Every time I work on one of these letters I am overwhelmed by the leads they contain and the finite details, discovered and unknown, of the lives that once intertwined with my ancestors. So many people disconnected, so many stories left behind... what a gift that technology gives us the opportunity to re-connect and retrace their steps.
I'm back! Again. As always, life is busy. Which, is a good thing right? Let's not mess around with a preamble - here is a letter from Sushannah Atkinson Haskins to Nellie Debenham. Spoiler Alert: Sushannah joined the LDS church and kept it secret from her daughters, that lived with her, for over 2 years!
Has it really been seven months? I miss all these old ghosts. I'm kicking off this next set of posts with letters from Sushannah Atkinson Haskins. My 2nd Great Aunt on my father's father's side. Between 1933 and 1948, Sushannah and her daughters, Edith & Dorothy, sent letters from their home in Brisbane, Australia to my Grandfather Benjamin and his sister Nelly Draisey Atkinson in Salt Lake City Utah.
It was such a lovely treat to find this hand drawn map inside a letter from Jim. How fun it would have been if he had sent maps with each letter? More news of changes to Ipswich. So little in details of their personal and daily activities. Perhaps at this point in their lives, Jim & Polly were both 83, all they could physically manage was to watch the town grow.
I’m anxious to wrap up the Witter letters. Not because I’m bored with Mr. Witter and his tales from Ipswich, but simply because once I finish his letters, I can move on to the next stranger’s letters. These two (2) letters from 1931 are filled with news of the Freebie Assistant Department, earthquakes in New Zealand, birthdays, unemployment, more town changes, the stuck up Meadows, grandchildren, the Harveys, and more.
Another letter, a few hundred more questions. This is the fourth time that the Meadows family have come up in a letter from Jim. I wonder how close Alice or her children, Hilda & Winifred, were with them. Alice left Ipswich in 1906 when Hilda was 10 & Winifred 11. Did the Meadows girls babysit them? So many stories to discover, so little time.
I can only imagine how Alice must have felt when she received each of these letters. Was her heart racing to hear news from back home? Did she unfold them quickly? Unwrap them slowly? Caress the paper as her friends shared details of their lives and those she left behind? How I wish I had the letters she had written in response! This delightful letter is filled with more changes to Ipswich and more.
Another lovely letter from Jim Witter from 1927 covering more changes in Ipswich, Suffolk, UK. What a surge of growth! In the course of researching this letter I discovered even more about Jim Witter & his children (step-children!) and got completely sidetracked with the Harvey family. It happens. Family history is full of forks in the road and fascinating discoveries...
An empty envelope (well almost), a Christmas card, and news of more neighbors deaths from Ipswich 1925, including the town clerk struck by a truck. I do wonder what happened in Ipswich in 1924...
Somewhere there is a letter looking for this 13 July 1924 envelope, at least, I hope so. To send only a name and address seems most curious given how chatty Mr. Witter tends to be. Hopefully the letter will appear...
Letter from Mr. James George Witter describing to Alice changes in Ipswich England. It seems Mr. Witter knew the whole town! Aldous, Burgess, Cowell, Egerton, Everson, Gallaway, Harvey, Meadows, Rose, Reid, Stannard, Sparrow, Tindell, Tollemache and so many more!
Sometimes, the sender of these old letters is self-explanatory. A clear signature on the page easily traced in the genealogy tree. A name and return address on the letter or envelope. Stories told that clearly establish the author's relationship to the recipient. But sometimes, you have to sleuth your way to the sender's identity.
I knew when I decided to restore some old photos that it would be nice to see the image improved and get a closer look at the faces. I never thought it would lead to travel, twins, abandonment and death! This is the story of Martha Atkinson.
Sometimes, it takes a voice from the past to put the present in perspective. This simple letter from Tilly, written in November 1940, was a gentle reminder to stop feeling overwhelmed with my life in general. Damn. I have it so good.
The UK 1911 Census is a great way to match handwriting to old letters as it was the first census the household members filled out on their own. Thanks to that census, I was able to quickly verify the identify or J.T. Ives and connect it to this 1938 letter.
This is the only letter I have found from it's author, Charles (Charlie) Percival Vince. He was my 1st cousin 2x removed, son of my Great Grandmother Alice's brother William. He was sixteen years old when he sent this letter to Alice. It was such a delicious letter to read. Simply chock-ful of nuggets that led to other nuggets about my ancestor's lives. It's amazing how much one letter can fill in the gaps.
My grandfather purchased 150 shares of the John T. Clark Mechanically Inflated Tire Company for $1 per share. He bought 70 on June 16th, 1913, 30 on June 17th 1913 and another 50 on March 26 1917. I figure with inflation and stock splits, that ought to be worth a few million dollars today. Right?
Among my Great Aunt Winifred's photos were a few striking images of firefighters trying to save a burning building. The images were hauntingly beautiful. For over a year I have been trying to determine what building, when the photos were captured, and why did she take them?
It's funny what happens when you start writing about your ancestors. Suddenly, cousins appear from across the world (YEAH!) and they begin to share photos, letters, postcards, and stories. One of the most interesting I've heard is that my Great Grandmother Alice was going to return to the US from England aboard the Titanic but she came on an earlier ship.
This is not my story. It is the story of my 1st cousin 3x removed telling the story of her ancestors and her mother, my 3rd great-aunt, Sarah Emeline “Emily” Terry. The letter was sent to my 2nd great uncle, Floyd Claiborn Terry and passed down the line to his brother, Ben Lee Roberts, my great grandfather, then to his son Virgil, to my mother, to my sister and shared with me.
There are many ways to determine the year a photograph was taken but when I have the photographer imprint, I start there. So much data is available on the dates and locations of photographers it really helps to narrow the time frame quickly.
This is the last letter my grandmother received before he passed away. I know this because on the back it reads, "Uncle Walter's letter My Mother's brother. Cousin Ethel's father, and Ivy's and Percy's. Last one before he passed away."
So you want to get out of school for a month? Get the flu, then the measles, run down your immune system and live in a city that is reporting record cases of contagious diseases. Then find a doctor that advises your parents to take you to California for some rest.
I texted my nephew the other day asking “How does someone make genealogy more interesting to Millennials, like him?” His reply, “You’ve got to change the perception that it’s something for old people.” I wasn’t too surprised by that answer, until recently, I felt the same way.
I was thrilled to find a 1924 letter from one of my Great Grandmother Alice's sisters, Anna "Annie" Vince Frankland, my 2nd great-aunt. I thought it was the only one I had but I dug through the boxes and found one more from 1919 and two postcards 1906 & 1914.
RootsTech, a global family history event celebrating families across generations, starts in one week and I am totally freaking out. There will be over 20,000 people at RootsTech over four days and the number of education sessions is overwhelming. I think I'm a few breaths shy of hyperventilating.
When I found a photo of a tombstone bearing the name Smith among my mother's old research, panic began to set in. Did you know according to the 2000 US Census, there are 2,376,207 Smiths? And, according to Wikipedia, Smith is the most prevalent last name in the UK, Australia, U.S. and the 2nd most common in Canada, 5th most common in Ireland?