Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have?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.
Here is the URL for this post.
©2012, Erica Dakin Voolich