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52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: (re)Discovering a Historical Document

Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have?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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: A Surprise Gift of an Old Ring

Week 6 – Family Heirlooms: For which family heirloom are you most thankful? How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family?
This challenge runs from Sunday, February 5, 2012 through Saturday, February 11, 2012 was created by Amy Coffin.

When I was getting married, my grandmother said to me, do you like "old rings?"  She offered me a couple of old family rings for us to use as our wedding rings.

When I took my ring to a jeweler to resize, he commented, "this isn't an American ring, it is old and the alloy is different, probably European."  Well, my grandmother had told me it came from her grandfather, Eric Helsten (1822 - 1903).  I thought, well, he came from Sweden.  Maybe he was married there.  [Little did I know then that he married another immigrant; but she wasn't from Sweden, she was from Ireland.]

Years later, I was cleaning out my grandmother's house after she died in 1974.  In the back of a desk drawer was a packet of letters tied together in a bundle.  They were written in Swedish.  I didn't read any Swedish, but I saved them.  I have become the "family historian" and so anything that might relate to family history ends up at my house.

Fast forward another 10 years, I am teaching school and one of my colleagues is Swedish.  She was intrigued that I had a bunch of old letters from Sweden.   We started reading the letters -- she read and I scribed.  We translated about half of them.

The letters were interesting.  All of his twelve siblings and his mother had distinct personalities.  When my friend went to Sweden over Christmas, she wrote to the Uppsala office where vital records are kept.  We hoped that we might find a descendant of one of Eric's siblings -- and we did.  [That's another story for another time].

One surprise I discovered reading the letters -- after Eric's mother died in 1863, his siblings write to tell Eric that they are dividing the estate and they want him to have his mother's gold ring!  His parents, Lovisa Charlotta ROBERT and Eric HELLSTEN, were married in 1815.

I wear my GGG'grandmother's ring as my own wedding ring.  I an honored to have my family history with me all the time.

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© Erica Dakin Voolich, 2012