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Return to Manuscripts and Journals
"Journal of an Emigrant: With Rough Notes and Memorandum"
Catharine Parr Traill was an habitual diarist when conditions and good health allowed her sufficient leisure to make regular entries. It is likely that she set out from the time of her leaving Scotland to keep a regular record of her emigration to Canada and settlement experiences, and that she later used her bound journals to provide data for her first book-length commentary on her emigration, The Backwoods of Canada (1836). As a diarist, Catharine generally avoided the personal and concentrated on close observation of her new home, its landscape, climate, and distinctive flora and fauna. Given such diligent record-keeping, it is fascinating to study the one surviving early journal written in Catharine's hand. Here one sees an observant and attentive young woman in her daily contact with a new world; here one has a set of intimate glimpses of the writer's mind in action.
This one surviving journal covers the period between April 9, 1837 and April 1838, thus providing a year in the life of a keen, sympathetic and watchful settler. It includes a record of the birth of Catharine's third child, Hal, as well as observations on the outbreak of the Rebellion of 1837. The first entry in this journal, from April 9, 1837, and entitled "Journal of an Emigrant: With Rough Notes and Memorandum," is featured on this website. For more extensive reading and study, there is also a typed transcription of this entry, itself a part of the Traill Family Collection. The transcription was undertaken by Sara Eaton in Ottawa in 1965-66, when she was preparing her biographical study of Traill entitled Lady of the Backwoods (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969).