Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson

Sunday, February 19, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: (re)Discovering a Historical Document

Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did  you acquire this item?  What does it reveal about your ancestors?  This challenge runs from Sunday, February 12, 2012 through Saturday, February 18, 2012 was created by Amy Coffin.

When my grandmother, Marion Evans Dakin died in 1974, we were cleaning out her house and one of the things I found in her desk was a packet of letters all tied together.  They were addressed to Eric Helsten.  Eric immigrated to the US in 1845 and died in 1903.  These are the letters he received over those years.  I wrote about them in last week's "52 Weeks" post, A Surprise Gift of an Old Ring.

This packet of letters is the discovery that keeps on giving -- a nice re-discovery.  When I first read them, I knew nothing about Eric's family.  Over the years, more pieces of the Hellsten/Helsten family story has become revealed through researching the family and having more letters translated.  Also, now as I reread the letters, I know so much more so pieces of the stories are coming together in interesting ways.

As I research details and put the pieces together with the information found in the letters, each of Eric's dozen siblings and his mother have taken on personalities.  There are children, nieces and nephews you'd be proud of and then there's the family soap opera.  There are the siblings who did well financially, and those who ended up in bankruptcy.  There were no phone calls, locally or internationally in the 1800s; no airmail to speed the letters across the Atlantic.  So the letters were everything that Eric knew about what was happening back home.  Clearly his siblings loved letters from Eric and shared any news with each other.

These are a treasure chest of information.  What I lack are Eric's replies.  I can guess at some of what he wrote when someone's letter starts by telling him the date that his letter(s) arrived or thanking him for a gold coin he sent.  If I were to find a living descendant of one of his siblings, maybe some of Eric's letters would be found.  However, I did correspond with a grandchild of one of Eric's brothers; she didn't have any letters and was thrilled to copies of the letters her grandfather wrote long before she was born.  She passed away in 1990 and I don't have any other known living relatives in Sweden now.

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©2012, Erica Dakin Voolich


  1. Such treasures! I have transcriptions (faulty ones) of two letters sent to my great-great-grandmother from a kinsman in Australia ca 1880. The kinsman and my great-great-grandmother were both Irish. There are so many great details about family members in the old country in those two letters that I would have no way of finding out otherwise. I hope one day to find descendants of that kinsman, and see if there's any chance letters written by my great-great-grandmother or -father have survived, as I know they both wrote to that kinsman.

  2. It is amazing how the people come to life when you read their mail ... even centuries later.
    I treasure the letters I have. I hope you can make discoveries about the Australians and then back to Ireland by connecting the dots.