Mary Saunders McCheane is related to me three ways, none of them by blood. One of her brothers married my aunt, another brother married my father's cousin, and her daughter married my cousin.The Saunders family and the McCheane family were two of the five Quaker families which immigrated to Saskatchewan in the early years of the last century, the others being the Crabbs, the Wakes and the Hindes. The families had known each other in England but were unrelated except through their faith. A century later their descendants are all related.
Mary Saunders started a journal when she was twelve years old, as a child in a Quaker boarding school in Fritchley, Derbyshire. Her widowed father and older brother had come to Canada earlier to homestead and establish themselves in the new land. When she was sixteen, Mary joined them. Her childhood journal, written in a small notebook, was replaced by a large bound volume, which was filled in 1915, shortly before her marriage.
Mary Saunders McCheane resumed diary-keeping after her marriage, and continued, using the five-year diary format, for the rest of her life, which ended in 1992 when she was nearly 102 years old. Her daughter Ruth kept her diaries. Ruth lent me the two early journals, which I transcribed, completing the project in 2003.
Style in diary-writing and indeed journal-keeping exists on a continuum, with a record of purely physical events on one end of the continuum and a record of the events of the writer's mental landscape on the other. Mary's journal is of the first kind, like that of Elsie Hinde Ingram, and on the opposite end from that of Walter Bieber, of whom more later. Mary recorded what was going on in the world around her with virtually no reference to her opinions or her feelings. These had to be inferred from what she wrote about the facts of her life.
Lack of that personalizing of her writing is a loss in one respect, but in another it makes the story she tells of her early years homesteading much more widely relevant. In consideration of this I sent a copy of the transcription to the Saskatchewan Archives Board, where anyone wishing to research the pioneer years in Saskatchewan could have access to it.
As with Elsie Hinde Ingram's diary of decades later, I provided footnotes to the transcribed text wherever I felt that my urban children and grandchildren would be baffled by references to people, farming activities, social events, organizations and even patent medicines. The Internet was of considerable help in this effort; for example I now know the meaning of the term, "bile beans."
In addition to binding and distributing printed volumes of the book, I sent the text as an email attachment to several people. One of them, widow of my first cousin and first cousin also to Mary's daughter Ruth, put the text of the book on her web site.
Status: Project was completed in 2003, and the text can be seen online: http://chamness.org/Rachel/
Checking on this, I found that my cousin-by-marriage Rachel Chamness has also entered the text of the Elsie Hinde Ingram diaries which I recently sent her, into her web site.
The two volumes between them provide not only family history - my primary interest - but also Saskatchewan history - the one of the early pioneering period of the first decades of the 20th century, and the other of the depression and World War II.