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Old Letters or a Diary



If you are fortunate to have located one or more old letters written to or by an ancestor or better yet, a diary or journal or even vintage postcards, they kept for any length of time, you now have a treasure of insight to that ancestor’s life during a certain time frame. True, many of such letters or a diary can be plain, general daily life experiences including about the weather. But by really examining, even drawing out some general facts or comments written, you can gather quite a bit of information.

I recently acquired letters written by my husband’s great aunt about how she cared for her mother, my husband’s great grandmother in her final years. There was a good deal written about everyday household items but some real insight on the care of an elderly mother back in 1940. It did give better understanding by this great aunt. The letters were written to her sister (my husband’s grandmother) who lived in another state, and demonstrates how close the sisters were.

When locating any letters or journal or diary, go through and take general short notes of what is happening. From such notes you can weave more of the human interest side of an ancestor into the family history. Write summary paragraphs which would be easier reading than a bunch of diary entries or full letters. Remember to cover the main points but keep it short.

Next, my husband’s mother’s diary for the year 1956 is another new acquisition which will be used to provide further insight into the family history.

Of course, it does make you wonder what will our descendants have to examine in 50 years — emails and Facebook??

Photos: 1939 Diary, vintage letters, and 1842 letter.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Donate Civil War Letters

How to Preserve Old Letters

Transcribe Old Documents

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