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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Entries in research tips (29)

Thursday
Nov182010

Transcribing Love Letters

Proven true in recent media, the remnants of a relationship are hard to delete thanks to wonderful technology saving allllll the juicy details. When it comes to researching your pre-computer-internet ancestors, finding a letter, a signature, or writing on the back of a picture; little snippits of their handwriting and thoughts are PRICELESS. Living in a world with instant 24/7 access to anything, it's hard to believe the amount information we've lost.

Letter from Wentworth to Edith 1919

When I was a not-so-desperate-newbie genie I sifted through documents and pictures from an old box of stuff from my parents. It was hard to start my search in an organized way with a vast array of information from different family lines. One of my first projects was to organize, transcribe, and preserve a series of letters from my Great Grandfather Wentworth Middleton to my Great Grandmother Edith Shaw Middleton. The letters start in 1914 while they dated and end in 1924 married for 8 years. Wentworth had to travel out of town for his job with The Crucible Steel Company for weeks at a time and during the summers Edith would go down the jersey shore. My father rememebers Edie as a "family historian" of sorts and I'm so thankful these letters found their way to me, I will save them!

how to preserve original letters and documents

The letters weren't organized well and I spent many hours squinting and examining the loose pages and envelopes. I absolutely love Wentworth's beautiful writing, but it did take some effeort to learn his style. In all there are 28 letters and they are one of my most treasured items. I spent hours transcribing the original documents to digital format. Once printed the transcriptions were put in acid free plastic inserts with the orginal letter and envelope behind. A great way to enjoy and preserve these pieces of history.

I want to inspire you to break out that box and see what stories you have to preserve. You don't have to read or transcribe every document to make the first step. This could be a great family activity for post thanksgiving dinner (or pre dinner if your bird just won't cook!). There's probably a dormant genie in your family just waiting for some motivation.

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