07 June 2010

Dear Diary - diaries of Eastern Kentucky

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber

I have kept a journal for many years. No, I don't write in it every day but it does include important moments in my life including deaths of loved ones, marriages and births. I call it a journal because every time I use the word diary I conjure up a 1950's little book with key and lock. The journal is on the computer and has been transferred numerous times to upgrade to the latest word processing program. It is backed up and hopefully someday my family will appreciate reading how thrilled I was during their special moments.

The William Lewis Geiger diaries are well known in Boyd County, Kentucky. Boyd County was formed in 1860 and Geiger's diaries begin on 1 January 1860 and continue to 1894. The original diaries are housed at the Boyd County Library and are microfilmed as well. Evelyn Jackson extracted the hard to read entries and a few years ago I indexed her extractions to make them more useful. So I was flabbergasted when I heard a library patron complain about the entries being boring when appearing in The Tree Shaker. Actually she was probably sorry she ever said it, as I explained to her that while we had no county history those diaries served as a day by day history of the development of our area. How lucky we are that they were donated to the library and had been so carefully preserved.

I remember being extremely excited when Col. John Paul Jones diaries were temporarily loaned to the the genealogy room by Robert Pogue De Benedictus of Newark, Licking County, Ohio. Jones was an early Ashland resident. These diaries began prior to the formation of Boyd County while still considered Greenup County. The gentleman had loaned them, short term, for a research project.

The library had an extraction of some religious entries in the vertical files. We are "assuming" the author was the diary owner, but the typed pages are not signed. I noticed that while the notations began in January 1858 they said simply "Revival," "To M. E. Church," or "Mr. T. preached." As I carefully turned the pages of the original diaries, I quickly realized they contained entries of slaves, deaths, births and historical notations that were not listed in the filed extraction.

With pad and pencil in hand I began to extract notations, over the next few days, as I read page by page. Sadly time ran out before I could complete my project and the final entry of 22 pages of extractions reads: "1877 books continue but extractions by Teresa Klaiber discontinued due to lack of availability." The diaries were returned to the owner. My extractions were typed and tucked away for another day.

During a recent project I pulled my extraction. Entries flowed and I again thought of the value of these type of records. "14 July 1858 Delaware Sands buried." "4 September 1858 C. C. Chinn died last night." "15 March 1859 Henry Stotts funeral." Entry after entry of valued genealogical information extracted in 2003. What had become of the original diaries?

Time after time I have seen valued original source material lost and years of genealogical research tossed to the wind. Records from one location end up thousands of miles away from home. I quickly contacted James Powers, who had been director of the library at the time we had the borrowed valued diaries. Powers located Robert Pogue De Benedictus obituary. My heart sank. De Benedictus died 23 May 2008. According to Powers his children were adopted. He had two sisters, Roberta, not married and Anotinette Newman and a niece Felicia A. Andrecht. When Powers had last spoken to "Bob" he had mentioned that he had not decided where the diaries would go.

The extractions are filed at the Boyd County Library. Hopefully the original diaries will resurface. There is a wonderful genealogy society in Licking County, Ohio. Maybe they will be instrumental in seeing that the diaries are returned to Boyd County, Kentucky if they are located.

I am sure neither Geiger nor Jones gave any thought to the historical value of their entries as they did their day to day business. I write in my journal and wonder if my grand daughter will enjoy the memories some day. I joke with computer son to not hit the delete key at my death. I also have told family, friends and library my wishes concerning my genealogical records.

We make history with every moment and every breath. I think I will post this in my journal.


  1. Thanks for sharing this.I love reading old diaries they usually reveal so much.

  2. I had a biology teacher at Russell High School around 1960 named Robert De Benedictus. I can't imagine that Mr. De Benedictus wouldn't have made a copy or put them on a CD. I believe that he was related to the Melvins in Flatwoods. What a wonderful find that must be found again!
    Thanks for sharing.....I will send up an atenna!