The Church Historian's Press

Editorial Method

This website presents complete and annotated transcripts of all forty-seven known diaries of Emmeline B. Wells. These transcripts were produced largely in accordance with the editorial conventions developed by the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

Rules of Transcription

The initial transcriptions for this website were made from the original diaries, which are housed at L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Images of the diaries are accessible online at Digital Collections, Brigham Young University. The transcripts have been verified twice, sometimes three times, against scanned images or the original diaries.

Wells’s diaries are handwritten. She wrote the entries, except that her daughters Belle Whitney Sears and Annie Wells Cannon took over writing in 1917. Wells’s daughters also made a few inscriptions elsewhere in the diaries.

Most of the diaries have preprinted dates with a blank page for each day of the year; others have smaller preformatted spaces for two or three entries per page. Many volumes include almanac entries and general useful information at the beginning, with formatted pages for memoranda, cash accounts, addresses, and other types of information at the end.

Coverage dates of some of the volumes overlap one another. Occasionally Wells also used space in an earlier diary to make entries for a later year, thereby mixing together entries from different years into one volume. For user convenience, entries are presented on the website in chronological order (as opposed to having artifactual order preserved), with notes explaining unusual situations.

The overall transcription approach is to reproduce the original, word-for-word. Individual letters or small groups of letters that do not amount to a word, canceled or not, are silently emended.

Misspellings are preserved, without sic being employed. Other characteristics of the inscription are reproduced as closely as is possible and practical. As Wells aged, her eyesight, and therefore, her handwriting deteriorated, making it difficult to read her later diary entries. The editors have represented the characters Wells wrote to the extent possible.

Cancellations and insertions

Words canceled in the original have been struck through in the diaries, regardless of cancellation method. Insertions (that is, additions made after the initial inscription) are set off in <angle brackets>. Insubstantial cancellations and insertions—those used only to correct spelling and punctuation—are silently emended, and only the final spelling and punctuation are reproduced. If the correction alters the meaning, the underlying word is transcribed as a strikeout and the correction written thereafter as an <insertion>. If it is apparent that the correction was made before Wells had continued writing, the preferred word simply follows the canceled one without insertion marks.

Insertions above or below a line of text or written in a margin are indicated by <angle brackets> at the apparent intended point of insertion. Text that is inserted above the preprinted date and that is clearly not a continuation of the previous page is included in <angle brackets> after the editorial date heading.

Date headings

Standardized headings giving dates and days of the week have been supplied in bold typeface for each entry to aid in navigating the diaries. Preprinted dates are not reproduced in the transcript. If Wells included her own date, it is reproduced as it appears in the diary, meaning that her dating, if any, will follow the standardized editorial date heading. On occasion, Wells failed to make entries for given days. Where a date heading is missing, the reader can correctly understand that Wells made no entry for that date.

Editorial insertions and descriptions

Words, letters, or punctuation marks inserted by the editors to expand, correct, or clarify the text are enclosed in [square brackets].

An illegible word is represented by the italicized word [illegible] in brackets.

Illegible characters are represented with diamonds (◊). Repeated diamonds represent the approximate number of illegible characters (e.g., sto◊◊◊s).

Hyphenations and line ends

Words hyphenated or otherwise divided at the end of one line and the beginning of another are reproduced as though written on the same line and hyphenated or not according to modern usage.

Line ends are neither typographically nor symbolically represented.


As noted above, Wells often used preprinted diaries. These diaries generally included a section at the back that was preformatted for miscellaneous notes, financial tabulations, and other kinds of information. These pages often bear preprinted headings such as Memoranda, Cash Accounts, and Addresses.

Occasionally Wells used this space at the back of the diary for regular dated entries, in which case those entries appear on this website in chronological order with other dated entries. When she used this space for other purposes—such as to keep track of expenditures or to record addresses of acquaintances—the inscribed material is presented in a single section titled “Memoranda” at the end of the relevant year. Preprinted headings within the Memoranda section, such as “Cash Account,” are reproduced in the transcript in small capital letters if they are relevant to the text inscribed by Wells.

Noncontemporaneous text

Text that appears to have been inscribed later, such as notes added later in the diaries by Wells’s daughters, is included in the transcript. In such cases, textual notes explain the later dating. Library markings or notes evidently made by library patrons are not included.

Pagination and page breaks

Some diaries have preprinted page numbers while others have handwritten numbers—and some have both. Page numbers, whether printed or handwritten, are placed at the end of the transcribed page in [square brackets] to note the end of a page.

To aid readers who are using the transcripts in conjunction with the digital images published online by Brigham Young University, the image number (as it appears in the navigation tool) from the digital repository is included in {curly brackets}. Therefore, many of the diary entries will have two page numbers to mark the end of the page: [p. 31] {p. 58}.

In rare cases, when an unknown person added page numbers to a book that Wells had already paginated, only Wells’s page numbers are reproduced.

Paragraphs and blank lines

Paragraphs are given in standard format, with indention regularized and with blank lines between paragraphs generally omitted. However, in rare cases, blank lines are noted when it is apparent that Wells intentionally left blank space for the purpose of adding text later.

All diary entries are left-aligned, even if the original appears to show centered or right-aligned text, unless tabular data is being reproduced, in which case the transcript reproduces the original alignment to the extent practical.

People and place names

The diaries contain thousands of personal names, including many partial names, nicknames, and abbreviated names. If a name is incorrect or incomplete in the diary, the complete and correct name is supplied in brackets for the first mention in each year of the diary. For women, the supplied name is generally the given name, maiden name, and married name (if any) at the time. For men, the supplied name is generally the given name, middle initial, and surname.

A state name is supplied in square brackets for towns and cities outside of Utah. No state name is given for well-known cities, such as New York City and Chicago.

A biographical register is currently being produced in connection with the work of annotating the diaries. The register identifies the large majority of the individuals in Wells’s diaries and, for most of them, the specific dates on which they appear in the diaries. The register will eventually be made available in the Church History Catalog.

As a related but distinct effort, fully documented biographical entries for many individuals who appear in the diaries have been prepared and published under the People tab on this site.

Users of this site researching specific names are encouraged to utilize the site’s search tool.

Punctuation and character styles

Punctuation is faithfully rendered as it appears in the diaries. Dashes are generally standardized to en length and are generally followed by a character space.

When ditto marks are not directly below the text that is being repeated, the repeated text is supplied in [square brackets].

In the transcript, A.M. and p.m. are standardized as such, following Wells’s general pattern.

Approach to Annotation

The editors have made significant efforts to contextualize the diaries of Emmeline B. Wells. Each diary is prefaced with a source note identifying and briefly describing the diary artifact. For each year of the diaries, a list of selected events and a short introduction provide helpful entry points. Within the diary transcripts, two forms of footnotes appear—textual and contextual. Notes labeled with the word “text” comment on textual matters that cannot be well represented in the transcript. The bulk of the footnotes are contextual, shedding light on events, people, places, and written or published works mentioned in the diaries. Particular attention has been given in the notes to women’s history themes, such as Wells’s involvement with the Relief Society and with local and national women’s political organizations. Other pages on this site, such as the chronology, biographical entries, and general introduction (labeled “About”), provide additional historical information.

Sources are often cited in a short form in annotation. Full entries for sources cited are given in the list of works cited, accessible under “Reference Material” on the home page. Documentation from the biographical entries is not included in the list of works cited but is contained with each entry.

Wells is generally called “EBW” in annotation.

Policies for Sacred, Private, and Confidential Information

As noted above, the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University, which owns the original diaries, has made all of the diaries digitally available. With respect to the transcripts published on this website, the Church History Department has long-standing policies that govern the publication of sacred, private, or confidential information. In publishing transcripts of Wells’s diaries, we have sought to honor these principles while also making as much information as possible available and clearly indicating any omissions. As such, a few details of the diaries have been withheld, such as information about temple ceremonies. In every instance where the text has been redacted, a notation has been made in the text explaining the reason for and extent of the redaction.

Cite this page

Editorial Method, The Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells, accessed June 14, 2024