Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For The Record: Blogging, History, and The Legacy We Leave

Every morning I start my day by connecting to the thoughts of others. I go on-line and read a series of news feeds on the ol 'puter. We still get the local paper too, (mainly for the crossword puzzle, and the authoritative feel of snapping the pages), but aside from the portability of taking it with me to the, uh..."reading room", I tend to rely more and more on electronic content.

The print papers just aren't as relevant anymore. The paper today is just a rehash of what I read on line last night. It's old news before the ink even dries on the page. In addition, my on-line content is tailored to my interests. It's more personal, more real, and often more honest because of the freedoms of personal publishing.

One favorite site of mine is a daily digest from

This mornings entry tells how on this date in 1917 the U.S. ended its search for Pancho Villa. That little gem is of personal interest as my Great Grandfather W.A. Sands was one of the men sent into Mexico to hunt down the famed revolutionary under the command of General Black Jack Pershing. I can look at that history and write about it. I can link to it and add a new and more personal piece to the puzzle of the past.

I have grandpa's diary's. They are filled with day by day accounts of that mission, with a whole lotta talk of the Mexican"working girls" who entertained at their camps each night.

My father says W.A. and his wife did not speak directly to each other for the last forty years of their lives, even though they never divorced, and lived in the same house on Bryden Road until their deaths. In order to communicate, they would direct their comments to one or more of their seven children, -or occasionally the dog.

I have often wonder if that diary might have played a part in their long running marital feud. His diaries don't say. There is not one cross word about his wife or children in those pages. He talks extensively of his missions with Pershing, both to Mexico, and later into WWI France. He talks of his work as the leader of the 42nd Rainbow Division military band, and later of The Great Depression and his work as a business man in Columbus Ohio, but there is not a single sentence in those volumes discussing his personal feelings about his family.

His wife, Tose Sands, kept a diligent daily record too. She logged the weather, who came to visit, what the meals were, who was born and who died, but she too wrote nary a word about their personal lives. Even on holidays like Christmas, the accounts fail to mention feelings about family or gifts, or the joy of celebration.

I think there is a lesson in those musty old books for the bloggers of the future. While a meteorologist or a war historian might find gold in those pages, regular readers are looking for something more...a personal history, with feelings and personal philosophies on life. Entries like that not only teach us who these people were, but it keeps their memories alive, and provides us with a way to connect to our collective past, and relate their struggles to our future.

When I look at the photos in the old family trunk, I often wonder what those ghosts of the past were like. I wish we had more diaries, more personal glimpses into history, and I hope the age of the Internet will make that dream come alive for the children of tomorrow.

When I look into the eyes of those old photos, I want to know who those people were. Don't you?


~Rebecca Anne~ said...

I think it's wonderful that you have your Grandpas diary and a log from his wife. That in itself is an extraordinary peek into your past.....but I would probably be frustrated by the lack of personal details as well.

The thing I've noticed in my own research and study of diaries of the past is that lack of emotional involvement. As a prolific journaler myself (handwritten) there is always that fear someone in this present tense would find it, read it, and all my internal secrets would be discovered. So, I write in a lot of code and riddle ladden attire.

It is good to keep in mind that what we write today may fall in the hands of our great grandchildren and hopefully the writing you do, I do, we all do, will answer the questions they may have of us........

Kel-Bell said...

I find that most of these old diaries talk a lot about the weather.

I've often wondered about that.

Do you suppose there was some journal writing guru in print at the time who was prompting people to write about the weather?

Maybe it was just the poularity of the Farmers Almanac that fueled this trend.

Or, possibly its just the weather had a bigger effect on peoples daily lives.

I dont know. Do you?

Ange said...

I really connected with this.

Incredible family history, by the way.

I have my grandmother's and great-grandmother's journals, and find myself disappointed they didn't reveal more information. My grandma had a system of emoticons. 'Saw Bob today,' then a frown face. WHY the frown face, grandma???' Such mysteries.
Then again, maybe I really don't need to know what grandpa did to inspire a frowny face.

SO curious as to why your grandparents never spoke to one another. Wouldn't it be a story within itself trying to hunt that mystery down!

I would have liked to have known my ancestors better through the words they left behind, especially in times of crisis while looking for insight raising my children.
Then I have to admire their self control not to write out the sorts of things that might damage the memories of someone else.
More loving moments would have been great. Or descriptions of gardens, favorite songs and why, favorite days with inspiring people...Favorite poems?
Occasionally, I'll find a quote my grandma took the time to write down, or I'll find an underlined passage in one of her old books, and that's as close as I get, but it's still more than most.

And it occurs to me that I stopped writing journals as soon as I started blogging.
Time to back up those 1000 entries?

Adding to my blogroll.
Haven't gotten a paper in years, but I would get a subscription if it helped keep great journalists in their jobs. And I'd especially get a subscription if they printed on recycled paper, dappled with wildflower seeds.
But I'm with you. So many sections have never particularly interested me, and when I wanna know something, I wanna know it NOW.

Great read!! Thanks.

(Weren't you writing a book about your grandmother??)

((Weather talk was code for, "He didn't come home again last night," I believe.))

Kel-Bell said...

Great comments Ange.

Thanks, and I think you might be right about the weather! LOL

P.S. Yes, I do have a working manuscript about Grandpa Sands.

Working Title: Sands Led The Band

(The band refers to both his military band and his family.)

Gabriele said...

Gee what a great family tree you haIf.
His Diary got him into a little jam at home I see. Reminds me of some of the words of Kipling.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, (or some translations say "used against you.)
My high school diary was used by my first wife to get a divorce.
So I have not kept a journal since. I may start again though.
I am no longer a wild teenager.:-)