Sunday, September 20, 2009

Finding Sylvia's Diary

My maternal grandmother, G-Ma as she is known to her grandchildren, asked me to see what I could find on her Tyler line. I set out with a few names, a "I think there is a doctor in that line", and a dream.

I worked my way through the tree until I hit a brickwall with what I could find on I was stuck on a A.R. Tyler (1823-1879) and Emma A Dean (1836-?), who are the parents of Charles Tyler (1859-1944). With this little bit of information, I searched messaged boards and posted my own inquires. I eventually found a posting with an Abel R. Tyler listed as the son of an Abel and Sylvia (Lewis) Tyler.

I searched and searched for a connection to this Abel and Sylvia. Abel isn't that common of a name and according to this posting, their birth locations matched up with those listed on A.R. Tyler's Census records, but I wasn't finding anything new. My frustration grew and I ended up typing Abel and Sylvia's names into a search engine and found them in a newsletter from a local genealogy-based group in Trumbull, Ohio. This newsletter indicated that Sylvia not only had written a lengthy diary, but that it was in the possession of a national museum!

I thought I had died and gone to some kind of genealogy heaven! The newsletter article indicated that anyone with information on the Tyler or Lewis families should contact one of their local chapter members. I picked up my phone, dialed the number given, and opened the door to my greatest genealogical find.

The lady was most helpful and gave me the majority of the vital records I was missing to prove the connection. She had spent some time with the museum curator over the summer and they had explored the records and dissected Sylvia's life. We talked for a good hour about Sylvia and when I hung up the phone, I had the email of the museum curator.

The curator and I began to converse regularly about our dear Sylvia. Sylvia's diary was in the possession of the museum and they all had a special place for her in their hearts. I filled the curator in on A.R Tyler's descendants and she filled me in on his ancestors. She even shared with me transcripts from the diary.

I emailed the transcripts to my family and we all enjoyed reading Sylvia's words. Together we learned about life in frontier Ohio, we laughed because Sylvia only called her husband "Mr. Tyler", and we cried when she lost her baby. 200 years later and Sylvia had still touched our hearts.

Thinking that I had already been given my fair share of genealogical blessings, I told the curator that my husband and I would be moving to the Washington DC area at the end of the summer and that I would love to meet her. She in turn, invited me to see the diary in their archives!


  1. What a great find! I am so envious - a diary!
    Can't wait to read about when you see it in person the first time.

  2. This is such a neat story. I've enjoyed following it both here and before that through your Twitter updates. Thanks for letting us be in on your great find!

  3. This is one of the greatest gifts a researcher could get. We sometimes come across things others have written about our ancestors and their lives but they are often after the fact and open to interpretation. You have an actual account of her life in her words and her hand. Priceless.

  4. My name is Sylvia Abel and I am an Asian from Malaysia :)