Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Summer 2003

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 2, Summer 2003. ISSN 0196-7134


2003 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


Because the diaries that brought me to Camp Edit were those of a husband and a wife, I understood from the beginning the essential multi-vocality of my project. But I had no idea that what I then ,envisioned as a dialogue for me to orchestrate between the Reverend George Nelson Smith and his wife, Arvilla Powers Smith, would become a lively, sometimes heated, multi-generational family conversation where we are a privileged audience. Nor could I have known that the written texts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would be joined by other records, including oral ones from the present. The story that I had originally intended to tell, which I had titled "Voices in a Marriage," is now Part 1 of a saga about race, family identity, and memory that I am calling "Lines of Descent: Family Histories from the North Country." Let me introduce some of the storytellers and the larger history of which they are a part. And let me begin with George and Arvilla Smith, since my "discovery" of their diaries constitutes the origins story for this project.