Bergen County Diaries and Diarists

Nineteenth-century diarists recorded faithful, running accounts of neighborhood events such as births, marriages, and deaths as well as accidents, fires, unusual weather events, local happenings and celebrations, and even national and world events.

These journals are a fascinating look into life in Bergen County more than 150 years ago and a few journals evolved over time into scrapbooks—layering more history into their pages. Diarists were the “local reporters” of their neighborhoods faithfully noting events that went otherwise unrecorded—and some record births and deaths are not found in official County or State vital records or religious records!

Bergen County, no doubt, had many diarists (men as well as women) and a few of these precious journals have survived. The Bergen County Historical Society, Ridgewood Historical Society, Bolger Heritage Center, Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives (SC/UA), and other historical institutions hold the original diaries, copies of diaries, and/or transcriptions of diaries. Those we know of and have transcribed were written by Martha Ann Zabriskie and her sister Adaline, Charity Ackerman, Martha Ferdon, Elizabeth Ann (Lizzie) Campbell, and Lavinia Hopper Dater.

Maria “Ree” Pratt Hopper, a lifelong genealogist and Co-President of the GSBC, has presented on these diarists and conducted projects to preserve the information contained within them. Hopper, Pat A. Wardell, and other GSBC volunteers led the GSBC’s efforts to document and transcribe these materials. Over the years, the GSBC has transcribed and published transcriptions from many of the diaries for all to use and enjoy (see PDFs, below).

“Introduction to the Diarists” by Pat A. Wardell
Contains biographical information about Martha Ann Zabriskie, Charity Ackerman, Martha Ferdon, Elizabeth Ann (Lizzie) Campbell, and Lavinia Hopper Dater; as well as a list of deaths recorded in the diaries that are not found in New Jersey's official death records.
GSBC The Archivist — “Introduction to the Diarists” (PDF, 140KB)

The Diarists and Years Extant of Diaries

Diarist (birth–death) Diary Years Collection
Martha Ann Zabriskie (1814–1838) 1829–1838 (died) Bergen County Historical Society (BCHS) Library (transcript)
Adaline Zabriskie Esler (1828–1870) 18381841 BCHS (copies; transcript)
Charity Ackerman (1819–1906) 1836–1841 Ridgewood Historical Society (Original)
GSBC (High-res photos)
BCHS (Copies)
Maria Ferdon (1827–1912) July 1863–Oct 1891 BCHS
Lavinia Hopper Dater (1819–1903) 1864 (Private Collection)
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ann Campbell (1849–1931) 1865–1890 Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, New Brunswick, NJ

Published Resources

“Introduction to the Diarists” by Pat A. Wardell AND Full Transcripts of the Journals of Martha Ann Zabriskie (writing, 1829–1838); Adaline Zabriskie Esler (writing, 1838–1841); and Charity Ackerman (writing 1819–1906)
This download includes the introduction to the lives of the diarists by Pat Wardell (above) as well as all pages as they were originally published in the GSBC's The Archivist newsletter—including transcriptions, corrections, and additions.
GSBC The Archivist — Zabriskie-Ackerman Diaries ALL [PDF, 24 MB]

Diaries of Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ann Campbell (1865–1890)
Published in The Archivist in 2000 to 2002, and 2006 (some years were not transcribed) and collected into a clean document. A complete copy of this file is also available at the Bolger Heritage Center, Ridgewood Public Library.
GSBC The Archivist — Transcription of the Diaries of Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ann Campbell [PDF, 140KB]

Marie Ferdon’s Journals (July 1863–October 1891)
An introduction and transcription of Marie Ferdon's journals available at the Bergen County Historical Society's website:
Maria Ferdon Journals @ The Bergen County Historical Society [PDF, 422k]

If you know of any other Bergen County (or early Passaic County) Diaries, or have copies of these materials that we could transcribe and publish, please let us know at