Aim of the Project

The archive honours the daily lives of rural people. It encourages future research by making these under-used sources which are often handwritten and fading, accessible to all. It broadcasts the availability of other diaries in archives across the province. The website will continue to grow as new collections are located. 

Let us introduce you to a few of the diarists.

Carver Simpson:

Do you like “rats” (muskrats), hunting, fishing, doodling, even taxidermy? Then you will like Carver Simpson who gloomily writes in his diary (February 13, 1882) “I went to school, a hard spot for boys.” Check out his great doodles.

 arver Simpson Diary Excerpt


    Farmer's son, Carver Simpson Diary, 1871 & 1881-1882, Courtesy of the
    Dufferin County Museum.




Garrison Shadd & Sons:

The script changes as Garrison’s sons, William, Alfred, and Charles, take up the authorship of this rare African-Canadian diary under the direction of their father. Garrison is the son of the famed abolitionist and “conductor” on the Underground Railway, Abraham Doras Shadd, and brother of Mary Ann Shadd, the first black woman in North America to publish a newspaper. Experience the everyday life of Garrison and sons who left their own special legacy.

 hadd boys                                      

    Farmers, Garrison Shadd Diary, 1883-1885, Courtesy of Buxton National Historic Site & Museum










John Ferguson:

“Father shot our dog “Rover" this morning.” 

“Went to the Edmonton Fair this morning with six ram lambs and a Durham heifer calf received a 1st and 2nd prize … girls were rather scarce but select.”

John Ferguson, 1869


    Farmer's son, John Freguson Diary, 1869, Courtesy of PAMA Archives, William
    Perkins Bull fonds










Lucy Middagh:

“…Cleland Workma got his foot in the logs when they were Sawing wood and it was all Chewed up and the Doctors took it off below the nee poor unfortunate boy.” 

“Charles went to a wood bee at Carsons Min and Tory went to John Peters Smiths to a quilting bee …”    

 randmother, Lucy Middagh


    Grandmother, Lucy Middagh Diary, January 1885 & 1887, Courtesy of Gail Spanier, Laure Jansen & Catharine








Questions to Ask Your Diary and Suggested Readings and Links can help you unlock the riches within these diaries.

Hear the Diarists Come to Life Through Radio Shows

Catharine Wilson's graduate students have put together several radio shows to be broadcasted on CFRU Radio. Check them out here.

Can anyone participate in transcribing?

Anyone is welcome to contribute to the site by transcribing – no special expertise is required and registration is optional. All you have to do is simply select a page and get started. For more information on transcribing see:

About the Collections

The diaries featured on Rural Diary Archive are drawn from archival and museum collections across the province with the digital copies created for this website being housed at the Rural Diary Archive project’s secure digital storage site at the University of Guelph. The list of diarists is not all inclusive. Those featured are legible, extensive and interesting. We will continue to add new content, so check back! If you would like to donate diaries or suggest items for inclusion contact us.

What technology powers the site?

The transcription pages use Drupal for content management and the Scripto plugin for transcribing.

Other questions?

Please contact us.