Family Letters

Preserving Our Family Letters

From the FamilySearch Blog — February 21, 2011 – 2:19pm by larsonw

At my mother’s death, I inherited a room full of genealogy–pictures, histories, family group sheets, pedigrees, and a box full of letters my mother and father wrote to one another while my father served in the Army during World War II. The pictures have been organized and scanned, the histories have been digitized, and the genealogical information, along with the pictures and histories, has been distributed to family members throughout the country.

But I still have that box of letters. It is a huge box with literally hundreds of letters. I thought of perhaps going through all the letters and typing each of them and making a CD of the letters. But that would take hours and hours and I knew I really didn’t have time for that. So the letters have sat in the box for over 20 years. I must admit that at times I have had the thought to just throw them away, telling myself that no one would take the time to read them. But then I would get the thought maybe someone would, and I knew my mother treasured them. She had organized them into different time periods and had tied each bundle with string. We moved four years ago, so the temptation to lighten the load by throwing away the letters was great. The box survived the move, however, and has been sitting in a cabinet for approximately 4 more years.

I had completely put the box of letters out of my mind until I attended the Rootstech Conference February 10-12 in Salt Lake City, Utah (see The keynote speaker, Curt Witcher, the manager of the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, spoke about “The Changing Face of Genealogy.” He encouraged preserving everything possible to tell a person’s story. He showed an example of letters that were preserved digitally by his library, the “Vaun, I Love You” collection. This was a collection of letters in which the husband, while serving in World War II, began each letter home the same way: “Vaun, I love you.” All of these letters were digitized and preserved in an attractive way. Curt Witcher spoke about the power of telling our story or the story of loved ones by preserving letters and other items. He said something to the effect that we can do better, do more, and do it faster.

I thought, yes, I can do more with those letters in the box, I can do it in a better way, and I also can now do it faster. Excitement grew within me to get each of these letters digitized, stored on a CD, and then shared with family members.

Now the Rootstech conference is over. I learned much about Google, taking digitized images, recording histories, etc., but the most profitable thing to me was the knowledge of what to do with my box of letters, and also the inspiration to follow through and do it.

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