If you have ever engaged in any sort of family history research you will have trawled the usual on-line haunts for birth, death and marriage records.

You will have pestered your parents or your grandparents for stories and photos and jewelry and diaries – anything that will give you an insight into their life.

If your great-grandfather enlisted and fought in World War 1 or your great-grandmother ran messages for the IRA during the War of Independence you will have religiously checked through books and blogs and articles to try and get a sense of the world and community that they lived through.

I recently wrote a blog about my great-granduncle, Timothy McSweeney, and tried to imagine what it was like for him, and his family, when the attack on the RIC Barracks in Blarney in 1920 occurred and it was difficult, it would have been so much easier if there was a journal or a diary for me to pick up and read his, or someone else’s, own lived experiences.

So that’s why I am starting a journal for my grandchildren’s children (how mind-blowing is that!) so that they can learn what it was like to live in Cork during these unprecedented times. To be honest, I am dreading it, I am not a natural writer and putting anything down on paper has me writhing in embarrassment and self-consciousness.

But I believe that it is a good thing, not necessarily for you or me, but for the future who will want to know about their past, think of it as a letter to them!

And so to help and encourage you I have spent a happy few hours down various rabbit holes and have compiled a top ten list of how to get started writing a journal, along with images of diaries and journals from some pretty famous people over the years.

  • Use a cheap notebook, no need to splash out, but remember where you put it!


  • Keep your entries short.


  • Never write on the first page. It’s a lot of pressure to write the ‘right thing’ for the first page. Turn the page to the next fresh page, and start from there.


  • Don’t stress – it’s not supposed to be a chore or a test.


  • Keep it simple.


  • Maybe use lists to things you did, or saw or read online.


  • Don’t try to make it perfect – none of us are so why would this be?


  • Remember, this is for your descendants, in a hundred years time they won’t care about bad writing or spelling & will be thrilled to hold and read something that their ancestor, you, have written!


  • Don’t lose it!


  • Do not throw it out in a few years when you find it and are embarrassed at what you wrote, your ancestors won’t care.