The great part of getting your personal and family archives organized is that you can immediately access and use your materials to learn about your own history. Once I was able to organize my materials, using techniques discussed Creating Family Archives: How to Preserve Your Papers and Photographs, I could research my relatives much easier. The tips I outline in my upcoming webinar, Organize What's Meaningful to You, allowed me to get started on this ambitious project without getting overwhelmed.
This January, I started a project of scanning, transcribing, and annotating my grandfather's love letters to my grandmother leading up to their marriage in June 1940. The letters are chronologically organized and posted in real-time so you can follow their courtship as it happened. I've also been using the letters to help me decode their photographs, and searching through my photograph collection to decipher some of the details included in the letters.
I wondered if I was the only one interested about reading these letters! My own interest in my history was enough to keep me excited, but I pondered if it was worth the effort to create each post. Recently, I was spending a Sunday afternoon working on these letters, thinking these thoughts, when I received the following email. Glen, the writer, has allowed me to share this note, with identifying information removed:
I've just found your website today by accident. I have been trying to think about ways to write my own family history and the histories of others in a more systematic way and my searching brought me here.
I have read some of your posts featuring Ray's letters to Ann. He writes with beautiful economy, has the kind of precision about small details (costs, time taken traveling) that feature in some of my letters and includes such tender comments to Anne. He's very sweet but he doesn't gush; I like that.
I have some love letters, written in 1922, that [redacted] (who became my grandpa) wrote to [redacted] (whom he married in 1926). You make a comment about how Ray's letters to Ann show you a perspective on your grandparents that you never had. That is exactly how I feel. [Redacted's] letters are like a time machine, taking me back to a time and place that I could never otherwise experience, and it feels like a great privilege to be in possession of them. When I knew them, as a child, they were in their 60s and 70s. Grandpa seemed a bit dour and scary to us. He was not unkind, he just seemed taciturn and a bit severe, because I think he was shy and introverted. These letters, however, are the grandpa I never knew. They reveal a dutiful son, a sensitive young man, a conscientious employee and a dotting suitor.
Thanks so much for all your thoughtful content and for sharing both the family stories but also your thoughts on approaching letters, photographs and documents in a considered and analytical way, and in being grateful for them. They are treasures and it is good to remind myself that they are so.
Want to learn more? Join me to learn how to Organize What's Meaningful to You.
Catch up on Grandpa's Love Letters so far:
To learn the preservation secrets used by libraries, archives, and museums to protect their priceless materials (that you can also use for your family heritage items), read my book:
If you like archives, memory, and legacy as much as I do, you might consider signing up for my email list. Every few weeks I send out a newsletter with new articles and exclusive content for readers. It’s basically my way of keeping in touch with you and letting you know what’s going on. Your information is protected and I never spam.
Ready to get started creating your family archives? Here are some of my favorite products: