Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guernsey Family Papers: Finding Aid
mssGuernsey family  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (118.63 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Family History
  • Bibliography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Guernsey Family Papers.
    Dates (inclusive): 1837-1957
    Bulk dates: 1840-1900
    Collection Number: mssGuernsey family
    Creator: Guernsey (Family)
    Extent: 1,419 items in 5 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection spans several generations of the Guernsey and Donaldson families and centers around Emeline Donaldson Guernsey (born 1819) of Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Iowa, and her immediate family, relatives, and friends. The letters, with the majority written by women, give a detailed account of the lives of farmers, millers, shop keepers and school teachers in 19th century Midwestern America. The collection includes over 1,300 letters including 200 "Round Robin" family letters, spanning the years 1899 to 1957, that were sent to each family member. The collection also includes over 250 letters of Civil War interest written by William D. Guernsey, Henry A. Guernsey and several other soldiers.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Guernsey Family Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Brown, March 1994.

    Family History

    Biographical Note

    Emeline Donaldson Guernsey, born in 1819 in Pennsylvania, was one of ten children born to Asa and Delia Allen Donaldson. She married Peter Buell Guernsey of Tioga, Pennsylvania, in the late 1830s. Peter died in a railroad accident in 1852. Six years later, in 1858, Emeline moved to Stacyville, Mitchell County, Iowa, to be near her sister and brother-in-law. There she settled on a farm bought and worked by her and her five children: William D. Guernsey, Henry A. Guernsey, Sarah Guernsey Beebe, Fannie Guernsey Orcutt, and Emma Guernsey Flint. In 1861 William, her oldest son, enlisted in the Fourth Iowa Cavalry and fought in the Civil War; Henry soon followed. With her sons gone, Emeline successfully managed the farm by herself while still managing to raise her three daughters. After the war, all of Emeline's children eventually married and moved away. In 1872, she sold her farm and moved to Illinois to live with her daughters. In the early 1880s, however, they all moved back to Iowa, including Emeline. Sarah Guernsey Beebe and her family remained in Iowa. Fannie Guernsey Orcutt and her family eventually moved to South Dakota. In the early 1900s, Emma Guernsey Flint and her family moved to Washington. Emeline's son, William D. Guernsey died of a sudden illness in 1879, at the age of 39. Henry A. Guernsey, her other son, moved out west to California, Oregon and Washington, where he lived for several years.

    Genealogy Chart

    Peter and Emeline's Family

    Peter B. Guernsey (1812-1852) m. Emeline Donaldson (b. 1819, Dec. 20)

    • 1. William D. (b. 1840, July 7-buried 1879, June 11) m. Ellen "Nellie" Flint (b. 1844, Jan. 5) Jan. 1868
      • Guy (b. 1872, Jan. 11)
      • Eleanor Louise
      • William D. (b. 1879?)
    • 2. Henry A. (b. 1844) m. Theisa McFarland (d. 1879?) 1866
      • Peter B. (b. 1869?)
      • Roy (b. 1874?)
      • Ruth L. Guernsey Bellah
    • 3. Sarah "Sadie" D. m. James Beebe, -married by 1874
      • Amy E. (alive by 1874)
      • Jessie Hollis (alive by 1877)
      • Ray G. (b. 1878, July 14)
      • Grace
    • 4. Fannie A. m. Joseph Wilson "Will" Orcutt (d. 1895, Oct. ) -married by 1877
      • Mary E. (b. 1879, Sep. 3, d. 1924, Oct. 9)
      • William G. (d. 1881)
      • Della D. (b. 1883, July 9)
      • Oren Guernsey
    • 5. Emma Buell (b. 1853, Apr. 3) m. Benjamin F. "Frank" Flint -married by 1893

    Guernsey Family

    Joseph Guernsey m. Sarah Rexford

    • 1. Joseph Warren m. Anna Brewster
      • Henry
        • Sady (d. 1864)
      • Brewster J. (b. 1827) m. Mary D. Donaldson in 1853
        • Edward S. m. May Stratton (d. 1892)
        • Ellen "Ella" A. (d. 1884)
        • Sereno E.
        • Peter B. m. Margaret
        • Lucius W. m. Martha Brown
        • Adelia E.
      • Joseph W. m. Julia
      • Alexander
      • Catherine A.
      • Charles B.
      • Anna B.
    • 2. Hiram m. Mariah W.
    • 3. Sophia m. Peter Williams
      • Charles G. m. Sarah
        • Elmer (b. 1861)
      • John
      • James W.
    • 4. Levi B.
    • 5. Eliza m. M. William Alworth
    • 6. John Warren (b. 1811, Jan. 28-d. 1882, Nov. 29) m. Susan Marriot Morris
      • Sophia m. (in 1871) John W. Putnam (b. 1847, Nov. 28)
      • daughter (Anna M.?) m. Oscar Farr
      • daughter died at age of 20
    • 7. Peter B. (b. 1812, Aug.20-d. 1852, Nov. 22) m. Emeline Donaldson (b. 1819) (Detailed family tree on page 4)
    • 8. Charles

    Donaldson Family

    Asa Donaldson m. Delia Allen - children not in order, except when noted

    • 1. John W. Donaldson (oldest son) m. Elizabeth Dorr 1840, and Harriet - 2 children
      • Edwards S. (b. 1845 July) m. Anna C.
      • Edson Burrit (b. 1848, Apr. 1)
    • 2. Emeline (b. 1819, Dec. 20) m. Peter B. Guernsey - Detailed family tree on page 4
    • 3. Dwight Dana (3rd oldest brother, 1821, Aug. 10-1865, Aug. 27) m. Adaline W.
      • Lucius Allen (b. 1850, Oct. 7) m. Minnie H.
        • Eunice Donaldson-France
      • George Field m. Carolyn A.
        • Harriet Wilkinson
    • 4. Amelia Lucinda m. Homer J. Stacy 1846?
      • Delia O.
      • Amy
      • B.F.
      • Emeline "Emma" Stacy Wall
        • Charlotte Wall
        • Ruth Wall Baker
        • Della S. Wall Berry - 1 child
          • Noreen Berry Nagy
      • Asa I.
        • Burton
          • Betty Stacy Hollatz
          • Miriam Stacy McCoy
          • Jeanne Stacy Neal
        • William H.
        • Esther Stacy Wright
      • Harriet Stacy Reeves - 1 child
        • Francis Reeves Lewis
      • Edmund m. Ella M.
      • Homer Isaac (b. 1847, d. 1850)
    • 5. Alfred E. (b. 1826) m. Lucretia Morrell 1856?
      • Frank E.
        • Maurine Donaldson Burgess
      • Carrie
      • Eunice
      • Florence
    • 6. Charles B. (d. 1865)
      • Charles A. m. Amy
        • Charles Weller
      • Charles O.?
      • Hattie Donaldson Mix
        • Olive Donaldson Mix
    • 7. Erasmus Joel Hawes m. Maria
      • Charles Norman m. Anna F.
        • Charles V.
      • Horace Allen
        • Eyla Donaldson Nelson
          • Alice Nelson Lee
          • Betty Nelson Wills
      • Alice Donaldson Stevens
        • Irma M. Stevens
    • 8. Henry Chapman, M. D. m. Bethiah 1849
      • Ira Bardwell (b. 1850) m. Ellen Smith 1873
      • Evelyn Amelia (b.1853)
      • Earl Sereno m. May Belle Delong
        • Olive (b. 1890)
        • Lula Bell (b. 1892)
        • Earl Sereno (b. 1898)
        • Ruby June (b. 1900)
      • Lizze E. Donaldson Duffin
    • 9. Lucius (d. 1849, Dec. 8)
      • Charles V.
      • Mary Perry Donaldson
    • 10. Mary D. m. Brewster Guernsey (*nephew of Emeline)
    • 11. Sereno (youngest) m. Frances Ellen Cushing
      • Fannie Donaldson Booth
        • Ermina Booth
        • Oscar Donaldson Booth
          • Norman Booth m. Marjorie
      • May Sereno Waynick
      • Josephine "Josie" Delia Donaldson Bull m. James G. Bull
        • Mary Bull James
      • Alice C. D. Riley


    Scott, William Forse. Roster of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, Veteran Volunteers, 1861-1865. New York: Press of J. J. Little & Co., 1902.
    Webb, Anne B. "Forgotten Persephones: Women Farmers on the Frontier," Minnesota History, Winter 1986: 134-148.

    Scope and Content

    This collection 1,384 letters, written by 158 different authors, and 33 pieces of ephemera. The collection spans several generations of the Guernsey and Donaldson families. The correspondence centers around Emeline Donaldson Guernsey, her immediate family, relatives and friends. The letters give a detailed account of the lives of farmers, millers, shop keepers and school teachers in 19th century Midwestern America. The letters cover a wide range of aspects of their lives, such as family events, their day-to-day activities, trips to visit family and friends, farming, financial hardships, business interests and real estate transactions. Because the majority of the correspondence was written by women, the letters also give a strong female perspective of life on the frontier. There are over two hundred "Round Robin" family letters, spanning the years 1899 to 1957, that were sent to each family member. When the letters arrived, the family member would write a letter, add it to the group and send it on to the next person on the route card. The collection includes over 250 letters of Civil War interest written by William D. Guernsey, Henry A. Guernsey and several other soldiers. Both William and Henry wrote letters home dealing with army life and their experience in the war. The ephemera consists of biographical information, Confederate currency, printed materials, and three photographs.
    Indexing subjects:

    Donaldson, Alfred E.: Subject in Biographical Information. Box 5, Folder 25

    Guernsey, William D., 1840-1879: Subject in Biographical Information. Box 5, Folder 25


    Arranged alphabetically by author.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Guernsey, Emeline Donaldson, 1819-
    Guernsey, William D., 1840-1879.
    United States. Army. Iowa Cavalry Regiment, 4th (1861-1865)
    Family farms -- Iowa.
    Frontier and pioneer life -- Iowa.
    Women farmers -- United States.
    Women pioneers -- United States.
    Great Plains -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
    Middle West -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
    Tioga (Pa. : Township)
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
    West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.


    Letters (correspondence) -- Great Plains.
    Letters (correspondence) -- Middle West.

    Alternate Authors

    Beebe, Sarah Guernsey.
    Flint, Emma Guernsey.
    Guernsey, Emeline Donaldson, 1819-
    Guernsey, Henry A., 1844-
    Guernsey, William D., 1840-1879.
    Orcutt, Fannie Guernsey.