Document analysis: Diary 3 (Armstrong)

Kirsten Mulrennan and Rachel Murphy, 'Opening a window to the past: Researching archival diaries', University of Limerick Special Collections and Archives Department website ( (Date accessed).

Diary P6/1769

Click on each highlighted area to read more about this diary's unique formatting features, written by Jess Armstrong in 1914, from the Armstrong Collection.

See P6/1769 Armstrong diary pp 16 and 17 to read these pages in a higher resolution.

Read Jess Armstrong's diary in full on the UL Digital Library.

Diary P6/1769
P6/1769: Inserts P6/1769: Date of entry P6/1769: Overlapping entries P6/1769: Scribbles and notes P6/1769: Pen and ink P6/1769: Ligatures

P6/1769: Inserts

Remember to be careful when opening a document! Diaries and other personal archives sometimes include inserts – pieces of paper, photographs or newspaper clippings inserted between pages, sometimes loose, and sometimes glued in. It is important to know exactly where the insert was included by the original author, so that we can better understand its context.

Jess Armstrong regularly included newspaper clippings in her diaries – this one records the recent engagement of one of her relatives, Evelyn Hope.

Remember: for inserts that are glued on to the page, some of the text underneath may be unreadable.


P6/1769: Date of entry

Luckily in this printed diary, the day, month and year are clearly visible on each page, even if the author has written over them in several pages. Here, the entry was made on Tuesday 16 February, 1914.


P6/1769: Overlapping entries

While the days, months and year of this diary are clearly recorded, and the author helpfully includes a line at the end of each diary entry, sometimes these overlap – here, Thursday's entry runs a little into Friday's allotted portion of the page. Likewise, Saturday's entry is so extensive, that it fills up the free space allowed for additional 'Memoranda'.


P6/1769: Scribbles and notes

This author squashes as much text as possible into each available space, even including vertical text for additional notes. At least she has drawn a border around it, to help distinguish it from the main text! How would you represent this format while transcribing this diary?

Read more on transcription here.


P6/1769: Pen and ink

Jess' handwriting is quite cramped, and she leans quite heavily on the pen, meaning the ink is sometimes unevenly distributed, and the heavy ink, combined with her handwriting style, can make some words quite hard to decipher. However, as with many handwriting styles in primary sources, the more familiar you become from studying an individual's writing style, the easier it is to decipher over time.

The first sentence for Wednesday 18 February 1914 reads: 'Went down the town, & did some shopping, after lunch I tidied things, & then changed.'


P6/1769: Ligatures

Common ligatures include the ampersand, &, to represent the word 'and'. Here, Jess' own shorthand for the word 'and' looks more like the number '2' than the traditional '&' symbol.