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Great Read: Lost Family Letters Found

I finished reading the latest California State Library Foundation Bulletin (No. 107, 2014) and wanted to share a wonderful story.

In the article “A Reunion with a Twist, Debbie Hollingsworth tells a heartwarming story of letters written by a World War I Doughboy from California, acquired by the CA State Library’s Director of Special Collections from a New Jersey auction, which were then the subject of an article in a previous Bulletin. The next generations had no idea these letters existed until one of the family members read the article!

The following passage is right on:

Unfortunately, many families do not recognize the historical importance of family correspondence and throw away such items when loved ones pass on. If anyone has questions concerning personal items of deceased family members, they should contact staff at local historical societies, archives, and of course, the California State Library for guidance regarding these matters.

When MaryAnne and I help individuals and families sort through a lifetime of possessions, we see this situation arise over and over again. One wants to be a steward for these types of precious items, but sometimes keeping them in a private home is actually doing the items a disservice.

How can keeping a family heirloom at home being a disservice? If the item needs special care to be stored, if an item tells a story more people should know about, or if an item is important to one generation, but not valued by later generations.

When we find this type of possession, MaryAnne starts the discussion asking what should this item’s future should be? Passed down to someone in the family right now as opposed to waiting until death? Donated to a library or historical society? We help our clients identify their options, we make the phone calls/emails, and make sure the item is delivered to its new home.

When I donated some family items to the University of Idaho, poetry leaflets that didn’t have any meaning to me, but would be interesting to those interested in the history of Idaho, I came away with the most amazing feeling of happiness! The process and the end result still make me smile after several years. After that experience, I donated several other items I inherited to institutions and keep a running list in my mind of what should go where after I finish scanning our family photos. My things had no monetary value, but they have research value, and they were just too important to stay neglected in a plastic box in the back closet.

Are you facing this situation? Need some help? Give MaryAnne a call at (916) 308-3240.

All the best! Jeanne and MaryAnne