The Rural Diary Archive website (https://ruraldiaries.lib.uoguelph.ca/) brings together the work of over 200 diarists (1820-1960) across Ontario. It encourages users to learn about the authors, easily search fully transcribed diaries in the collection and help transcribe handwritten ones. This presentation explores several Eastern Ontario diaries in the collection, the nature of diary writing, and the ways one can use diaries for your own research. Dr. Catherine Wilson will share some examples from her forthcoming book Being Neighbours: Cooperative Work and Rural Culture, 1830-1960.
Catharine’s interest in rural and family history began while growing up in Grenville County where her Loyalist and Irish ancestors settled. To celebrate 1967, her parents built a log cabin in their basement. Inspired by the family heirlooms displayed there, she’s been fascinated with the history of daily life ever since. Much of her scholarship has included genealogical research and is recognized for employing under-utilized sources such as diaries and innovative methods that revise historical interpretations. Her early work focused on Irish immigration, pioneer settlement and farm tenancy. Her current SSHRC-funded project explores reciprocal work bees (barn raising, quilting, and threshing bees, etc.) using Ontario farm diaries. She explores the creation, maintenance and definition of neighborhood and its practical workings. She teaches Canadian History, Social History, and Rural History to undergraduates and graduates at the University of Guelph. She is also the Redelmeier Professor in Rural History, Coordinator of the speakers’ series The Rural History Roundtable, Founder and Director of the Rural Diary Archive website, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.