In early December I was given all of the boxes of photos, journals, albums, letters, and memorabilia that had been kept by my Grandmother. It was a joyous day and the joy has just kept spreading itself all over my genealogy loving heart these many months.
I was given the boxes, in part, because I was looking for a handful of specific photos to complete my family Christmas gift. I was in a hurry and quickly went through every single box gathering what I needed. It was almost painful to be in such a hurry. There were soooooooo many unbelievable treasures in those boxes and I wasn’t able to soak much in. I had a deadline. As I was digging I found a shoe-box of letters. I gave them a cursory look and thought, “Awesome, Grandma and Grandpa’s letters from WWII and their missions. I can’t wait to go through these later.”
Well, in early Spring I pulled that box out and was devastated when I realized that it contained letters from my Grandpa’s friends and extended family. Don’t get me wrong. I knew they were special too. But I know that my Grandparents wrote to each other for 5 years and that my Grandma kept all of those letters. Where were they?
I was stressed. I wondered if a box had gotten lost or if someone had pulled out the letters thinking they would do something with them. I asked my uncles. No one knew anything. I decided before I completely panicked I needed to comb through all of the boxes again. Much more carefully. Just in case.
So last week I started going through the boxes again. I found and rediscovered so many cool things. Several boxes in, I found a binder filled with letters. But they were from the 1960s while my Grandpa was getting his doctorate. A cool find to be sure, and something I was hoping hadn’t been lost, but still not the letters I was searching for.
As I worked my way through every box, I got down near the end and pulled a box onto my bed and was completely baffled about the fact that it was taped shut. What on earth?! Somehow I had totally missed one box. My heart started to pound. I noticed a note on the side that said letters. Could it be?
I opened the box and started shouting for joy! Total and complete joy. I was staring at 4 shoe-boxes FILLED with letters. Plus several bundles that weren’t in shoe-boxes. There are hundreds and hundreds of letters.
I am a bit embarrassed that the letters had been in my bedroom for a few months and all that time I had been worrying about them being lost forever. Oh boy.
Once they were discovered, I started organizing. It wasn’t hard because my Grandma had already bundled them by months. I just had to get the months in order.
Next I started filing the letters in my new Hollinger boxes and folders. I filed away until I ran out of paper folder inserts. I need to order more. Lots more. It’s going to get expensive. I wonder if my family members would want to chip in…? I’m going to need so many before I am finished. But I digress.
The letters cover a 5 year time period beginning when my Grandpa went off to basic training for the Marine Corps. They follow his service in the Marine Corps and then cover the time while he was serving an LDS mission in New Zealand. During his mission my Grandma also served a mission in California. There is also an entire shoe-box of letters from my great-grandmother Naomi to my Grandpa. I was so surprised and delighted by that discovery. She left no journal, no personal history, and she died very young. I feel like I’ve been given such a gift.
I plan to digitize the letters and share them with my family. I may post them here, I need to ask my uncles how they feel about that. Once everything is digitized, I will publish a book for my family members. Well, maybe more than one. It’s A LOT of letters and may need to be broken up.
Here are my questions:
1 – Should I include all of the letters in one collection chronologically? Or, should I separate them and have one collection of letters between my grandparents, one collection of letters from my great-grandparents and one collection from extended family and friends?
2 – If I separate the collections for the purposes of the books I will compile, should I still share the letters online in one collection?
3 – Do you have any tips for dealing with a collection of letters this large?
I can’t wait to get started! Happy Monday.