01 January 2011

Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb wrote her own history. Is that enough?

We are still working on the third book of the M.J. Christensen series. This book is about Hazel Johnson Christensen and her ancestors. One of those ancestors is named Elizabeth. Elizabeth is my grandma's grandma, born in 1831 in Pennsylvania. When Elizabeth was 69 years old, she thought to write a "sketch" of her life, thinking it would be of some interest to her children. Yes, indeed it is, and has been for several generations. After that first sketch, written from memory, she wrote on several other occasions, in the form of journal entries. There she included several other incidents brought to mind by what she was writing. At age 79, she passed on to her reward, leaving this journal behind.

Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb
Now Elizabeth's own writing is a rich resource for the chapter containing her history. One of my sisters believes it should be the only source. However we also have a nice history written by one of Elizabeth's great-great grandsons. He leaves out more detail and personality revealed in her journal than I would have, but he also clarifies several things that needed explaining and he adds detail that she didn't think to add. To one who has not studied her life or her times, the journal can be confusing and even misleading. I also know that what she wrote was not always precisely the facts. She wrote from her 69+ year-old memory, after all. At 63, I don't have ready access in my mind to all the dates and places of my history either.

So, the question arises: should we just publish the newer history, containing many quotes from her "sketch," but also other interesting material, or should we put it aside in preference to Elizabeth's original journal? We did collect a few more photos and documents pertaining her to life and added them to the illustrations provided by the author. Are we finished? The words of my "original sources only" sister echo in my mind. I agree that Elizabeth's personality does shine more freely from her unedited writings. I know her better after reading her own words. The decision made today is to publish the polished history by our cousin and then add her own history and journal to the end of the chapter as an appendix. Some of the words will be repeated, but the oldest original we have will be available. (The handwritten copy has been lost.) I hope it is what she would have wanted.

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