Create a Digital Diary and Your Descendants will Thank You

Diaries written by an ancestor are amongst the most valuable family heirlooms of all time. Whether it is a diary written by a soldier in wartime or a day-by-day account of life on the farm, these daily journals provide great a understanding of the lives of our ancestors. However, this begs the question: Are you creating a diary with a plan to leave it for your descendants?

An article by David Nield in Popular Science magazine says:

“Keeping a daily journal lets you practice writing, organize your thoughts, and preserve your habits and events for posterity. But who has the time and energy to sit down for a dedicated recording session every day? Instead, jot down your entries on the go—by keeping the tome on your phone.”

Indeed, writing an electronic journal can provide great benefits to yourself when you need to go back and recall an event or some instructions from your past. However, if preserved properly, the same journal can provide a greater understanding of your life for other family members long after you are gone.

Nield’s article then goes on to provide brief descriptions of five popular journaling products of today. All of them have versions for smartphones and tablet computers while two of them also offer additional versions for desktop and laptop computers. One of them (Journey) even can be used in a web browser. Those with multiple versions can be used to enter and retrieve information in a single journal from more than one device, wherever you are.

The access from multiple devices can be very handy in many situations. Sync your journal across multiple platforms. You can write on-the-go with Android and Apple’s iOS, or at the comfort of your own home on Mac, Windows, Chromebook, or any other device that has a web browser and can connect to the Internet. Since the data is stored in “the cloud,” you can access the journal from any device. Obviously, access is controlled by a user name and password that you do not share with anyone else.

You can find David Nield’s article, Think you’re too busy to journal? These apps let you do it on the go, at https://www.popsci.com/apps-to-journal-on-smartphone.

While all of these apps are great for storing and retrieving your own daily diary for your own use, I don’t believe any of them include built-in capabilities to save your information in any form of long-term storage. How do you save the information in a manner that will make it available to future generations? The answer isn’t simple but you do have options.

Of course, you can always print everything out on paper. Just make sure you use acid-free paper and archival quality inks (not laser toner). Then store the paper in lignin-free storage containers in a location with good temperature and humidity controls, not in the attic or in a basement.

I did briefly offer some other suggestions for multi-year storage in earlier articles at https://blog.eogn.com/2015/05/08/digital-files-may-last-much-much-longer-than-paper-or-microfilm/ and at https://blog.eogn.com/2017/07/12/preserving-documents-digitally/. However, I will warn you that I do not know of any single, simple solution that works for all situations.

6 Comments

As well, sadly in our region of Canada, cursive writing is no longer being taught in schools! I have been doing the “52 weeks” writing – got a lovely journal for it, starting writing (as opposed to creating the journal with my computer) because I know the thrill of seeing my grandparents written words, and I wanted my grandchildren and possibly my great-grandchildren to have the same experience. Around week 10, it occurred to me: my grandchildren may not be able to read this!
Sad state of affairs and sad reflection on the mind-set of education curriculum creators!

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I agree with you. I live in Massachusetts but my wife’s 11 year old grandson lives in Kentucky. He told us he’s teaching himself to write in cursive as the school is not. We’re so glad he is, but it makes me fear for the majority of the future population who won’t know.

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I have no use for cursive writing, except as an art form. I have fairly decent drawing skills, yet very poor handwriting skills. My inner writer finally came to life when I taught myself touch typing at age 12. Your mileage may vary!

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Why? Is it considered a waste of time? What if there is a power cut! Surely it is necessary as a research skill. As with a lot of things “practice makes perfect”.

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1. What would everyone like to be cut in the school day so cursive is taught. 2. Most adults have a difficult time reading the cursive of even early years of the US. 3. I have a number of friends in their 60s and 70s whose cursive has always been extremely hard to read and they were taught in the traditional way. 4. Much of what we write today is required to be printed or completed on a computer (typewriter when I was in school)

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