Producing Coherent Narratives from Family Diaries and Memoirs

  • William Sims BainbridgeEmail author
Part of the Human–Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


The essential form of literature is narrative, a meaningful and well-organized story about human beings. Yet in the modern world it often is supported by technology, through which history can bridge from the humanities to the social sciences. Family history narratives are perfected forms of memoirs, possessing rigor, incorporating materials from multiple sources, and having some story, plot, theory, or theme. This chapter shows how coherent narratives can be distilled from diaries and letters, with clear examples such as a boy growing up using 23 years of his mother’s diaries during 1915–1938, and courtship letters from his father to his mother during 1909–1911. Examples of retrospective diaries based on episodic memories, and the expansion of a written family memoir into a wiki, illustrate the range of methods available to family historians today. The potential deeper meaning of diary-based narratives is considered in the famous cases of the Robert Falcon Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1911–1912, and the famous flights of Richard E. Byrd in 1926–1927. Byrd illustrates the tension between fame and fact, drama and documentation, because his claim to have flown over the North Pole appears to have been false, and his flight across the Atlantic Ocean was publicized in such a way as to hide the probable reason why his plane crashed, which the diary of his doctor reveals.


Episodic Memory Mohegan Cadet Company Reginald Pound John Seaman 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent historianChantillyUSA

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