The JournalScribe Story

Liz Watson, Archivist

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Mildred Sunderland Melvin

My grandmother wrote in her diary nearly every night for 64 years. She started when she was 16 years old in 1921. As a kid I would sometimes spend the weekends with my grandparents, and I remember her sitting at her desk at the top of the stairs, pulling out her latest notebook and writing about the day’s events.

My grandparents eventually retired to Florida. In their new home, they had a long double-wide closet – and my grandmother’s diaries sat on the top shelf, spanning the entire length of that closet.

Liz Watson and Mildred Melvin

On one of my visits, I asked if I could read the diaries. I started with the first volume, from 1921. It was fascinating to meet my grandmother as a 16 year old! It was especially nice to be able to ask her questions as I read – like, “Did you really get 4 different marriage proposals?” I think she enjoyed the trip down memory lane, too.

handwritten letters

When she died, her diaries and letters came to me – 89 notebooks and over 600 letters. I was thrilled to get them, and as I went through them I kept thinking, “This needs to be shared with the rest of the family.” But how? The collection was too large, bulky and, in some cases, delicate.

At the time, I was in school studying to become an archivist. I decided to do an independent study in historical editing. My project was to take the first diary from 1921, transcribe it, edit it, and create a book. Once I did that, I knew I had to do the rest of the collection!

I transcribed and proofed the remaining 88 volumes, and once completed, I created a password-protected website, uploaded the files, and shared them with my family.

Next I began work on the letters. The letters were written by both my grandmother and grandfather between their engagement and their wedding. They made a pact to write every day – and very nearly did.

As with the diaries, the first step was to transcribe and proof the letters. Then I had to organize them. Most were dated and/or numbered but there were enough that weren’t that it was a fun puzzle to get them into the right order. The letters were compiled into a book that was self-published. My aunt wrote that she discovered things about her father she had not known. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

For the past 20 years, I’ve helped small businesses succeed in the online world. And while I enjoy that work, JournalScribe brings me back to my roots, to my lifelong fascination with history and people’s stories.

Let me help you reconnect with your family history. Who knows what treasures you will find!