The pen is mightier than CDs, email, Twitter, and other electronic communication! I was listening to National Public Radio and heard a story about a packet of letters found along the New Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy. They were tied with a pink ribbon and were from the 1940s. The people who found them wanted to do all they could to return them to the owners.
After considerable searching, they found the granddaughter of the letter’s author. The packet consisted of love letters sent by the woman’s grandmother to her grandfather when he was in the military. The letters told of her longing for him, as well as giving him details about their upcoming wedding. The granddaughter had never seen these letters and felt that it gave her wonderful insights into her grandparents. This story made me wonder... what material correspondence will be passed on to the next generations? Technology changes so quickly that recorded CDs, tapes, emails, etc. are quickly obsolete. We don’t all have the time/patience/money to continually convert them into the latest format.
Here at MGC, we hear stories all the time of patrons who found letters from ancestors and were captivated by the information they found. While it may not add to their research, the letters are treasures. Even old written items like autograph books give a fun sense of your relative. I have some letters from my grandmother, whom I did not know, written to her son in the seminary. The letters give details of daily life, news about the family, and neighborhood gossip. I love to get these letters out and imagine her sitting at the table scribbling a note. I am so thrilled that my uncle kept those letters in the old cigar box!
When my husband and I were going together, he was about 500 miles away for the two years before we got married. We wrote every day, believe it or not! While we will probably sort and weed them, our grandchildren will have a sense of how our relationship grew.
So, please don’t throw away those old letters you received from your mom, your husband, or your grandma -- save them for posterity! And, take some time to write something to your children or grandchildren! They can at least see what your handwriting looks like! Don’t email that newsy note -- take a few minutes to write and send it. Even in this modern era, I think we all still like to get something personal in the mail!
Midwest Genealogy Center