Cutting to the chase

This page gives a brief general overview of the Team's main research activities and the current state of play in each area. More details are provided in the pages which follow.

Textual Analysis

Amongst other things, this research has looked at dialect words, and tried to compare them with what is known about their place of origin. We've only been able to make general observations using this approach and, while we can rule out some locations, we can't pinpoint the place/s the Diarist/s lived by this means alone.

More recent research has looked at the incidence of certain words such as "merrily" and "heartily" and noted where they occur in the book. What emerges is a clustering of these words in certain parts of the book and their absence in other parts. As well as suggesting more than one writer, this pattern seems to re-inforce the story that there were originally four notebooks bound together. But if so, they appear to have been bound in the wrong chronological order. This might help to explain why the dates of the Diary entries appear muddled.

Finding the ladies

We're no further forward in finding Margaret the land-girl. We think her maiden surname may have been Hudson. While there is no sign of an engagement or wedding ring in the photos of her, she may well have married later on. But, so far, we've not traced her marriage. She could have married an overseas serviceman and emigrated after the war, which would make it much harder to find her.

The search for Lady Susan took us to Winchcomb and Susannah Tracy nee Weaver, wife of baronet Henry Tracey. She died in 1783 which matches with the hair dying incident in the Diary. Unfortunately we've not been able to learn any more about the Anne Hughes of Winchcomb who wrote to Henry Tracy in relation to a challenge to one of his titles and properties.

We also discovered a Hannah Safrona Hughes nee Davies, wife of John Hughes. They were quite possibly the parents of the John Hughes who married Prudence Wells. One of the latter couple's descendants married into a family, one branch of whom lived at Ballingham, Herefordshire, thus connecting with Jeanne Preston's childhood stories.

Jeanne's childhood memories

Researching Jeanne's accounts of her childhood visit to "Ballingham Manor" involved researching the family trees of the occupants of Ballingham Hall Farm and their relations. From this we discovered that the extended family surnames included many of the surnames found in the Diary.

The hunt for the soldier

We only recently discovered the name of the last unidentified American soldier in Jeanne Preston's wartime photo album. True to form, having discovered the names of so many other men in both the 6th Armored Division and the 38th Engineer Regiment, it is this last man who we think Molly was describing when she talked about the man who borrowed the original diary manuscript. His name is Hoyt Oliver of Addison, Alabama

The following pages look at all this in greater depth.