Monday, August 1, 2011
Have you asked around to determine who may have received a handwritten letter from your ancestor? You can find clues to which family members corresponded with your ancestor by reading the letters your ancestor left behind. With the latest computer and internet technology, handwritten letters are very rare these days.
Our ancestors kept in touch with the family they were close to before they migrated from the ancestral home. They wanted to keep up with what was happening with family members, and when they were not planning visits, they would write.
Because family members were the main topic in these letters, you never know what you might discover. Senator Frank Gilbert, Sr. of Florence, South Carolina, devoted a great deal of his free time to identifying family members. My grandfather's cousin gave the letter that my grandfather sent her to Frank.
I am sure it was of great value to him because it identified the name of our common ancestor, Jane and her brother, Henry Smith. In my research, I am constantly finding extended family who Frank discovered and reached out to.
I am very happy he kept my grandfather's letter in safe keeping. In the letter, he spoke of visiting his cousin during the Spring or Summer of 1972. I am not yet sure if he was able to make this visit. He passed away August 25, 1972.
It is very significant that I point out that if it were not for an interview with an extended family member who is a descendant of Henry Smith in Washington D. C., I would not have recognized the names of the Smith extended family members in this letter. This is where I learned that Henry was the brother of my great great grandmother, Jane Smith Johnson.
I traced all of the children and grandchildren of Henry, so when I read this letter for the first time I knew who they were. It is really very neat to me also that it seems my grandfather traced his family by writing letters and asking questions and visiting. Some of his questions I have discovered the answers to. I feel as though the baton has been passed to me.