Personal Records

Personal Records by Natalie ParkerI just finished reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Ever heard of it?  It’s what the movie Lincoln was based on.

I can say many things about the book (you should read it), but what amazed me was the way people kept personal records back then.

Goodwin goes into incredible detail in the book – what people where thinking, what Lincoln’s countenance was during a meeting, what he decided and when he decided it, what his cabinet thought about those decisions and so much more.

How was she able to weave this story together?  Personal records.  People back then kept their letters and wrote in diaries and journals what they thought about things.  The end of the book has pages and pages of references to these personal papers.

This makes me think how fleeting our personal records are today.  The records Goodwin consulted are safely resting in historical societies, archives, or other similar cultural institutions.  Most of our personal information now is electronic.

Remember when I said that paper is sometimes a more reliable format than electronic?  Think about Goodwin’s book and where she got that information from.