The Pepys stuff I almost wrote off because it's so old and the language is fairly archaic ... but I can probably turn it into slightly more simplified, modern language in my head before translating.

These are just terrific - thank you so much for all your great suggestions!
posted by kristi at 10:44 AM on August 25, 2017

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