While I was in Miami last month, my co-worker texted me. She was at an estate sale and found 300+ “love letters” and thought I might be interested. Well, duh. Long story short (and $100 later), I was the proud owner of 347 letters dating from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.
When I finally returned home and had the letters in my hands, I began reading them. There were more than just love letters in that collection. Certainly, there were letters between a couple of lovesick college students in a sort of long-distance relationship, but there were also letters from friends and family members! It wasn’t long before I felt the need to get some paper and a pencil and start drawing a family tree. It wasn’t long after that when I hopped on Ancestry to try to fill in some blanks.
During my search, I came across an Ancestry Member Tree that included the couple who wrote the love letters, and their families. Turns out that the couple did indeed get married (which makes sense why there were letters to and from both of them in the collection), and lived happily ever after until the husband passed away in the late 1980s. But even after looking at the tree, I still had some questions. I also wanted to find out if there were any living relatives who might want the letters I rescued from the estate sale.
I contacted the owner of the tree and within 24 hours I received a reply! While that is a miracle in and of itself, the fact that this person is a cousin of the woman who wrote some of the letters is an even bigger miracle! After a few email exchanges, I provided her with my telephone number and we chatted for about an hour about the letters and the family.
It turns out that the woman in the letters was still alive, but she had a stroke and was in an assisted living facility about 20 minutes from my home. There are some family issues that are better left to the court system to figure out, but the cousin was VERY interested in getting these letters back to their rightful owner – especially since she had no idea they were even gone. So now we have a plan to get the letters back to her, for me to periodically visit with the woman to talk about the letters and get some questions answered, and I even get to retain a digital copy of the letters I can tell the wonderful story that I just know is living in that box of letters!
So … even if you don’t rely heavily on the information contained in some Ancestry (or other online) trees, don’t discount the value of contacting the owner to see what other information they may be able to provide that isn’t contained in that tree.
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
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