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In Their Own Words

Today with modern communications methods of phone call, videos, photos, texting, emails, and television, it is so simply to have a record of what is said, done or created. However, for our ancestors their main instrument was the written word. It meant using ink, a quill pen, pencil and some form of paper (which varied over the years). Luckily many of these written documents including diaries, letters, journals, papers have survived the decades. Today, we can still read and comprehend what an ancestor was attempting to write. It makes you wonder if some 50 years from now, will future generations be able to read our digital emails or will there be no equipment to transfer that digital information.

Fortunately many of our ancestors did write on paper their experiences, adventurers, hardships, etc. for future generations. Dickinson College in Pennsylvania has amassed a collection of some 34,500 documents, letters, writings, etc. on a vast array of subjects. Most were written from the late 1800s into the early 1900s. They are titled “Their Own Words”.

Using digital technology the Dickinson College has created 22,000 full-text searchable page images which comes from 57 books, 13 pamphlets, 7 letter collections and 1 diary. Each page was scanned separate and then a transcript done on each paper. The collection dates back to 1764 through the 1800s and up to 1918. Those writing in their own words cover major historical events such as the American Civil War, industrial development, slavery issues, biographies, religion, politics, etc.

Begin the journey with the ‘search’ button at the top. Under author a writer’s name can be placed. Here is where you would check using some family surnames. However the best would be the ‘Search in Full-Text’ box. Here any name, subject, hometown, date, event of interest can be placed and all the transcribed papers will be searched.

For anything found, each will be listed with a page number, a date and some with a brief summary written. Click on each page number. First you will see the scanned original page. It might be easy to read or it might be difficult. Go the the drop down box on the left and select ‘page description’ then press ‘go’ for the transcription. Keep in mind it can be hard for a skilled transcriber to figure out what was written plus the writer’s spelling may have been different compared to today.

With some of the material from printed books, those will be easier to read. Here a book has been scanned, all the pages from cover to end will be included and in order. Just click on the page number to the left. Some scanned pages can also be enlarged or rotated to view easier.

Since much of the collection is from writers in the Pennsylvania and neighboring states, there won’t be much from places like California, Florida or Michigan. It is worth reviewing to see if any material has survived from an ancestor.

< Return To Blog Boy, do I know this surname story! Believe it or not, there are just about as many Yateses in the world as Smith and Jones. And, I have three Smith lines too. Ugh! I\'ve (sometimes ulscnsoioucny) tried all the methods you cited and it\'s so true for all of them. Good post Elyse!Carol Yates Wilkersonb4s last [type] ..
Vangeline 6/10/12

I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this web site. Thanks, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your site?

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