Diaries, Journals or Reminiscences

Unlike government and judicial records, diaries and journals were not typically carefully organized and preserved in public archives created for that purpose. Instead, these documents tend to end up in public archives in a haphazard and piecemeal way. Diaries and journals of the wealthy and privileged are over-represented. Many of the ‘common people' would not consider their personal lives to be of interest to the public, while others would not allow their personal writings to be available for public scrutiny. In addition, in some cases family members have “edited” diaries and journals before donating them to archives.

Regardless, sources like diaries, journals and personal reminiscences are very valuable because they provide us with information about life in earlier times from a personal perspective. They allow us to see beyond the government's purview, beyond generalized opinions and typical experiences into the unique lives of individuals.

The varied, personal and unsystematic nature of the documentation journals and diaries provide constitutes their weakness as well as their strength as historical ‘evidence.' Often the writer will try and make him/herself appear in a better light or they will exaggerate to add interest to their journals or diaries. Their unique content reminds the historian of the variability of human experience, but it sometimes also inhibits our ability to make comparisons, or to draw conclusions relevant to the wider society.

The diaries reproduced on this site were created by employees of Algonquin Park. As you will note, the diary writers addressed a wide spectrum of material, ranging from weather patterns, sightings of wildlife, work completed, people seen, and news heard.

Reminiscences are records whose creation might be initiated by the witness, or by someone else who is interested in what the witness has seen, heard, or thought. The witness might be interested in supporting facts that have been observed by others, or challenging accepted interpretations or ‘versions’ of the events in question.