This volume contains autobiographical sketches that John Alston of Glasgow, Scotland, composed for his children in 1789 (25 pages) and 1811 (5 pages). A descendant later used the volume to record genealogical information about three additional generations of the Alston family (6 pages).
Alston wrote a brief preface to his autobiography, which he signed "John Alston, Junr." The following 25 pages concern his life until 1789, with a focus on his early life and family. He wrote about his failed trip to North America in early 1759 and his journey through Spain after his ship, the Rebecca, was seized by a French privateer and subsequently stranded on the Spanish coast. Alston made his way back home and successfully sailed to Maryland later that year. When remembering his time in North America, he felt guilty about his perceived self-indulgence, and he vowed to prevent his children from leaving home until the age of 20 or 21. After recording his marriage to Patrick Craigie ("Patie") in 1772, he listed the names and birthdates of their children, including one who died after a smallpox inoculation (pp. 7-9). Alston later commented on the effect that the deaths of his wife and parents had on him, and he also discussed the dispersion of his father's estate. The second part of his autobiography, which he added on January 1, 1811, primarily pertains to his family history and genealogy. Genealogical notes concern John Alston's descendants to the generation of his great-grandchildren.