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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A-Z Challenge - L for Letters, Leisure & Local

A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

LETTERS from the past let us hear the thoughts and emotions of our ancestors and are a potent legacy.  After the death of my parents,  I came across letters written just after their marriage when my father was working away from home, and a few years later during wartime.  It is very moving to read them;   they are amongst my family treasures and the basis for many a family story.  

But what of the future - in these days of text messages and e-mail, how many personal letters did you write or receive in the past year?   I can see letters holding a key rarity value  for the next generation of family historians.

A letter from my father written in September 1944 
after the Allied troops had entered Paris.

Even more poignant is a letter dated  20th August 1916 written by my great uncle George to his brother Frank.  Three weeks later George was killed at the Battle of the Somme.

LEISURE  - how did our ancestors spend their  free time?    Were they members of a society e.g. sport, music, drama, chess, crafts. etc?  Are there old programmes amongst family papers? 

Here is Earlston Clown Band in the Scottish Borders - all appropriately dressed and ready to take part in a peace parade in 1918.  The photograph is in the collection  of Auld Earlston, my local historical society.

                My aunt Edith and my mother Kathlee Danson  are the little girls
at the front of this parade c.1912.
A concert poster in  the collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick.

Think LOCAL - Libraries, Archive Centres, Newspapers, Museums, Publications and Websites  - where would we be without them?  They are the foundation to finding out more about how and where our ancestors lived.  

I have quite a collection of Local Publications on Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire (my ancestral home),   especially the compilations of old photographs, which can do so much to enhance the picture of our background.  As a result I found a photograph of the street where my great grandparents lived (since demolished to make way for a small shopping  centre), plus a photograph of my great uncle in a football team before the First World War. 

In the 1861 census, my husband's ancestor, master mariner John Moffet was off shore.  South Shields Musuem had  picture of the very ship - Brotherly Love. 

Onto M for: 
Mortcloths, Militia Lists & Medicine 
Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved.


  1. my mother and I used to correspond back and worth with snail mail all the time for years we shared weekly letters with each other. I loved it! I wish I kept them.

  2. I used to write letters back and forth with both my mother and my sister. We had saved all those letters and one day after reading in Don Juan that we shouldn't hold on to the past, I threw them all away! If I could only go back and get those letters. I was supposed to hold on to the past. I do have many other letters that I still have.

  3. You bring up a good point about leisure. My brother-in-law works part time at a golf course on weekends, and he ran across a program from the early 1950s. There is a picture of my dad who was on the social committee - I didn't even know he was a member of a golf club.
    ~Visiting from AtoZ

  4. Old letters are such a cool find! :)

  5. Thank you all for your comments. I have kept some letters from my parents when I was working abroad for a year, and following the news of my pregnancy and then birth of our daughter . And of course I have letters friom my then fiance now husband

    Wendy - I never knew my great uncle George sang in the church choir, until I read it in a newspaper notice, following his death in 1916 - my father was singing in the same choir 40 years later. and both my mother and I sang in choirs, so this link in our interests was a lovely fact to discover.

    Kristin - like you I look back on what I wish I had not thrown away. I had a major de-cluttering just prior to my marriage as we were moving into a small flat - so out went my old school photographs and teens to 20's diaries - with a further clear out when my parents downsized, so I no longer had space with them. I have kept old programmes of shows and concerts where I was listed in the cast and work related items, such as photographs, annual reports and publications I worked on.


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