Jun 24, 2010

Amazing Entry in My Great Grandmother's Diary

This is a follow up to my post on Old Fashioned Vacations and Bathing Suits.  I have two diaries that belonged to my great grandmother Margaret Woodhull Bird.  After I posted the vacation photograph of her, my grandmother, and others in New York she was on my mind.  So I pulled out the oldest of the diaries that covered the late 1880's.   I have read bits and pieces of the diaries and it is on my "to do list" to transcribe them but unfortunately life sometimes gets in the the way of genealogy!

I again started skimming through the old diary late one night when one entry caught my eye.  Mostly because it was much longer than her usual entries and I spied the words Orient Point.  I knew from the writing on the vacation picture that was where the photo was taken.  I was totally shocked to find an entry connected to the photo.  I am fairly certain the entry and photo are from the same event due to the following:
  1. Diary entry is August 25, 1888.  Fits my grandmother's age in the photo (although I originally estimated 1890)
  2. Location - same on photograph as in diary.
  3. Entry describes a boat wreck, title on photo is "The Party in the Wreck"
Here is a photo of the pages in her diary and the transcribed entry.  Words that I were not sure of are in italics. My guess is the first is the name of the yacht and the second the place they hit the rocks.  The letter H refers to my grandmother Helen who was 3 at the time.

August 25, 1888
At Orient Point - L.I.----Taking a sail in a yacht - Tammie Say Brook - Struck on a rock in Plum Girl - All thrown out.  eleven persons in all saved by another yacht - Gladys.  H-screamed once when the water went in her mouth and nose.  but - holding with her arms around Mammas neck was quiet.  Said she hoped they would not send an old broken boat to save her. and said Mamma ask Jesus to save me too.

I find it strange I never heard this story.  Possibly my grandmother was too young to remember (age 3) or maybe it was traumatic and she never spoke about it.  I do not believe the boat in the photo is the one that overturned because 11 people would not have fit into it.  Also she refers to the overturned boat as a yacht, so I am assuming it was bigger boat.  I have no way of knowing but I assume this photo was taken after the incident.  The accident is probably the reason they took the photo.  They were all quite lucky to be rescued.  I find it amazing even if they all had on bathing suits that the clothes did not weigh them down. 

This is also a good example of how careful we must be making assumptions about photographs or any data.  In my original post I assumed the title "Party in the Wreck" was meant to be funny.  It now seems this photo was to document a harrowing experience!

It is such a treasure and rare event to find a family photo and then find supporting written documents that help explain the photo.  I love finding little bits and pieces of my ancestor's lives that go beyond the collection of names, dates, and places.  I think I will move the transcription of those diaries up a few notches on my "to do" list!


  1. This was a great story! I am also in the midst of transcribing my great grandfather's diary. His was contained in 4 ledger books and I have finished 3 of them so far. I am also making an every-name index. I find that each time I come across a new name I have to go and research that person. That has made it very time consuming! I hope to get finished this year...but I said that last year too! Sigh!

  2. Awesome! Thanks for the update on the picture. How wonderful to have ancestors that kept a diary.

  3. What a neat story and photograph! Thank you for posting 'the rest of the story' for us to enjoy!

    Perhaps you could do Amanuensis Monday blogs on the Diary?? :-)